At last week’s Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston one of the central themes among vendors, speakers, and attendees was the challenge of adopting Web 2.0 concepts for an enterprise environment that has to worry about mundane challenges around security, compliance, and governance. A number of individuals that I spoke to both at the conference an in my research have expressed concern that the key principle of Web 2.0 – user empowerment and control, is counter-active to the needs for enterprises to maintain information control and meet both internal and external requirements for information management.
I think it was pretty obvious at E 2.0 that vendors are hearing these concerns loud and clear. IBM launched it’s “Web 2.0 Goes To Work” initiative, including delivery of previously announced tools such as Lotus Connections for sharing of tags, bookmarks, and directory information, and Lotus Quickr for group collaboration using applications including blogs and wikis. Microsoft announced a new development kit to deliver improved blogging and wiki capabilities to its Office SharePoint Server 2007 platform. A number of other vendors stressed their ability to support enterprise requirements to meet compliance and governance needs.
As mainstream software vendors step into the Web 2.0 arena, I think we’ll see a transition away from the belief that Web 2.0 is Web anarchy, with users sharing personal and private information on public web sites. If enterprises have internal capabilities to take advantage of social computing in manner that’s consistent with internal control requirements, it should lead to more enterprises embracing Web 2.0 rather than fearing it.
Still, enterprises will need to be careful to ensure that the requirements for control don’t limit the usefulness of social computing tools. I’ve already spoken to a few companies that have had so much difficulty rolling out internal blogging systems due to management concerns over lack of formal review and approval processes that employees have resorted to publishing their own blogs on public services such as Blogger and TypePad. The battle between worker freedom to chose their own applications and the need for enterprise control has gone on for as long as we’ve had personal computers, the concepts of Web 2.0, based on formation of self-managed groups sharing information only presents a new challenge, but also new opportunities. Let’s not lose site of the later as we deal with the former.