Enterprise 2.0, what is it?

There was much discussion over the weekend about Enterprise 2.0, spurred on by the discovery that the term had been deleted from Wikipedia for being “too businessy”. The Irregulars (aka the enteprise bloggers sewing circle) debated, argued, and hypothesized over the course of what felt like 8,000 emails (not very web 2.0 but it is effective.)

Dan Farber did a good job at capturing the essence of the various debates, and I would also recommend you read fellow ZDNet blogger Dion Hinchcliffe for a more elaborate post on the concept. Vinnie Mirchandani, a big advocate of rules, wrote a 70′s television spoof post on the term, although in all fairness I would have to say that Niel Robertson owns that blogging genre!

Jason Wood kicked off much of this discussion swarm by suggesting that the word “enterprise” doesn’t get no respect…

Look, we know our place…we get that for every blogger who likes to talk about enterprise software, global outsourcing, corporate governance and the like, there are roughly 8.3 million blogs ready to dissect the latest YouTube clone, or calendaring tool, or best garage band on MySpace.

Jerry Bowles chimed in and then added a second post about the top 10 management fears about enterprise 2.0.

Andrew McAfee does a fantastic job of detailing the underlying trends driving enterprise 2.0. Peter Rip wonders where the voice of the customer is and if enterprise 2.0 is just another marketing term.

Before we all jump on this bandwagon, let’s exercise some intellectual restraint and rigor, and in the process perhaps abandon the use of 2.0 as a synonym for “new”.

Last but not in any way in the least, David Tebbutt chronicled the e-mail thread and consolidated them (minus some company specific information that was deemed confidential) on his site. My apologies if I’m missing any additional posts that have grown out of this discussion…

So let’s get on to the business here about what the hell “Enterprise 2.0″ really means. It would be easy, and inaccurate, to simply suggest that Enterprise 2.0 is the application of consumer Web 2.0 in the enterprise. The term “read/write web” is actually a pretty accurate term for consumer Web 2.0, the reason being that consumer web services are largely data integration plays. The best known mashups, Google Maps mashups (my favorite being Los Tacos Trucks), consist of passing a data payload to Google who, with the assistance of a geocoder, passes it back to you as a map.

It’s not that the above example is handicapped or deficient in any way, in the consumer space this is largely sufficient because transactions are short and the interactions self-contained. In the enterprise things get a little more complicated because process flows are longer and more collaborative. The aforementioned Google Maps example in the enterprise would likely involve not just the passing of map data but also integration of customer data and potentially integration with transaction systems.

The funny thing about mashups in the enterprise is that the more you look at them the more you begin to realize that these are the realization of what we have previously referring to as composite applications (wikipedia has that one… guess it’s not too “businessy”). So if mashups and services integration are composite applications then what is Enterprise 2.0? The answer to this is more involved than just pointing to one buzzword or meme, the answer is that Enterprise 2.0 is the convergence of SOA (something that’s been in the works for a few years), open source, SaaS, and the underlying economic models of all of the above. I could, and should, also throw in collaborative applications and user-centric computing, but I think it’s fair to say that these things could stand independent of the other pieces very easily.

At the risk of turning this post into a blarticle I am going to defer to future posts to go into more detail on how the above trends factor into the Enterprise 2.0 theme. The Irregulars discussion over the weekend helped me clarify a number of important thoughts about this, perhaps the most important being that trying to apply web 2.0 to the enterprise is just not as simple as suggesting a little AJAX is all you need. The enterprise is different than the consumer space and while there is a clear blurring of the line, the line is nonetheless still there.

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