FUD: Web 2.0 in the Enterprise

I am sure regular readers of this (and my other blogs) won’t be surprised by the fact that I embrace Web 2.0 technologies and approaches. I am all for openness and sharing and I deplore hoarding of knowledge that can enrich a community if exposed. I am also very interested in both using Web 2.0 tools to help shape an organization and adopting web 2.0 philosophies to overcome traditional support challenges. One of my colleagues, Jason Heffner, dropped a link in my del.icio.us network recently that made me think harder about the way my organization has attempted to adopt both tools and philosophies born out of the Web 2.0 space. The article Jason sent me is a little light on depth, but does scratch the surface of something serious … that many existing people have an inherent fear associated with these tenants … that openness is not encouraged and sometimes ignored. The article, Facing Web 2.0 Fear in the Enterprise paints a picture that we all need to understand what is happening in this space and we really ought to embrace it because it is critical to communicate, collaboration is key and our future colleagues are growing up with it.

I feel lucky in that most of the people I work with or for find this sense of openness as important as I do. We focus a lot of energy on our Intranet, for example, trying to make it a place where staff can spend time collaborating and communicating in a quasi-open sense. I say quasi only because as an Intranet it is closed to our group. This has proven to be a solid practice ground for writing and sharing knowledge as many of the staff within ETS are now writing in public blogs. The content that is being shared certainly doesn’t appeal to all people at all times, but it is a move towards tearing down the walls around a knowledge-based group and exposing the intelligence that is contained within.

To me it is a very interesting swing … just as interesting to me is how my RSS reading has radically changed along with this move. Three or four months ago I was an avid NetNewsWire Pro user with hundreds of feeds coming in from all over the world. I had a decidedly global view on the content I was consuming — I am now a Google Reader user with only a hundred or so feeds, with close to half of the them being local. In other words, I am now spending my RSS time consuming content that is much closer to my community and guess what … I am better informed about what is happening down the hall, across campus, and in my communities (State College, University Park, an PSU all qualify).

These shifts are also accompanied by other thoughts … one is that email my be a part of the modern communication channel after all. I know that sounds crazy, but there are lots of people lamenting the state of email — too much email, too much spam, too little clarity, too many back and forth, etc … I am finding as my community gets more localized and better informed I can use email more efficiently to help point people to interesting activities happening within these communities. When I read something at a colleague’s blog, I can send a quick note to my team pointing them in that direction. I also tend now to post it in the Intranet and drop the links into those who are in my del.icio.us network. I guess what I am saying is that all of our modes of communication add up to the Web 2.0 philosophy of openness and sharing. Its not all tools.

Back to the article … in my view, Web 2.0 isn’t to be feared as a radical approach to communication. It is nothing more than an opportunity to engage in communication appropriately. Trust me, it is scary to make the jump from being a knowledge hoarding person to a knowledge sharing organization. It takes practice and it takes administrative patience. But if you can get enough people on the bus and you give them a safe place to practice eventually the walls around an organization will begin to come down. When that happens fear turns into opportunities that are much more easily capitalized on.

Was this a rambling train wreck? If you have thoughts on it, share them — it is the right thing to do.

9 thoughts on “FUD: Web 2.0 in the Enterprise

  1. I have been thinking recently not only about the possible impact of Web 2.0 on what I can do in the classroom, but also on what it could do for me as the Director of Graduate Studies in Philosophy. The ability to easily set up and maintain an intranet for my faculty and graduate students would be a significant development for us. I agree that collaboration and sharing is the direction of the future and it seems to me that one way to add significantly to our graduate program is to have a space that is open to us all, but closed to the world, in which we can share our knowledge and experiences related to the graduate education of our students.

    Students abroad could stay easily in touch with the local community, share their experiences, etc. Those on the job market to share the secrets of their success and the pitfalls they have experienced … the possibilities here are very exciting. The online community would begin to develop a store of “received wisdom” that would be of great help to students as they move through the program.

    However, I am not sure how best to implement such a community. Obviously, ETS has a good working model, but the issue is technical support and financial resources for servers, etc. I suppose I would need to get my college behind the idea, but what sort of financial commitment would this involve? It seems to me that a University wide effort to support such initiatives in departments would be in order.

  2. In response to Christopher Long:

    An official social network for the university would be nice, but in the meantime you can use Facebook, which has private groups for invites only, and more open groups where anyone can join. As facebook has progressed, they have put in features for blogging, adding links, adding events, and it connects you to all the other students. It may not fit your needs exactly, but I would guarantee that most grad students are already there. There maybe a better program out there for you, though, that does not cost anything. Good luck.

    In response to Cole:

    I like your article. I think you are right in saying some people are afraid of getting their ideas stolen, or even getting their identity stolen, or maybe just huge amounts of time stolen away as they spend hours on social networking sites. I also think collaboration leads to success. Sometimes the web is the quickest way to collaborate, especially with people that live in other countries, but I do enjoy meeting in person, as well.

    New employees coming into businesses will be used to collaborating and web 2.0. They will be used to communicating over instant messenger and email. Most email, for us, is informative, and not conversational, we expect there to be back and forth, but we might only be sending a sentence or two, and maybe a link.

    Social networking will continue to expand. Our company recently launched http://www.BrainReactions.net, a brainstorming social network, and were ranked ‘Top 25 Web 2.0 Apps to help you learn’ by softwaredeveloper.com. BrainReactions.net is web 2.0 that can be used on the internet for free with Open Brainstorms, or on the intranet in private brainstorm rooms (for a fee).

  3. Cole,

    Very well written. Knowledge sharing and knowledge availability are the keys for success in a contemparory world. We are coming back to the days where my grandfather would never want to lock his house for the fear of criminals, used to participate in free treatment of patients, when Gurus had students who wanted to just learn. We are coming a full circle. And the changes we are witnessing in the E2.0 world has gotto do with human conciousness after all. Our deepest self is at once compassionate, wants to share, wants a collective identity, is inclusive of all good and bad. When we are on the web and connected, it is an opportunity for all the participants to see through the veil of personality and this is where we are heading to.

  4. Cole, looking forward to experimenting with a community blog for ITS. The opportunity to tap into the expertise and experience in our organizaiton and make that so easily available is an exciting one. I really appreciate the work you and your group have been doing to promote these technologies and a more open attitude.

  5. one mo’ ting:

    is doc.searls correct:
    The walls of business will come down. That’s the main effect of the Net itself. Companies are people and are learning to adapt to a world where everybody is connected, everybody contributes, and everybody is zero distance (or close enough) from everybody else. This is the “flat world” Tom Friedman wrote “The World is Flat” about, and he’s right. Business on the whole has still not fully noticed this, however.

    or… in gfb.speak:
    web2.0 already IS the enterprise. we’re just beginning to notice…

  6. I have a friend in Pittsburgh who is moving up in senior management. He considers Web 2.0 frivolous, a silly annoyance that is not to be taken seriously. Calls it a bunch of hype.

    He points to surveys that show low interest in the general public over Web 2.0 technology. The problem with his point (or lack thereof) lies in the fact that Web 2.0 tool use is increasing, and the biggest users of these technologies tend to be, as the article states, younger people. My own theory is the loss of traditional corporate secrecy frightens them. Also, and this is very true among my marketing communications peers, the idea of not being able to totally spin a message is also very frightening.

    My friend obviously has a sharp business mind or he wouldn’t be so successful, but to ignore this trend and claim it’s nothing reminds me of a person arguing it won’t rain because there are no drops falling on his head at that present time. While dark clouds move in from the west in the midst of loud thunder.

  7. Pingback: The ETS BuzzLion for the Week of July 15 at Education Technology Services

  8. In the game of collaboration red-rover, I’m on your side. Very nicely written perspective.

    E2.0, or any other label, is just a word to try and get companies and organizations to realize the success of the internet at large. Communities of interest self-organize based on passion for knowledge, expertise and good things happen. In the enterprise, that can be good for a small working group – and that can be good for an entire organization of 20,000 employees. In the CTSA effort at Penn State, the number one need cited by PSU faculty is the ability to find others who are doing the same kinds of research and who want to pursue the same kinds of grants. The internet/web is already doing that in spades, we “just” need to establish a framework within the “corporate” boundaries to make it easier to do than it currently is. Or co-opt an existing one, etc. It’s all sitting right there in front of us.

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