Classification of Enterprise 2.0 use cases

What is Enterprise 2.0 all about? IMHO – this is the most asked question when talking about this topic. As several bright heads have said before instead of theoretically talking about the Enterprise 2.0 vision we need to talk about use cases and case studies that show and unveil the power of this so-called “social business“. At the Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT we have defined four different use cases that are going to be discussed along different best practices presentation. And while setting up an explanation of these use cases two days ago I ran along this nice post of Larry Hawes discussing the “nexus of business process & ad-hoc collaboration” that led me to an idea of a more broader view on the topic to be discussed in the following.

In his post Larry Hawes refers to post of Sameer Patel discussing the difference between ECM systems and social software:

ECM enables controlled, repeatable content publication processes, whereas social software empowers rapid, collaborative creation and sharing of content. There is a place for both in large enterprises. Sameer’s suggestion was that social software be used for authoring, sharing, and collecting feedback on draft documents or content chunks before they are formally published and widely distributed. ECM systems may then be used to publish the final, vetted content and manage it throughout the content lifecycle.

This relates to my understanding why enterprises need such thing as social software – because they need to change and to innovate in order to be more competitive in their markets. Consequently they have to discover new opportunities, ideas and information that is describing or representing these. And as a result from the organizational perspective companies need some kind of “reframing” of their business model.

Inspired by the post of Larry Hawes I would therefore describe the difference between established enterprise business applications and Enterprise 2.0 on a dimension of how the application is supporting the “reframing” process (I am explicitly not talking about “change” or “transformation” here because IMHO “change” is a consciousness thing needed to be done before and “transformation” might go far beyond the needed “reframing” in order to be up-to-date to customer and market expectations).

On this dimension established enterprise business application are “securing the precedent”. They support the planning-and-control-organization of the current operations by registering and certifiably documentating business incidents. The applications provide insights towards the historical status-quo of the business operations and can be distinguished by the business entity it is focussing on. On the one side there are established and defined processes and on the other side business-relevant data and unstructured information that have to be managed throughout their lifecycle.

If we take the scenario of Larry Hawes regarding the customer service issue there are business incidents – commonly in the sphere of knowledge working – that exceed these pre-defined processes and information structures. For these incidents the staff needs to move beyond the status-quo of defined processes and stored information. Former approaches to this used special methodologies like delphi studies and artificial intelligence toforcast the future in order to discovery new opportunities. At this point – social software offers a new approach – as it provides a way of harnessing the collective power of a interconnected setting of people to discover and ventilate new ideas – by externalizing and opening up data about information chunks, knowledge and process execution towards the crowd.

E20 Classification

In regards towards this dimension of “reframe” I hence distinguish two further steps: first the “discovery” and second the “exchange”. This takes account of the idea of the learning organization that focuses on enhancing its systems to continually increase the organization’s capacity for performance. It also supports a phrase I first came along in a presentation of Lee Bryant: “It’s all about managing feeds & flows, and not objects“.

Along with the differenciation of business processes and business information, it helps again to keep apart four different use case scenarios of Enterprise 2.0:

Enterprise 2.0 Use Cases

  1. Unveiling & associating information & knowledge (Knowledge Management 2.0):
    This is about working collaboratively on a state of externalized business knowledge e.g. project/process documentation, service issue/process documentation or sales-orientated product & market documentation. Giving access and authoring as well as sharing possibilities to the crowd creates the chance of someone adding not expected, but very valuable information towards the knowledge base and therefore enhancing it.
  2. Support conversation & communications flow (Internal Communications 2.0):
    This is about the exchange and open discussion of new opportunities, ideas or gained knowledge throughout conversational systems as weblogs or microblogging infrastructures. This supports the distribution and ventilation of new ideas throughout the company – eventually reaching out to people that can give valuable feedback to ideas.
  3. Supporting & enhancing ad-hoc collaboration (Collaboration 2.0):
    This is about supporting ad-hoc initiated team working to solve issues and problems that go beyond the pre-defined scope of problems or issues. As this would have been solved in offline circles of expertise so far Enterprise 2.0 approaches allow this to be solved on in a digital Enterprise-wide manner.
  4. Supporting the learning organization and providing a market of ideas (Innovation Management 2.0):
    This is about interconnecting business entities with people and information about their tasks, interests and competences. Community-of-practices are a common tool for this approach though in times of social software this would rather implemented by an internal social network that is giving even a broader access to people and the relevant information flows within the enterprise.

Just to be clear the above mentioned use cases are not directly linked to technological solutions but certain social software concepts fit better to the one or the other use case. Therefore wiki solutions provide a good approach towards the collaborative knowledge work. While weblogs and microblogging solutions are better in giving access to the flow of information. And social networks provide advantages for supporting collaboration and the learning organization.

At the Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT we will discuss different best practices for these four use cases and I will sum up my insights regarding the fit of this matrix towards the practical use out there in a post after the conference. But before this I would be very interested in your thoughts on this!

About the author

Bjoern Negelmann

As the head of content and conferences at Kongress Media Bjoern Negelmann takes care for the meaningful discussion at the Kongress Media events. He is a web & social enthusiast and believer in the power of the crowd and social and collaborative transformation.