Enterprise 2.0 Inclusionists and Deletionists

by Andrew McAfee on September 9, 2006

Wikipedia is facing a showdown, and it looks like it could be an important one, between contributors who think it should be a repository for all sorts of information ("Why shouldn’t my middle school have an entry?" ) and those who believe it should it should keep out content that’s not notable ("Why should your middle school have an entry?" ). The former call themselves inclusionists, the latter deletionists.
As the Enterprise 2.0 meme gains currency, a similar tension is appearing. Some are using it as a catch-all phrase that encompasses several converging trends within the enterprise software industry. Others are advocating a narrow definition that focuses only on the use of a new generation of digital collaboration tools within organizations.

I find that I’m a Wikipedia inclusionist and an Enterprise 2.0 deletionist, for the simple reason that an encyclopedia gets more useful the bigger, broader, and more all-encompassing it is, while a definition gets less useful. I think that if "Enterprise 2.0" becomes "All the changes in the enterprise software market that I (whoever I am) think are noteworthy" or "All the changes in the enterprise software market that you (whoever you are) need to be aware of" than the term itself loses most of its explanatory power and risks descending to the level of marketing hype.

So while I’m happy to see MR Rangaswami at Sandhill.com get excited about Enterprise 2.0, I was less happy to read his definition:

"Enterprise 2.0 is the synergy of a new set of technologies, development models and delivery methods that are used to develop business software and deliver it to users.

Whether created by software vendors, internal IT departments, line-of-business units or service providers, the software of Enterprise 2.0 will be flexible, simple and lightweight. It will be created using an infinite combination of the latest – and possibly, some old-fashioned – ingredients, including the following:

  • Technologies – Open source, SOA/Web services (AJAX, RSS, blogs, wikis, tagging, social networking, and so on) Web 2.0, legacy and proprietary – or some combination
  • Development Models – Relying on in-house, outsourced or offshore resources – or any combination; pursuing a global development strategy; and/or pursuing co-creation with users, partners or both
  • Delivery Methods -Downloading individually; paying for a license; and/or, using on-demand/SaaS or via a service provider." (Vinnie Mirchandani concentrates on delivery methods in his recent piece on Enterprise 2.0)

By this definition, a company’s new travel and expense reporting system would qualify as an Enterprise 2.0 application if it were developed in Chennai, rented to customers, and accessed via an AJAX-capable browser. This T&E system could be mandatory use, assign users to roles (submitter, approver, auditor, etc.), check to make sure all fields were present, and pre-define ironclad approval and reimbursement workflows, and still be considered an Enterprise 2.0 application.

This is pretty close to the opposite of the definition of Enterprise 2.0 I proposed a while back:

"Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.

Social software enables people to rendezvous, connect or collaborate through computer-mediated communication and to form online communities. (Wikipedia’s definition).

Platforms are digital environments in which contributions and interactions are globally visible and persistent over time.

Emergent means that the software is freeform, and that it contains mechanisms to let the patterns and structure inherent in people’s interactions become visible over time.

Freeform means that the software is most or all of the following:

  • Optional
  • Free of up-front workflow
  • Egalitarian, or indifferent to formal organizational identities
  • Accepting of many types of data"

(This is a definition of a noun. When I use ‘Enterprise 2.0′ as an adjective, I mean "supporting of emergent collaboration." )

This definition is explicitly NOT about development models or delivery methods, and it’s only about a small set of technologies that are visible to end users. Tags, for example, are visible to end users; Service-oriented architectures are not.

Ray Lane and Rod Boothby have been working with an appropriately narrow definition of Enterprise 2.0, and are doing a great job of articulating its impact. Dion Hinchcliffe has taken one of Rod’s graphics and extended it a bit. The points it communicates are all about changes to collaboration, not to development or delivery models.

Enterprise 2.0, as these folk and I define it, is a trend that we think should be on the radar screens of non-technologist business leaders. Talking about development models and delivery methods is a good way to ensure that it doesn’t get there, or doesn’t stay there long.  Business leaders’ eyes will glaze over, or they’ll quickly mentally file the topic as ‘something for my tech team to worry about.’

Of course, there are many other possible audiences for insight and analysis about technology trends: CIOs, CTOs, IT managers, entrepreneurs, investors, etc. Lots of these groups are interested in development models and delivery methods, even if line managers generally aren’t. But we already have terms to describe recent developments in these areas, many of which can be found in Rangaswami’s definition above. So why stretch ‘Enterprise 2.0′ to encompass all of them?

Maybe we do need a new phrase or term to describe the confluence of recent developments in technologies themselves, their development, and their delivery.  But let’s not just Shanghai a pre-existing term that was doing useful work and force it into a whole new set of duties.

And one piece of free advice:  Don’t use ’2.0′ as part of any new term; people seem to be getting tired of it very quickly.

  • http://www.dealarchitect.typepad.com vinnie mirchandani

    Andrew, your definition of the “new enterprise” (as you say let’s stay away from 2.0) from a collaboration and conversation one (and JP’s writing on a similar note) is hugely impactful. But there is another definition coming from the analytical world. With all the new data exploding from sensors, bar codes and financial world, there is a chain of thought that we should look at the enterprise world backwards from a predictive analytical perspective. I had an “old school” vendor architect call a couple of weeks ago and ask why in the new world we needed a General Ledger when a data warehouse of event and other tags could give us a far more comprehensive view of the enterprise. May not be as exciting as your definition, but to me it is just as revolutionary.

    I help CIOs negotiate technology deals so I am focused on the cost of enterprise apps and optimizing from that perspective backwards. SaaS, utility computing, global delivery, third party maintenance, open source etc are business model innovations that CIOs could not take advantage of 3 years ago. All the other innovations you or I suggest ain’t going to get funded unless we squeeze the cost of the old enterprise (and the new one) down dramatically.

    There are other perspectives on what the new enterprise should look like – architectural (SOA et al), globalization (many old enterprise apps cannot cope with the increasingly “flat world”).

    I have had a couple of s/w CEOs call and complain that all these changes (what you have proposed, what MR has, what I have) will bankrupt the industry. To which my comment back is much as I would like to say I originated my thinking around delivery and biz model innovations, every one of my delivery suggestions is already being pioneered by some vendor or another. SAP has a robust on-line developer ecosystem, SDN. salesforce.com shares a number of its SLA metrics on-line. SAP and a number of specialist vendors offer third party maintenance to Oracle customers etc. And customers appear to like these “best practices” so why not generalize and push the envelope for the industry?

    The fact is if we are proposing a new enterprise world (2.0 or NextGen or whatever) we have to take a multi-dimensional view of it. As I wrote, if we are going to make a Bionic man, why not implant nuclear parts, not just fix his nose.

    MR and I are not saying we should not fix the nose, we are saying there is lots more to be fixed. We find your contribution while exciting not comprehensive enough. You may not find other dimensions as exciting as yours, but I hope you don’t continue to push for a narrow definition. Let’s truly fix Steve Austin.

    BTW – on Wikipedia – honestly I could not give a darn what they decide. The new enterprise needs to be debated much more at HBS, Gartner, Sapphire,
    MR’s Enterprise conference, one on one with our clients, and forums like our blogs. The community of software buyers and vendors needs to debate this not some “deletionist” who does not live and breathe the enterprise world.

  • http://www.enterprisey.co.uk/blog/ Dennis Howlett

    Andrew – much as I admire your thinking on this topic I’m lost here. The title Enterprise 2.0…followed by a discussion reminiscent of the kind of duality that gives an either/or impression doesn’t make sense in the world you’re describing – does it? Surely we need either/and?

    I don’t see how you can talk to Dion’s post without including a discussion around SOA as a delivery enabler. I know there’s plenty of difficulty with the SOA moniker but simply slapping blog/wiki onto an enterprise, of itself, acheives nothing. It has to become part of the end to end process which is where I see value. In that scenario delivery is an issue that adds value as well.

    Finally – why, when you’ve labelled the post Enterprise 2.0…do you give the tip you do? It has to be called something and this is as good a way of marketing a meme as any other – isn’t it? Or are you concerned about all the leg pulling going on by scallywags and sceptics?

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    I am very new at all this and Enterprise 2.0 may not pertain to me. I am a physical therapy clinic owner with 2 clinics. Things need to be made simple. I need services/help that would educate me on the advantages/benefits of something simple things like blogs. There is so much talk these days about technology but there are few resources to find your way through what is needed and what is not for a business.

    I have heard that 1% of people are subscribing to RSS and yet others are telling me blogs are very important. Is there a disconnect there or am I missing something?

    Good technology needs to be simple and I don’t feel we are there yet.

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    Wikipedia has alienated a lot of the people who helped them to where there are today – highly respected and trusted by users and search engines alike – with their recent policy to change all outbound links to include a “no-follow” tag.

    Many groups have formed to return the favor and make inbound links – which are in part responsible for making Wikipedia as popular as it is today – to Wikipedia “no follow” as well.

    We’ll see how this plays out.

  • http://blogtanic.info/technology/gadgets/short-range-personal-microwave-rad Personal Radar

    Your post reminded me of this joke:D

    A computer scientist died and of course was immediately sent to hell. As he gloomily entered the infernal gates, he was amazed to find hell was a vast computer laboratory with equipment beyond his wildest dreams. There were machines of unbelievable capacity and memory, machines that could work at speeds unheard of on earth.

    “What do you think of hell?” asked the devil.

    “Wonderful” said the computer scientist, “give me a few discs and let me try these machines out.”

    “That’s the hell of it,” grinned the devil. “We’ve got no software down here.”

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  • http://www.babyoso.com <a href="http://www.babyoso.com">stephen joseph ba

    I am a new in Enterprise 2.0. But after reading Your blog I am searching through net to know more about the same..Enterprise social software, also known as Enterprise 2.0, is a term describing social software used in “enterprise” (business) contexts. It includes social and networked modifications to company intranets and other classic software platforms used by large companies to organize their communication. In contrast to traditional enterprise software, which imposes structure prior to use, this generation of software tends to encourage use prior to providing structure.I got valuable information from your site…Thank you for posting …keep opsting

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    [...] rights that are very difficult to replicate in a purely emegent or egalitarian structure (see the debate over inclusionism and deletionism in Wikipedia, or the great story in The Onion — “Marxists’ Apartment a Microcosm [...]

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    Hi Andrew.
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    Dr.David Black
    http://www.blackchiropractic.com.au

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    Don’t use ‘2.0? as part of any new term; people seem to be getting tired of it very quickly.

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    Maybe we do need a new phrase or term to describe the confluence of
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    their delivery.  But let’s not just Shanghai a pre-existing term that
    was doing useful work and force it into a whole new set of duties.

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