Enterprise 2.0

Enterprise 2.0 is about building a collaboration platform that is better than e-mail


Harvard professor Andrew McAfee (left) is credited with coining the phrase "Enterprise 2.0" -- which is basically Web 2.0 for businesses -- but in his keynote on Tuesday morning at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston, he portrayed himself as a former skeptic of the business value of Web 2.0 who has now become a believer. "The past year has been an amazing journey for me," McAfee said.

He previously viewed blogs as a medium for teenagers to journal about meaningless ramblings. Now, he relies on blogs on a daily basis. "I think the blogosphere is my single most valuable source of information... I'm amazed at the non-patheticness [of it]," he quipped.

McAfee asserted that many of the tools in the Enterprise 2.0 toolbox are aimed at replacing e-mail but noted that it will be difficult to unseat e-mail in many organizations because it is so ingrained. "We tend to overweight the value of our incumbent technologies," he said.

The core of Enterprise 2.0

I don't believe that the collaboration tools of Enterprise 2.0 are about replacing e-mail as much as they are about allowing e-mail to simply be a messaging platform and not a collaboration platform. Right now in most organizations, e-mail is the primary means for sharing and collaborating on files and doing group-think for geographically dispersed groups. However, e-mail was never designed for those functions and is not very good at them.

Enterprise 2.0 tools are about making collaboration more efficient and effective by providing better ways for groups (either standard teams or groups gathered for a short-term project) to share and edit files in real time with full version tracking and easier replication/transfer. Plus, the groups need communication tools like IM, forums, comments, Wikis, shared whiteboards, and/or VoIP to collaborate because e-mail quickly becomes cluttered and difficult to track when multiple people jump into a thread.

The next great battleground

Both startups and established tech companies have realized the potential for improving productivity with Enterprise 2.0 tools, so there's an all-out race to create a great collaboration platform that will gain critical mass. The race itself was the major undercurrent of the Enterprise 2.0 Conference.

Every company is taking a slightly different approach to building a collaboration platform, often based on their strengths with previous products. Some are approaching it from the angle of an intranet portal, while others try to do it with an SaaS (Software as a service) platform that they host. Still others are doing it with a distributed approach using fat client P2P-based software.

Microsoft has a head start with two different approaches: SharePoint (portal) and Groove (fat client). IBM is using WebSphere to make its collaboration play and is also developing middleware for mashups to help fuel other platforms. However, the most interesting work is coming from the startups.

Zoho has built best-of-breed online office apps and threaded in collaboration features from the ground up. ThinkFree (right) has reverse-engineered Microsoft Office file formats and done a better job than Microsoft of creating a business-ready portal for collaborating on them. Collanos has built a peer-to-peer collaboration workspace that is probably easier to use than any of the other platforms.

So who will win? I have no idea, although I like the chances of Microsoft and Zoho. This is turning into one of the next great battlegrounds in computing, and the result will likely be collaborative work tools that are much more effective than e-mail.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

10 comments
itsasony
itsasony

Not interested in bloatware, Lotus Notes ugly stepsister. I don't need a pen with 5 colors in it, just a good pen that lasts. And I don't need a Microsoft pen that only works on Microsoft paper.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I hear about all these wonderful tools but I don't encounter anyone in the "real world" actually using them. By "real world" I mean outside of academic or IT organizations. We're using SharePoint but almost strictly as a document repository. I agree that e-mail is a lousy collaboration tool. Outside of web conferencing I don't think I've seen any of these tools in action, so it's difficult for me to visualize how they supplement or replace e-mail. I admit I don't have that many contacts; I can't seem to find a professional IT group in central South Carolina to network with. Help me out; if you're using these tools in a manufacturing environment, please post what, how, benefits, and disadvantages. Jason, I'm not trying to hijack your topic. PM me if you'd like me to remove this. Thanks.

jc2it
jc2it

When I have found tools like Zoho I have passed them on to our Lean Manufacturing department. I think that these types of tools are great to collaborate between departments and locations. Personally I know of no person outside of my IT department that uses them in our organization. Both myself and my assistant have used the Zoho client to troubleshoot our parents' computers. It works well although it is not intended for this. Oh, and it is free.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

I hope you get some responses. I certainly don't have a problem with you starting a sub-thread. I'm looking for a few people to try out Collanos with. You can private message me if you'd be interested.

anil
anil

E-mail has been the widely accepted most used way of collaboration so far. Upcoming Enterprise 2.0 tools (broad level)have certainly taken "Collaboration" to next level. cyn.in, a collaboration software has 'contextual discussions' as one of the main feature, where users can discuss the content and cyn.in preserves the discussion logs in threaded discussion logs for future reference. This (Contextual Discussion)is what exactly happens in a threaded e-mail chain (created by users by replying to all). Hence I think Enterprise 2.0 tools will certainly reduce the e-mail uses. More on contextual discussion in cyn.in is here : http://tinyurl.com/6qbcyj

billbohlen@hallmarkchannl
billbohlen@hallmarkchannl

We are going to be implementing a pilot project for Sharepoint this year to see if we can eliminate some big pain points. Hopefully it will work...

gil.heiman
gil.heiman

Glad to hear we made the shortlist of team collaboration solutions. Indeed ease-of-use (a major advantage of being a rich client) is the driving factor behind Collanos Workplace, our flagship solution. This couples with all other aspects of ad hoc formation of cross-organizational project teams, including: 1. Cross-platform (Mac, Linux, Windows) 2. Free base version (always will be) 3. Multi-language support (Currently English, Germand and Chinese) 4. Server-less and ad hoc implementation (not only easy to use but also to install and administer). 5. Single location for all team related content and communications (VoIP coming soon). Looking forward to your feedback! Cheers, Gil Heiman - Head of User Advocacy - Collanos Software

Ron McNew
Ron McNew

I worked for a Fortune 500 enterprise, mostly a MS shop, that has used a few collab solutions over the last decade. My personal roles were support/admin for Sharepoint and project tech member/lead admin for Groove. We divide up the subject into asynchronous/synchronous and internal/external collab solutions. The focus here would seem to be asynchronous and internal collab solutions. A decade ago we were using Lotus Notes and NT fileshares to exchange docs, ccMail to exchange info, and physical meetings to manage activities. About 5 years ago we started testing/deploying Sharepoint/EZ Team Services which then migrated to Sharepoint/WSS when that arrived. This was deployed to the whole organization (100k users), and is still the primary collab environment. Meeting have become increasingly virtual. We have had a cpl pilots for the next version, MOSS, but have not yet made the decision to deploy it. IMO, WSS is a pretty good web-based collab solution. Support incidents were quite high for the first 18 mo or so, mostly around the Sharepoint meeting workspace, which has seen very high usage - seems to have met a real need (we had a custom meeting tool before), but have declined since, as folks learn the tool. The standard workspaces are mostly used as fancy file shares, though some users do track versions with it. Larger business groups have created true portals, and some teams have made a go with Sharepoint lists &/or InfoPath doc libs as data gathering/sorting tools or for task management. The users find the Polls tool limited, and with confusing permissions. Permissions in general are a sore spot, are generally screwed up by the site owners, and look to be even more confusing to end users in MOSS. Overall I'd say 90+ percent use WSS as a file store and meeting management tool exclusively. Groove has not seen the kind of adoption rates that WSS has - only have about 2500 users. It does have some key projects. IT positioned it for external use so I won't go into it here. Hope this helps!

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

I've implemented SharePoint on a couple different occasions. Right now we use to track our editorial calendar on TechRepublic and share links. I'd be interested to hear how your implementation goes and what you use it for. You can click "Send message" in my signature to send me a mail or you can e-mail me at jason.hiner [at] techrepublic.com.

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