Enterprise 2.0 & KM

What are the immediate opportunites that Enterprise 2.0 systems present for KM? We are definitely better equipped with Enterprise 2.0 tools/services to support tacit interactions . The immediate opportunity for organizations that are experimenting with Enterprise 2.0 tools/services is to dramatically bring down the barriers to content creation and hopefully affect the shape of the Participation Inequality Curve positively. The SLATES (search, links, authoring, tags, extensions, signals) mnemonic by Prof.Andrew McAfee is useful in understanding the characteristics of Enterprise 2.0. However, getting employees to tag,link,author and extend(edit) content will be a huge challenge as debated here . In bringing the “Read/Write” web to the enterprise the “Write” part will remain challenging as ever. And this is one of the reasons for all the empty and/or static portals you may have seen within enterprises. Having blogs,wikis and social bookmarking systems by itself may not radically alter the number of employees generating content – though it would definitely get more people onboard. What else can be done to bring down barriers to content creation?

A Netvibes like platform for the enterprise could facilitate the “Read” piece of the puzzle. As JP Rangaswami discusses here, Netvibes supports Syndication, Search and to some extent, Fulfillment and Collaboration. Features to support the “Write” part in a typical read/write web is not woven into the platform as of today. However, used in conjunction with a set of browser add-ons these ecosystems become true read/write platforms. If enterprise users had the option to Right Click-Select-Blog (Blogger,Diigo Add-ons), Right Click-Tag-Bookmark(Delicious Add-on), Right Click-Select-Make Notes (Google Note Book Add-on) , Right Click-Select-Annotate(Diigo Add-on – Screenshot) and so on, there is a good chance of getting more people to make use of these services for personal productivity. While these extensions by themselves are straightforward, I believe that their value when used in conjunction with a Netvibes like platform within the enterprise will be tremendous.Quoting from Jakob Nielsen’s article:

The first step to dealing with participation inequality is to recognize that it will always be with us. It’s existed in every online community and multi-user service that has ever been studied.

Your only real choice here is in how you shape the inequality curve’s angle. Are you going to have the “usual” 90-9-1 distribution, or the more radical 99-1-0.1 distribution common in some social websites? Can you achieve a more equitable distribution of, say, 80-16-4? (That is, only 80% lurkers, with 16% contributing some and 4% contributing the most.) ” . I believe that to get to 80-16-4 we would need more than just Enterprise 2.0 tools. We would need some means of allowing users to carry these services in a virtual backpack. This backpack should be available at all points where users interact with information systems. ( Desktop, Intranet,Extranet and probably enterprise apps ). Browser and desktop extensions are one easy way of doing this. Perhaps smarter ways of doing this in a browser/platform agnostic way will emerge. The point is, usability and the interaction design of Enterprise 2.0 deployments has to be high on the agenda of enterprises trying to leverage them.

Secondly, if we were to get to a point where Enterprise 2.0 tools accelerate tacit interactions in organizations, there would be a need for a set of sensemaking tools/services to reconstruct context. Inevitably, these interactions would be distributed across mail,IM,blogs,wikis,discussion boards etc., To reuse the results of these interactions there needs to be some common thread that ties it all together – something that will help the individual and others to reconstruct the context and make sense. Hannover with its Activity Centric Computing may be one of the many ways of doing this.

Cultural and political issues are not going to go away easily – even if we were to fix these, the mathematical reality of the Participation Inequality Curve will remain. A very pragmatic question for enterprises to ask themselves would be: ” Will an Enterprise 2.0 initiative help us move from a 91-9-1 distribution to a 80-16-4 (Lurker-Occasional contributer-heavy contributer) distribution? If so, how do we get there?”. The Participation Inequality Curve is a nice tool for enterprises to set their expectations right before starting a Enterprise 2.0 journey.

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