Enterprise 2.0 Won't Fix 'Broken E-mail Culture' - InformationWeek

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6/27/2007
01:05 PM
Doug Henschen
Doug Henschen
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Enterprise 2.0 Won't Fix 'Broken E-mail Culture'

I'm still thinking about last week's Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston, which ranks as the most exciting and thought-provoking event I've attended thus far this year... Blogs, wikis, text messaging, presence awareness and all things social networking received a lot of attention... but rich Internet applications, Ajax, mashups, SOA, SaaS and composite applications are also a big part of the Enterprise 2.0 mix.

I'm still thinking about last week's Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston, which ranks as the most exciting and thought-provoking event I've attended thus far this year. I'm not just saying that just because it's a CMP-produced event (okay, there's the disclaimer). There was a palpable sense of promise and limitless possibilities for new technologies and approaches.

Enterprise 2.0 was launched three years ago as "the Collaborative Technologies Conference," so it's no surprise that blogs, wikis, text messaging, presence awareness and all things social networking received a lot of attention. In fact, show manager Steven Wylie opened the event talking about the need to "fix our broken e-mail culture."A number of speakers touched on the theme that the workers of tomorrow won't settle for the customary business tools of today. Author, business futurist and former Intelligent Enterprise columnist Don Tapscott noted that Myspace is adding 2 million registrants per week and that 90 percent of college students are registered on Facebook. "These kids are different," said Tapscott, adding that text messaging is their predominant communications tool while e-mail is "something you use to send a thank you note to somebody's parents."

Be that as it may, I ran into content and collaboration guru Frank Gilbane at last week's event, and he shared some interesting research that shows that most young people expect to join the e-mail culture. Enlightened and encouraged by his daughter, Frank joined facebook and used its polling feature to ask "Which collaboration technologies will you use the most in your job in two years?" As you would expect, 18- to 24-year-olds were higher on text messaging (15%) and instant messaging (14%) than were 24- to 35-year-olds, but 52% of these youth said they expect e-mail to be their dominant tool. What was really surprising was that blogs and wikis barely made the list (at 4% and 2% among the younger and older respondents, respectively).

Keynote panelist Joe Schueller, the "innovation manager" who's driving Procter & Gamble's collaboration initiatives, described e-mail as the biggest barrier to employee use of more interactive and effective tools, but he admitted that he initially "made the mistake of going after e-mail" as the pretext for adopting new tools. "That hurt us because lots of older people like e-mail."

I heard more than one collaboration 2.0 zealot claim that blogs, wikis, messaging and so on can cut e-mail volumes by as much as 30%. I have to believe that won't be a quick win even if it's ultimately achievable. Some believe you can just make the tools available and let viral adoption take care of the rest - much as it did with IM and the Blackberry - but many made the point that collaboration always has to have a goal. Thus, the best practice may be to settle on standards for the enterprise but launch and pioneer around focused projects, work groups or processes.

Last week's event could have used more discussion of rich Internet applications (RIA), Ajax, mashups, SOA, SaaS and composite applications. These technologies are often exploited by (but seldom provided by) the collaborative camp, and they're crucial components of our Enterprise 2.0 future. I'm looking forward to an even bigger event next year with a track or mutliple tracks on RIA and associated development trends.I'm still thinking about last week's Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston, which ranks as the most exciting and thought-provoking event I've attended thus far this year... Blogs, wikis, text messaging, presence awareness and all things social networking received a lot of attention... but rich Internet applications, Ajax, mashups, SOA, SaaS and composite applications are also a big part of the Enterprise 2.0 mix.

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