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Enterprise 2.0: The Emperor's New Clothes?

Skepticism about the utility and value of Enterprise 2.0 were addressed at a conference panel session.

The movement to make networked communication systems less hierarchical, more social and more collaborative -- commonly referred to as Enterprise 2.0 or Web 2.0 in a broader context -- is no exception. Plenty of people see Enterprise 2.0 as a buzzword boondoggle. At the Enterprise 2.0 Conference on Wednesday, TechWeb's chief content officer David Berlind moderated a panel discussion that confronted the doubts head-on.

The title of the session was "Is Enterprise 2.0 A Crock?"

Given the name of the conference, it may not be surprising that the answer was as resounding no. But among those with less of a vested interest in the answer, the matter is far from settled.

Here's what an InformationWeek reader going by the forum name "DDrexler021" said about Enterprise 2.0 in a comment on conference coverage posted on Tuesday: "Sure technologies have changed the landscape and allowed a more geographically-dispersed workforce, but that hasn't affected the actual structure of organizations. To keep track of costs and ROI, and to maintain focus what they're building or supplying, organizations need a command-and-control structure. No amount of New Age, blue-sky thinking about how people come together to accomplish a goal will ever change those facts."

But panelist Megan Murray, community manager and project coordinator for Booz Allen Hamilton, contends that the structure of organizations is changing. "The workforce is being transformed," she said. "The way businesses are being organized is changing fundamentally. Period."

Despite a consensus among panelists that the benefits of Enterprise 2.0-style connectivity and interaction aren't easy to measure -- and therein lies a huge barrier to adoption -- there was general agreement that there's real value in collaboration and social connectivity.

Claire Flanagan, senior manager in Computer Sciences Corporation's knowledge management and enterprise social collaboration group, said Enterprise 2.0 tools had proven to be particularly valuable for her organization's dispersed workers. "We have actually seen some incredible results," she said.

But as Jamie Pappas, manager of social media strategy for EMC, pointed out, the technology is not a cure-all.

If there's an answer to critics' concerns, it involves tempering the hype with due diligence. "We've got to move beyond what I call the Kumbaya zone," said Ovum research fellow Jonathan Yarmis in a separate conversation.

Businesses have to change the way they do things to see the benefit of Enterprise 2.0 systems and not every business is ready or willing to make such changes. But experimenting with Enterprise 2.0 technology can help pave the way for future transformation.

"Enterprise 2.0 is the gateway drug to Web 2.0," said Bryce Williams, social media consultant for Eli Lilly.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on the public cloud, digging into the gritty details of cloud computing services from a dozen vendors. Download the report here (registration required).

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