I was at the Defrag Conference in Denver today. There was a lot of talk around Enterprise 2.0 and Web 2.0. Here is a comment that I made last week on Brad Feld’s great post (More Thoughts on Consumer Internet Innovations Migrating to the Enterprise) which discussed a lot of the Enterprise 2.0/Web 2.0 issues that were discussed at Defrag today:
The successful migration of Web 2.0 to the enterprise hinges on the successful adoption of the Web 2.0 concepts into the enterprise. I will go into some specific application examples here to help move this discussion forward:
Supply Chain Management: Most enterprise software has an event notification system of some sort. Most of the events are in proprietary formats, thus are only consumable from a specific vendor’s software. RSS can move the enterprise towards client agnostic event notifications. For example, if database triggers on an inventory control table, generate RSS, an inventory manager can be notified on their mobile e-mail client or RSS reader of choice whenever the stock unit re-order level is reached. RSS provides more choices for the consumption of event notifications beyond the e-mail and app notifications that are generally used today.
Sales and Marketing: The sales and marketing organization within the enterprise is the best example of a candidate for an application that implements social networking concepts because the interaction patterns between the members of this organization mirror the social networking that occurs outside the enterprise. At a previous job, I would often venture to the sales and marketing department’s section of the company intranet; I noticed that they used any tool they could get their hands on in order to communicate. This included bulletin boards (to announce deals), threaded discussions (to discuss strategy for prospects) and good old e-mail blasts (to find out if anyone know anything about a prospect). The current hodge-podge of tools used by sales and marketing organizations can benefit from applications that aggregate social networking concepts around information sharing.
Human Resources: An enterprise’s human resources organization can benefit from the concept of a “social graph”. Social graph concept enhance the traditional org chart. For example, an application that implements an HR social graph that describes relationships between employees such as ” employed A worked with employee B under the management of employee C on project X in year ZZZZ” is very valuable to a member of the organization that is looking to put together a team for a new project. By examining an employee’s historical social graph, the organization can better assess an employee’s experience and it also helps the employee in career planning.
Customer Relationship Management: The implementation of Web 2.0 in CRM is pretty obvious and has been well articulated. CRM is an example of case where complete Web 2.0 applications can be transplanted into the enterprise e.g. a LinkeIn-like application provides the same benefits as part of a CRM suite as-is.
Here are some of my thoughts around enterprise technology:
Widgets: While widgets have really taken off in the Web 2.0 world, the major enterprise vendors have been traditionally strong in this space through the concept of portlets. Ironically this is concept that came about from the Web 1.0 days. However, there is still some opportunity around the delivery and integration.
AJAX: When enterprise software vendors moved from the desktop app model to the web app model, their customers clamored for the same rich user experience that they had on the desktop. The experience on the desktop was enhanced by a better UI event model. As a result, for the past several years most UI teams at major enterprise software vendors have been dedicated to re-capturing the desktop experience. They primarily achieved this by hacking some AJAX-like functionality well before the AJAX that we know of today. In my assessment, the user wants the desktop experience, so it is highly unlikely that vendors will invest their UI teams’ development cycles in AJAX, instead they are more likely to spend their cycles porting their code to RIA frameworks instead.
Data: There is a wealth of data that is very useful to the enterprise, especially to marketing organizations, that resides outside the enterprise (on the web). However, enterprise software vendors mostly build applications that access and manipulate data that has been gathered and structured in their databases (and most preferably using their apps).This traditional reluctance of the enterprise software vendors to go outside the firewall provides an opportunity for Web 2.0 applications that gather, structure (and store) data resident outside the enterprise for use within the enterprise.
Semantic Web: In this case, I prefer to call it the Semantic Enterprise. Enterprise applications from the major vendors come with a heavy dose of semantic information both for the application itself and the data that it generates in the form of meta-data. Content Management systems from enterprise vendors usually provide a lot of meta-data (not necessarily RDF but XML nonetheless) to describe the content. This meta-data is a great starting point for Web 2.0 applications that implement semantic web concepts.
Meta data: Enterprise software systems are heavily meta-data driven (for reasons that I will not go into here). This means user interfaces, application interfaces, data sources and data are all described using meta-data. The implementation partners of the vendors have access to metadata generators and sometimes the meta-data spec itself. If one wants to develop Web 2.0 applications for the enterprise, approach the vendor for the meta-data generators or the spec itself and you should be ready to go. Most vendors are working on SOA frameworks, so you should have no problem integrating your application.
In short, the Enterprise 2.0 approach that I am advocating here is first understanding how the current enterprise systems work before judiciously determining where to apply concepts vs. products. Obviously other people have other approaches and it would be great if they can chime in.
Lastly, let me take a stab at the Facebook-type application question from your reader. I think a Facebook-type of application can be adopted for an enterprise – with some restrictions. One has to realize that “social” networks in an enterprise are not organic. The nature of the enterprise does not lend itself to organic networks similar to those that form outside the enterprise. In an enterprise you may not be able to choose your “friends”. Your “friends” were chosen for you when you accepted that job offer. So an implementation of a Facebook-type of application may have to use a different granularity for its “users”. For example, it may have to be a group oriented Facebook –type application rather than a user oriented Facebook-type application.