Social technologies have, and continue to, radically transform the world of business. They have vitally enabled real-time information exchange, instant access to people and information, increased trust and transparency and allowed a number of organisations to enhance their business performance and accelerate their business models.
The term ‘acceleration’ in this context refers to the speeding up of important business processes around knowledge exchange and collaboration, through the use of technology. This technology being adopted by some forward thinking organisations is called Enterprise 2.0 (E2.0), a term originally coined by Andrew McAffee from Harvard Business School. E2.0 technology is challenging existing business models, and the benefits are just starting to be truly understood.
Initially, E2.0 was overlooked due to its association with social media tools like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, and typically, E2.0 technology does include similar functions as these. but allowing enterprises to have more personalisation of their social tools. For example, people and information tagging, profiling, networking, blogs, wikis, podcasts, widgets and mash-ups are all tools which can be translated for the enterprise, not to mention prediction markets, crowdsourcing and ideas engines.
This great potential for business model acceleration is driving firms to invest in integrating E2.0 into their technology architectures. As a result, analysts predict an increase in the spending to reach $4.6 billion by 2013, with a 43% year on year growth, making it the fastest growing technology in the enterprise software industry[i]. If this is the case, why are so many organisations excluding themselves from the E2.0 benefits of real time, flexible, integrated and highly informed business tools?
Acceleration in Practice
Two interesting – and completely different - examples of organisations successfully adopting E2.0 are DirectGov and Kew Gardens. DirectGov, the UK Government’s website used by members of the public as an information source, has built a strong culture and team structure around E2.0 in order to accelerate their business model. Through the DirectInnovate forum: http://innovate.direct.gov.uk, DirectGov has adopted a key concept of E2.0: the “Wisdom of the Crowd,” or crowd-sourcing.
This forum allows the developer community to submit examples of or ideas for innovative, citizen-focused applications (apps). On average, DirectGov receives 2 or 3 app suggestions a week. Of those, around 10 have been successfully developed and are being actively used, while many others are being piloted.
One of the most successful applications was the ‘snow information’ app, which enabled parents and teachers to update each other on school closures and weather patterns. Another recently developed app enables the reporting of hate crimes. Both these applications demonstrate how DirectGov has sourced additional knowledge and insight, support, resource and effort from beyond their own organisational boundaries, for the enhancement of their service.
The crowd-sourcing technology has provided DirectGov’s key business audience – the public - with a platform from which to voice their opinions effectively, and for communities to have some power in giving valuable information.
Kew Gardens has also accelerated its key business processes using E2.0. Kew Gardens is home to 250 years worth of vital information, underpinning worldwide research on plant diversity, conservation and sustainable use.
Kew recently decided to upgrade and invest in its fragmented IT architecture, using an E2.0 platform to ensure that future objectives could be achieved. The adoption of E2.0 has allowed the organisation to utilise ‘real time’ data for better-informed management decisions, which has fundamentally improved efficiency and effectiveness thanks to the ability to share information between employees and scientists instantaneously.