Web 2.0 in the Enterprise – Round …n.. (I can’t keep track)

Stowe Boyd picks up where Ben Metcalfe left off in Web 2.0 doesn’t work in the mothership, but… essentially recommending that Web 2.0 is best introduced in the Enterprise “in a satellite operation at arms length from the rest of your operation

While this is often the easy solution, I think a case can be made for the seamless mashup of process- and workflow-centric enterprise applications and the more creative, unstructured, collaborative tools like wikis.  Case in point is JotSpot’s integration with based on the Appexhange. Granted their target is not the largest of enterprises, but another example I heard of at SAP’s annual conference is the SAP Help Desk wiki by  Socialtext targeting the entire SAP ecosystem.  In any case, I agree that spontaneous, project-focused use is how wikis will become adopted in the Enterprise, but at the same time I believe they should be a logical extension of any Enterprise system – SAP, are starting to recognize, and I think the day when we’ll have both top-down (enterprise sale as part of the large package) and bottom-up (departmental initiative) penetration is not that far.

But then Stowe goes one step further, and this is where the trouble starts:

…the larger question — whether the enterprise would be more agile, more adaptive, and more of a survivor is it could somehow break away from the need for slow-to-change applications that span the needs of many departments, beholden to many but satisfying none — has not really been addressed by Ben or the others I am interviewing on the on ramp to CTC 2006….
My gut says yes. Enterprises would be better off if their IT departments could move to small, low cost, web-based apps that satisfy local needs — a project group, one campus in Denver, the marketing department in Japan — without having to subordinate local needs to corporate controls. The benefits of enterprise standardization are measured in the IT budget, but the true costs are distributed thoughout the enterprise: less collaboration in the research team leads to slower innovation, a less-thatn-intuitive UI for the sale staff in France leads to lowered sale numbers, and a heavyweight finance solution that slows down invoicing costs serious bank in collection time

Oh, boy. When we’re talking about large multinational corporations, as Stowe does in his example, the primary benefit of standardization and integration is NOT measured in the IT budget. The key benefit is competitiveness, simply being able to conduct business.  Here’s a case study from my “previous life” when I was implementing SAP systems in exactly these types of companies: The Client, a major test and measurement equipment manufacturer had no real-time visibility of their available-to-promise inventory throughout their own plants accross the US and several countries in Asia and Europe.  It typically took them 3 weeks to be able to promise a delivery date to customers. Needless to stay they started to lose business. After the SAP implementation customers could receive the promised delivery date in real-time. For this company the implementation of the standard system was not an option, or driven by IT savings, it was the only way to stay in business.

As a matter of fact, prior to standardizing on SAP the individual plants operated exactly according to Stowe’s ideal model: each doing whatever they wanted, picking their own systems that simply did not talk to each other.

Web 2.0, collaboration is great, it has it’s place in the Enterprise, but so do those “ugly complex” transactional systems.  Don’t try to run your supply chain on a wiki

Update , more than three years later: Would You Manage CRM with a Wiki?

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  1. Dennis Howlett says

    I’m going to challenge this one – in brief. ‘Don’t try to run your supply chain on a wiki” – maybe not today. But think Zoli – in 1997, having the technology to engage in this discussion would cost what? $30K? $50K?. Building a mesh telco trial would have cost? $$millions – today? $100K tops.

    The world of development has moved on. I can see RSS as a form of integration. What cost today, minimum for a global enterprise? $5, 10, 20 million?

    EDI for the masses? Today? $500 million if you’re GXS. I’m looking at a project where we’re talking $10 million – max over 3 years capable of bringing on board 400,000 connections per year without missing a beat.

    So cost isn’t a barrier – it’s the tech that’s yet to be proven. Yet I’m hearing about SAP on Rails. How cool might that be? And in any event, is it so bad that the edge should start liquifying the centre?

    Today may not be the day to run your SC on a wiki, but it might be tomorrow.

  2. Zoli Erdos says

    And to take what you’re saying a step further, I’ve heard some speculation of SAP-on-a-stick – small business version on a USB. No, it’s not an announcement, just at the play-with-the-idea level.

    But the point I raised is not cost, or any specific technology. I am a big fan of social software (be it wiki, blog, or whatever is created tomorrow) which is an enabler of creative collaboration, largely not based on predefined rules and structures, but on individual initiatives. Let’s not jump overboard though, Process is not dead, and if there is any area that needs predefined processes, workflow, structure, rules and exceptions (all the ugly words) it is Supply Chain. Eliminating all the above in favor of the freedom of Web 2.0 leads to chaos…

  3. If by Web 2.0 we mean Flickr, Digg, YouTube, and their likes, I’m not sure about the value to the Enterprise.

    If by Web 2.0 we mean wiki, tags, and Web office, I think those are a small enough set of technologies that being specific of each one (what it does and doesn’t) is more important than rehashing the same old “investigate new technologies carefully, deploy at edge”.

    (Consultants/analysts, however, are advised to keep repeating the mantras with each new technology delivery)

    If by Web 2.0 we mean that whole thing that is happening around us, the lightweight apps, the mashups, the user-centric UIs … those are all the results of being agile, using simple technologies, focusing on value ahead of architecture, but mostly but mostly staying away from enterprisey red tape.

    If you’re an enterprise that needs outside counsel to tell you to be agile and use technologies with low barrier to entry, my advise is: Don’t waste your time learning about wikis. Figure out why you haven’t done that before, and fix that.

  4. Tim Bartel says

    Well, I just translated a German language survey as part of the study “Wikis in Enterprises” to English. You can find it here:

    It would be great if you take it and spread out the word 😉

    The results will be published anonymously in a few weeks.

    In research of my diploma thesis I found a lot of enterprises using wikis, but only a few really use them “completly integrated” (see your last sentence…)


  1. […] tools like wikis are the one and only mantra for most businesses (see my previous rant on “you can’t run your supply chain on a wiki“), they have their own place and should complement each other. Standard business processes […]

  2. […] discussion today – see long comment here. And Hutch's title certainly reminded me of when I warned: Don’t try to run your supply chain on a wiki.  That was more than three years ago.  Yet I am not ditching wikis – they are less […]

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