Let’s face it. Enterprise 2.0 is getting old. Coined in 2006, the term originally implied using Web 2.0 technologies within company networks. Almost six years later “Enterprise 2.0” hardly has the metaphorical oomph it may have once had, which is why we’ve seen the emergence of new labels such as “Social Business” or “Social Collaboration.” However, in my opinion, the change we are now experiencing is much more fundamental. We are now at the start of a Post-2.0 era, where the role social infrastructure will play within an IT stack is becoming clearer. This is an opportunity for the IT organization to get out in front of this change, help describe a vision for how these technologies can be applied to improve worker effectiveness, and start planning support for enterprise social infrastructure.
Now, I have been a strong supporter of Enterprise 2.0 for as long as anyone and even played a role in the formation of the conference that goes by the same name. Personally, I am proud that Enterprise 2.0 has moved the collaboration industry forward, but progress has not nearly been as substantive as many of us had hoped. While the Internet’s most popular activities are now social in nature, the most common technologies facilitating workplace collaboration continue to be email, audio conferencing, and countless network fileshares. Of course, there are many examples of organizations using Enterprise 2.0-style of tools to improve their workplace capabilities. However, their uptake has been frustratingly slow across industry in general.
Innovations Since Enterprise 2.0
Taking a look back at the enterprise collaboration market there has been a number of innovations since the introduction of Enterprise 2.0. These include:
- Broad adoption of public social networks: Facebook opened its social network to the general public at the end of 2006 and has gone through several transformations since. Little did we know at the time it would become so popular that people who you’d never expect to be active on the Internet (e.g., people who barely kept up with email, let alone wrote their own blog), now post daily or hourly Facebook updates (to your delight or chagrin).
- Smartphone applications: Apple opened its App Store in 2008. Since then, “Apps” have become almost synonymous with smartphone or tablet use.
- Business applications integrating with social networks: Salesforce launched Chatter in 2010 and first demonstrated how a social network could provide a front-end to a line-of-business application.
- Other innovations: Cloud-delivered social networks, social network applications, and standards for federating activity streams.
In short, worker expectations have moved on from blogs and wikis, which described Enterprise 2.0 back in 2006. Facebook’s impact on the enterprise collaboration market is undeniable. It is essentially training people in a method for collaborating and sharing online (similar to what free Internet email did many years ago). While some will argue that Enterprise 2.0 is now equated with corporate renditions of Facebook (or solutions based on a Facebook-like experience), it is clear that the enterprise collaboration landscape is quite different from what it was in 2006.
Social, Yet Meeting My Work Needs
However, I am not proposing a name for this Post-2.0 era. Maybe this is a cop-out, but I have my reasons. “Enterprise 3.0” sounds ridiculous and proposing any name would result in arguments over just the name itself, rather than provoking a dialogue around the opportunities that are now emerging.
Instead, I offer a short description, “The Post-2.0 Era: Social in the Context of My Work,” which emphasizes two points. First, it alludes to social software’s ability to enable a familiar and engaging online collaborative context. Second, it highlights the importance of meeting the needs of the individual worker in order to sustain a collaborative environment.
To further explain this, I am also introducing a model, called the Social Online Workplace, to describe the roles Post-2.0 technologies play within an enterprise IT architecture in order to improve employee effectiveness, accelerate the exchange of ideas, and increase information reuse.
The Social Online Workplace
The technological foundation of the Post-2.0 era is the activity stream (Facebook calls this a news feed), which delivers an individually oriented, yet familiar social experience and enables a worker to maintain awareness of what is happening within their sphere of responsibilities. A challenge for enterprise IT organizations will be to surface this worker-centric stream across appropriate applications and connect the stream with sources of events relevant to the worker.
In other words, how do we limit emerging silos of activity streams and enable a worker-centric view of the information and content that interest them the most? There are architectural challenges in capturing activities, distilling this flood of events into something useful for the worker, and surfacing them within a context where it can complement individualized flows of work.
Subscribers to Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) can read more about the Post-2.0 era and the Social Online Workplace in a recently published report available here. If your company is a Gartner customer you may already be able to access this and other GTP reports. To see if you do, contact your company’s Gartner Membership Administrator. If you do not know who that is ask Gartner.