Envisioning and shaping the future of work and business.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The DNA of Enterprise 2.0

The need to be able to communicate and collaborate over time and space increases for most enterprises. To get this communication and collaboration in place, we need to have means to easily exchange our key resources - information, knowledge and experiences - with each other. Web 2.0 technologies and solutions such as wikis, blogs, RSS and social software have are certainly making this exchange easier than ever before. However, Web 2.0 technologies and solutions are still quite unproven when it comes to enterprise use (Enterprise 2.0) and their value for enterprises is sometimes not clear. Many enterprises seem reluctant to adopt them and might not even have assessed their potential uses. They might even see them as something that will worsen their content management problems and the information overload employees are struggling with. But they couldn’t be more wrong. To quote blogger David Weinberger:

“The cure to information overload is more information - the way to manage information overload is more information. That's what the doomsayers of the 90's — Information Anxiety! Information Tidal Wave! — didn't foresee.”

Yes, the solution to deal with information overload is absolutely not to stop creating and sharing information. It is rather to create more; information about information (metadata).

Traditionally (in the IT world), metadata has been more or less synonymous with file properties; file name, location, date created, and so forth. These metadata have been hidden and hence remained unknown to most users. They have also been of technical character, making them hard to understand for users. In other words, they have not been usable for the wider public. They have not really helped people to find what they are looking for.

The point with metadata is to create usable metadata. Users must simply not be forced to spend their time and energy on trying to understand detailed metadata or weird terms with complex syntax. The metadata must be easy to read, interpret and understand. To create good metadata, you need to have knowledge about both the content and its intended uses. This is also why there usually is a need for different metadata for the same thing; the same metadata might not be usable for all intended uses and users.

To me, the most revolutionary thing about Web 2.0 is how creating metadata has become a natural thing to do - it has almost become a life-style. The value of describing things for other people has become evident to us since simple tags and descriptions have made it so much easier to find and share these things with others. Metadata is now being created by the people, for the people.

The key to make efficient communication and collaboration happen within enterprises is to make it easier for users to create and share metadata. This way, they allow not only themselves but also other people to easily find what they are looking for – be it virtual resources such as information, experiences and knowledge or physical resources such as people, locations and objects. This is where Web 2.0 technologies and solutions have an important part to play for enterprises, but only if they are coupled by a culture of trust, participation and openness. The old ommand and control style will not do it.


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