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Enterprise 2.0 and Search
Serious Results from Light Tooling

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This article is part of the Best Practices White Paper Enterprise Search [May 2008]


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Better information discovery clarifies decisions, enhances social collaboration, reduces workflow friction and makes it easier to connect to experts. These will be key contributions of enterprise 2.0.

In the last year, a groundswell of support has started to form around the potential of lightweight enterprise 2.0 (E2.0) tools and technologies to fundamentally alter users’ information workplaces, collaboration networks and eventually the IT environments and command structures of enterprises. At the core of the value proposition for these emergent practices is the ability of knowledge workers to access all the new user-generated and participatory content with search.

Enterprise 2.0 and Web 2.0
Since the late ’90s, the Web has been the source of the best consumer-oriented experiments in community, social networking, user-driven content, expert location, collaboration, service delivery and merchandising. Today’s enterprise professionals expect software inside the organization to exhibit the same kinds of clarity, reach, and speed that they have become used to on the Web. This means that enterprises need to look carefully at how to take advantage of the potential of the new lightweight tools to improve performance of professionals and of the firm itself.

Two major organizational or cultural trends are at work to drive or inhibit adoption of E2.0: enablement of knowledge workers; and ceding control. First, enterprises will enable their knowledge workers to improve their business decisions through accessible analytics, more complete information about every aspect of the business and the opportunity to connect to communities, experts and other services that can provide them with the answers they need.

Second, leading enterprises will commit to learning how to cede some central control and allow for the spontaneous creation of the right assembly of people and information "at the edge" of the organization to solve business problems.

Please refer to the diagram (Page S24. Best Practices in Enterprise Search, 2008) for the interaction we expect to see between these forces.

In order to unleash actionable benefits, E2.0 tools need to be dramatically easier to use than current software, and enterprise information needs to become discoverable. Search’s role in E2.0 touches both areas. Search tools themselves are perhaps the easiest of enterprise applications for users to manipulate—the Web has turned us all into searchers. For better discoverability, search’s content processing and refinement functions are capable of providing real-time content enhancement through metadata markups, analytic overlays and suggestive UI techniques.

Search platform services can provide domain context, can help guide the user toward the right answer, and can even help link her up to people who can help with her problem. In fact, social collaboration and decreasing workflow friction through better information discovery and expert location is key to increasing adoption of E2.0 and moving the firm to the right on the diagram.

Challenges & Outcomes
If an enterprise tends to hang to the left and the upper quadrants of the diagram, then the familiar inhibiting factors of IT complexity and organizational boundary rigidity will tend to make business adoption of E2.0 falter, falling prey to the lack of advancement in the technology or the lack of willingness of the organization to allow bottoms-up spontaneous communications to occur. On the other hand, for enterprises that begin to leverage technology tools such as search and the E2.0 services to move right to the "interim" step in the diagram, we are already seeing projects drive measurable business value, convincing senior management to continue to take advantage of E2.0 tools to move toward the bottom-right "to-be" position, where considerable business value is created and user adoption is greatest. Enterprise 2.0 is here to stay; the measure of whether it is successful depends on how carefully an enterprise heeds these lessons. 


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