ben.eficium is the blog of Ben Slack, citizen and principal consultant at Systems Xpert.
All posts are Copyright © Ben Slack on the date of publishing.

16 March 2010

Web 2.0 for the enterprise

This is an article I started some time ago, but many of its points are still relevant and I will follow it up with an article on Web 3.0 – the buzzword of the moment.

What is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is a “buzz” term bandied about by internet columnists and consultants to describe the proliferation of Web-based applications that allow individuals en masse to author and collaborate on Web content. To facilitate mass appeal, no knowledge of underlying Web technologies is necessary to use these applications. Well known examples include Wikipedia, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn and the various Web-log (“blogging”) applications, such as Blogger, LiveJournal and MySpace.
People want, and some organizations have already implemented, some of the functions these sites offer for the corporate intranet and possibly for customer and supplier use on your internet site. So, it’s important that IT departments understand important Web 2.0 concepts, what changes might occur with current intranet and knowledge management practice, and how Web 2.0 will to an explosion of intra-corporate content that will need an upgraded infrastructure to deliver its benefits. In addition, you may have to look into enterprise search functionality to integrate different applications and facilitate easy navigation of content.
From a technical point of view, Web 2.0 applications are really no different to any other Web application used for content management (CM). These have been around since the very beginning of the Web, which is why you’ll probably get an incredulous look if you use the term “Web 2.0” around technical IT types. However, the size and momentum of blogging and the content communities, such as Wikipedia and YouTube, is a phenomenon of internet use that justifies a name, and like it or not, “Web 2.0” is that name.

Web 2.0 concepts


By the law of averages, there are almost certainly a number of people in your organisation who maintain personal blogs. For the uninitiated, this is an online diary. A blog home page mostly displays diary entries several at a time in reverse chronological order. There is usually a link to an archive of all entries. Often a blog includes the ability for readers to leave comments about each entry. On popular blogs the reader comments will be far more voluminous than the actual diary entries.
Blogs have proven a popular and valuable communication tool on the internet for individuals to publish opinions and exchange ideas. The applications for the enterprise are many. A project manager with a geographically distributed team may decide to communicate project progress in a blog format, using the comments feature for discussion of risks and issues. A CEO may use the blog format on your internet site to highlight new product releases and communicate with customers. Jonathan Schwartz, CEO of Sun Microsystems is a good example.
You probably already have a Web content management system (CMS) for internet and/or intranet publishing, in which case you’re halfway there. But it can be difficult to explain to content publishers that adding a blog entry can often be done with an existing CMS and you don’t have to procure a whole new blogging application and infrastructure. Non-technical people tend to see Web pages, blogs and other Web applications as completely different beasts. Sometimes they are, but in this instance, it is not necessarily the case. Of course, in some cases, it may actually prove more effective to install a separate blogging application.

Content syndication

‘Atom’ and ‘Really Simple Syndication’ (RSS) are services that allow a Web site to push or feed content to a person, providing he or she has a reader application installed in their client computer. For text content, these are mostly used by news sites. However, it is increasingly common for corporate Web sites to provide feeds for customer communications. Other options for future use include using these services as a cheaper alternative to SMS when communicating with a mobile workforce.
The most bandwidth intensive use of syndication on the internet is the relatively recent podcasting (audio) and vodcasting (video) phenomenon. In late 2005 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that Australia’s ABC was experiencing over 300,000 downloads a month from their radio podcasting feeds. This has grown substantially in the last 5 years. Obviously, corporate Web sites will never serve as much audio and video content as a broadcaster. However, demand to podcast and vodcast presentations, product launches and all manner of other content will come to nearly every enterprise in time, if not already.

Social networks

The original networking sites were the dating sites, which were among the first web applications. More recent innovations are the business connections sites, like LinkedIn, where a person maintains a home page and a list of connections to other known users of the network. You can recommend those in your network or search through degrees of separation for people with the skills you need. YouTube and MySpace also have social networking functionality. Facebook and Twitter have become ubiquitous in a short period.
This kind of application might be very useful for large global businesses. Business services firm that need to quickly bring together people with diverse experience for projects anywhere on the globe would clearly benefit from an enterprise application of social networking. Many of them, such as Deloitte, have implemented social networking internally already.

Content communities

These sites are devoted to a particular creative art or area of knowledge and include YouTube for short-film producers and copyright pirates, Flickr for photographers, for creative writers and Wikipedia for just about everything. The “wiki” genre of application allows collaboration on individual items of content.
Microsoft SharePoint has been widely implemented to provide some of the functions of content communities. However, its focus on Office documents does not really allow for the dynamic collaboration that wikis do.
Wikis are a great knowledge management tool for quickly and easily documenting business practices and the personal knowledge of your staff. If you aren’t already using wikis internally, then you should consider it, as they have great benefits for creating organizational knowledge and documenting practices for succession planning and business continuity.


Web 2.0 technologies can add a great deal of value to the enterprise if implemented with a strategic plan for well-understood and defined purposes. When selecting what technologies to implement, always consider the business needs that the technology will address. Implementing something just because a lot of people are clamouring for it is not a good idea. Depending on your network capability and topography, using existing internet-based services may be a cost-effective and efficient way to deliver the benefits to your staff. On the other hand, using internally hosted applications may better suit your security and internet-use policies.