Enterprise 2 at 5

Next week the Enterprise 2.0 conference will take place in Boston, a little more than five years after my article of the same title appeared in Sloan Management Review. It’s fair to say that the use of emergent social software platforms (whatever you want to call it) has become a mainstream business phenomenon.

Which is heartening, since I’ve devoted a fair amount of my bandwidth over the past five years to understanding and talking about this phenomenon. If Enterprise 2.0 had flared and fizzled like B2B exchanges, my time might have been better spent (remember Chemdex, or the original business plans for Covisint and SciQuest? If you do, welcome to the enterprise software old-timer’s club).

The best thing about Enterprise 2.0 became clear to me during an exchange I had with ace ponderer of technology Dave Weinberger at a talk Harvard’s Berkman Center kindly hosted to help launch my book. I was outlining the business benefits of E2.0 – the good things that can accrue to companies that embrace the phenomenon, but Dave was interested in another type of benefit.

He said (as near as I can recall), “The real change here is that people now have a much greater voice inside the enterprise. They don’t have to work only within the confines of their cubicle, or their work group, or their job description.”

Dave’s comment made me realize that whether the business benefits are the cake and the personal ones the icing in your view or vice versa, E2.0 is a welcome development. When it’s working well, it makes people more central and leaves organizations better off. This is unusual for advances in corporate computing (it was certainly not the case for ERP 😉 )  and is certainly good news. E2.0 helps put into practice Nelson Mandela’s advice to find everyone’s spark of genius in an organization, and in doing so helps companies know what they know. Not a bad combination…

In my short keynote at the conference, I’ll look back at the past five years and also look ahead. I’ll spend some time talking about what I see as the two biggest threats to E2.0: old-fashioned bosses and newfangled computers.

If that piques your interest, come to the conference or watch the live webcast. I’m speaking on Tuesday, June 21 at 10:45. Hope to see you there…