More Thoughts on Consumer Internet Innovations Migrating to the Enterprise

I have very smart friends.  They challenge me all the time.  One of them sent me the following email in response to my recent posts about the enterprise such as Get Ready For Selling To The Enterprise To Be A Big Deal Again.

His question / comment was: What are the types of Web2.0 things you see moving into the enterprise?  Or is it more “conceptually” rather than specific-product oriented?  I see update of wikis; I think the EventVue type of nice app will be taken up; but the two biggest things in the last couple of years are the dominance of Google (which is already used in the enterprise), and Facebook, which just does not seem applicable in an enterprise sense (people use it, but kind of the same way they use LinkedIn. 

I responded with: I describe it as “consumer Internet innovations migrating to the enterprise” rather than “Web 2.0 in the Enterprise” (although the second is how the pundits want to coin Enterprise 2.0.)  The componentry is what is interesting.

  • Broad adoption of RSS
  • Content tagging
  • Social computing for filtering / communication / relevance 
  • Embedded search across systems 
  • Broad audio / video interoperability within and across companies (“unified communication” – finally) 
  • Industrial strength web-based apps (there is still a remarkable amount of legacy desktop app infrastructure) 
  • Collaboration (this is wiki) 
  • Integration of collaboration and legacy data (database driving wiki) 

When you think of enterprise, don’t think of < 1000 people. That’s SMB and can easily adopt the consumer facing and SaaS stuff. Think 10,000+ with an IT organization and a ton of legacy shit.  That’s where the fun (and money) is.

He responded with: All these things make sense to me.  It seems like the key is that the way you adapt them to the enterprise may actually be quite different than the way they are used and organized in consumer circles.  The children that develop the consumer app will get hammered in the enterprise unless they bring in some gray.

  • Mike

    As Web 2.0 technologies start to show up in applications already supported within the enterprise you will likely start to see erosion of the cynicism CIOs have toward these technologies.

    SAP came out with a Widget Foundation, Siemens is using mashups, SharePoint is putting wikis, blogs and RSS out there.

    According to the Manufacturing Alliance e-Business Council over 70% of respondents to their survey anticipate using blogs and wikis in the next 12 months.

    IMHO, it won’t be long till these types of technologies displace many of there older counterparts.

  • David Locke

    I’ve had a conversation with the CEO of an IT services company. He felt that all the Web 2.0 stuff was well beyond what his market wanted. He was not going to provide blogging capabilities or any other unstructured content capabilities to his customers.

    Going enterprise from the consumer market is near impossible. Companies moving to enterprise for the price points don’t usually survive the transition. There are vast cultural difference between these markets. The best way to survive it is to create a new division, staff it with new people, treat it like a startup, and issolate your expectations of it from that of the business you are currently in.

    You could spin out an entirely different company and take director seats if you don’t like the notion of setting up a separate division. But, if you think the transition is linear or about scale, you will be out of business soon enough.

  • The successful migration of Web 2.0 in 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 an event notification system of some sort. Most of the events are in a 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 sale 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 concepts 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 been well articulated. CRM is a 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 of 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 does 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 have provide a lot of meta-data (not necessarily RDF but XML nonetheless) to describe the content. This meta-data gives 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 reason 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.

    With that, I end here hoping that I am not the new record holder for the longest comment.

  • Mary W

    Just found your blog, and am delighted that you’re talking about the migration of Web 2.0 type apps into the enterprise — that’s a pet topic of mine.

    And per the comments about a “corporate Facebook” app — actually that’s a very useful app for a corporate environment. I know several companies that are in process of rolling them out. The vision is that it would be a massive advance over the company phone book/email address book: give every employee a landing page to list their contact info, resume, history with the company, photo, skill sets/knowledge base, personal blog talking about their work projects, etc — all searchable and linkable. That would be *amazingly* useful in a large corporate environment.

    btw Andre McAffee, an HBS professor, had a recent post about social networks for the enterprise and the benefits of using weak links inside of companies:

  • via email:
    an interesting play on this idea is Workday – web 2.0 approach for HR tools for the enterprise – founded by Dave Duffield, Peoplesoft founder. Tools inside big companies wheter for HR, knowledge management, worklow, etc. are generally years behind consumer websites

  • Great post and like the other comments, I’m excited to see these technologies being adopted in the enterprise.

    Last week, I was on a panel at Sales 2.0 giving a similar stump speech on how to use a lot of these technologies in a sales cycle. For anyone interested video is at:

    In short, though, as your friend pointed out, these technologies are amazingly easy to get your hands on. Why wait for an archaic IT org to recognize the value and sanction something that works when you can adopt and distribute these tools on your own?