"Visions of World Benefit & Global Responsibility: Perspectives of McGill Students

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The 2.0 Business

The world the enterprise will face tomorrow is a very challenging one. As everyone closely follows the impacts of Web 2.0 in the community, the industry is trying to understand how to apply these new technologies to the business. There is no doubt that Web 2.0 can change an enterprise, but the real challenges are to understand how the technology can correctly be applied to the corporation. The aim of this article is to look further into Web 2.0 technologies, and understand how they can be applied to the world of business so that they have profound impacts on the overall management of an organization.

Before explaining how Web 2.0 technologies can be beneficial to an organization, it is important to picture the current problems that relate an organization and its technology. The first question that comes to mind is why companies need better technology? Emails, instant messaging, intranet, and corporate web site already exist to facilitate workers communication and capture knowledge work. One problem is that most workers are not satisfied with the technology in place. In a recently published survey on the media used by knowledge workers, all workers interviewed used emails, but 26% felt it was overused, 21% felt overwhelmed by it, and 15% felt that it actually diminished their productivity [1]. Another problem is that emails only allow the exchange of information between a sender and one, or possibly many, receivers. The information that emails contain cannot be searched or used by anyone else. Also, workers cannot leave feedback or comments on their appreciation of documents or other piece of information found on their corporate website. Often enough workers cannot find simple information such as “when is the next management meeting?”, or “when is our clients’ next visit?” Such problems show that current technologies are not able to capture the actual knowledge of workers.

In “the New Paradigm: Emerging Strategic for Leadership and Organizational Change”, Marilyn Ferguson presents her view between the old and new paradigm of management [2]. She describes that the structure of an organization will shift from imposed goals, competition, strictly economic motives, and centralized operations to more autonomy, worker participation, cooperation, spiritual values, and decentralized operations. What Ferguson sees in organizations already happened outside of it. Web 2.0 technologies like wikis, blogs, and tagging has broken up communication barriers between people. These technologies have allowed users to actively participate by providing ways to express themselves. The benefits of Web 2.0 that are given to the internet community can also be beneficial to the corporation. First, Web 2.0 technologies can tie together a corporate, customers, and employees. Social relations form the basis of families, organizations, and teams [3]. Companies who have understood how to use social networks have proven to be more productive, innovative, and healthier. Second, Web 2.0 technologies can facilitate knowledge and information to flow through the company. Wikis and blogs can capture knowledge at one instant, and permanently redistribute it over the intranet. This also allows the decentralization of information, and more collaboration between employees.

There is no doubt that the enterprise should use these new technologies. But the question is how should they be applied to the business model? Should managers control the level of information that is flowing, or should they restrict employees discussing about topics that are not related to the professional environment? And how can management really evaluate if these new technologies increases shareholders’ capital? Of course, the level of restriction and rules that should be allowed really depends on the company culture. But more interestingly, in the case study of an European investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (DrKW), CIO J.P. Rangaswami didn’t post any policies on how their new Wiki should be used [4]. When employees started blogging about non-work topics such as setting up a poker club, Rangaswmi was not very concerned. In fact, he affirmed that this could actually improve the level of communication, and insist people to use the blogs more often. A second fascinating fact about this case study is the reaction that people had when the new technologies came into place. At first, the employees did not really know what to do or the reasons why they should start using the wiki and blogs. The management had insisted not to advertise too much the use of these new technologies. Their goal was not to force employees to start blogging about what they had done during the day or start writing new definitions in the wiki. But they realized that starting off with wikis that contained some information increased people’s participation. It is true that, for instance, it is more interesting to add content to a blog or to a wiki if content already exists. And it is even more interesting when you know that millions of people are visiting the website where you are adding content. At the last conference on the future of Enterprise 2.0, a debate took place between Tom Davenport and Andrew McAfee on whether Enterprise 2.0 is a new revolution to the industry. Professor McAfee claims that “we’re just beginning to scratch the surface of the profound impact that Enterprise 2.0 will have on business.” Whereas Tom Davenport is more conservative and claims that “Enterprise 2.0 is just part of the natural evolution for the software industry and not the radical shift some claim it to be. [5]” Whether Professor McAfee or Tom Davenport is right, we do not know yet. Web 2.0 is a very new technology that has not even 5 years, and its application to the industry is even younger. Also, yet we cannot know what will be the benefits to the shareholders, but does it really matter since maybe the shareholders of today might not be the shareholders of tomorrow. One thing is sure, changes are taking place.

With the venue of Web 2.0, many organizations and businesses started to see how they can apply this technology to their corporate. As Web 2.0 is the new buzzword, Enterprise 2.0 started affecting the minds of CEO’s and managers. By looking further into Web 2.0 technologies, we have seen that they can also take place into the business environment, and that there are some rules that must be respected in order for them take place. Reinforcing the fact that employees should not feel forced to use blogs and wikis, and to not restrict what the content of a blog should be two methods that management should use if they want to increase the social network of their corporation. However, until now, Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 are still at an early stage, only time will tell us how we can really benefit from these technologies.

[1] Davenport T.H. Thinking for a living. Harvard Business School Press. Published 2005, p. 126. Available at http://books.google.com/books?id=De1D3rKLJBIC&pg=PA126&lpg=PA126&dq=26+felt+it+was+overused+21+felt+overwhelmed+by+it+and+15&source=web&ots=d-VFBQ2qvt&sig=2iLj8wNcwH8yi4TAbHLg9keVp18

[2] Ray. M. and Rinzler A. 1993, The New Paradigm in Business: Emerging Strategies for leadership and Organizational Change. New Consciousness Reader. 1993

[3] Grossetti Michel. Where Do Social Relations Come From? University of Toulouse. France. Available at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6VD1-4F1GW6N-1&_user=458507&_coverDate=10%2F31%2F2005&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000022002&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=458507&md5=b3fb7e6d41e51377b5e12a51e3bc16ae

[4] McAfee A. Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration. MITSloan Management Review. Vol 47. No 3. 2006

[5] Conference on Enterprise 2.0. The Collaborative Technologies Conference. Boston June 18-21. 2007

No comments: