Let's face it. Most large western companies that develop and sell products don't have any factories anymore. The factories have been outsourced to "partners" in China or elsewhere where wages and other manufacturing costs are low. And those who have not yet oursourced their manufacturing processes will, unless they want to be killed in the competition.
So what is left?
Let's look at a successful company such as Apple. Apple is definately in the innovation business. They don't manufacture products. They make ideas come true. They invent and design products that truly amaze us and make us longing for more. What are they up to next? ICar? We never know exactly what to expect next. They are in the expectations business. Everyone else wants to be there to, but few are able go there.
What is left is a bunch of talented and skilled people who need to come up with good ideas and bring them to life - together. They need equally talented and skilled people who market and sell these innovations. They also need a lot of good people in customer service. All these people rely easy access to and sharing of information (which is the vehicle of ideas, needs, experiences, knowledge...). They rely on the ability to coordinate people and their work across organizations, time zones, geography and culture.
The companies we often picture as traditional manufacturing companies, remains from the industrial age and the 20th century, are in fact knowledge companies. They are not much different in their needs than the businesses such as accounting and legal when it comes to information management, knowledge sharing, and collaboration. Except that they are usually much bigger, with bigger barriers to overcome.
Are there any use cases for Enterprise 2.0? Are there any problems that Enterprise 2.0 can help to solve? Well, there are so many it is hard to choose. You pick one. Maybe the inefficiency or even inability to collaborate in virtual teams? Or the fragmented information landscape that disrupts tasks and projects? Or the problems with delivering a good enough customer experience due to long response times, many unneccessary interactions and inconsistency in information? Or the increasing volumes of information that users need to spend a day or more per week to filter out what is relevant to them and make them experience information overload? Or the inability to share ideas, knowledge or something else to any other people who might be interested in it and could use it to create value - such as make ideas come to life?
Although being a skeptic to the Enterprise 2.0 movement, Dennis Howlett is full of great insights and good observations which he willingly shares with us. His voice is needed in the discussion. I believe his latest post on ZDNet "Enterprise 2.0: what a crock" is intended to provoke a response from the Enterprise 2.0 evangelists to actually start working on making the business case clearer. Where is the money?
(If you expected to see a list of business use cases - as defined by Unified Process - I will share a bunch of business use cases where Web 2.0 thinking, practices and technologies can make a difference in an upcoming post.)