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Enterprise 2.0 Five Years Later: From Tools To Platforms To Ecosystems

In 2006, Andrew McAfee’s article on Enterprise 2.0, along with subsequent works, helped organizations think about how people use social software to more effectively share information and connect with one another. With an initial focus on tools (e.g., blogs, wikis), organizations undertaking “E2.0” initiatives began a long journey to improve the way employees build communities and collaborate on business activities. In parallel, early success stories highlighted the need for organizations to address cultural dynamics that often hinder these transformative efforts. While business objectives driving E2.0 projects were often “soft” (lacking measurable ROI), the intent generally could be aligned to overall needs to improve productivity, growth, and innovation. Today, the challenges of culture and metrics remain persistent issues for the industry, but there have also been two significant technology-oriented transitions that are worth noting as we look ahead to the upcoming Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston this June:

  • A shift from tools to platform
  • An expansion from platforms to ecosystems

A Shift From Tools to Platforms

Around 2009, organizations began shifting their deployment tactics away from separate best of breed tools and towards platforms. While specialized tools offered individual value, their collective use resulted in a more complicated infrastructure with redundant functionality over time as vendors added features already existing in other tools. Relying on a potpourri of tools also resulted in an inconsistent user experience and perpetuated the information silos organizations sought to reduce. Adoption of a “platform approach” consolidated tools into a common set of services and infrastructure. It’s important to note that a  “platform approach” does not mean a single vendor – the approach pre-supposes an architected framework that unifies tools and applications into a cohesive, modular, standards-based environment that provides for extensibility and interoperability with other systems. Consolidation helps deliver a consistent user experience, aggregate information into an assessable environment, and streamlines operational management while reducing functional overlaps and infrastructure complexity. A platform approach also helps centralize people, content, and data administratively so that policy can be applied consistently. Cisco Quad exemplifies an enterprise-wide “platform approach” that addresses the technological needs of an Enterprise 2.0 strategy. At the Boston conference, you will learn how improvements to Cisco Quad enables a richer user experience, enhanced application functionality, broader integration services, and flexible deployment capabilities.

An Expansion From Platforms to Ecosystems

In 2011, we are witnessing the next market shift – the expansion of vendor and platform capabilities to support a broader array of services important to developers, partners, professional services, system integrators, and ISV’s – as well as new distribution channels (e.g., app stores). Platform ecosystems represent a new level of market maturity. It means that collections of interlocked business models are taking shape around a vendor’s platform to provide greater (and deeper) levels of lifecycle support for solutions enabled by the underlying technology. The shift towards ecosystem means that buyers will assess a vendor’s capability to sustain a thriving ecosystem in addition to the resources necessary to sustain technology advancements. While this trend presents enormous opportunities, it also challenges the original scoping of Enterprise 2.0. E2.0-related solutions were originally envisioned as being better situated towards community and social networking scenarios than more traditional business activities. That’s no longer the case. Ecosystems surround a platform blend into other solutions that may only be tangentially associated with Enterprise 2.0. We now see the result of “social” becoming more generalized in the market through use of hybrid terms to describe transformed business models (e.g., Social CRM, Social BPM, Social Business). This situation reflects the inevitable blending of different ecosystems as Enterprise 2.0 platforms become integrated into more complex, multifaceted solutions.

Summary

To sustain success, organizations should strategically partner with vendors that offer an open platform and diverse ecosystem – not only for E2.0 but related market adjacencies as well. As ecosystems intertwine, decision makers should consider the broader set of market relationships and capabilities a vendor brings to the table as they undertake business transformation initiatives (such as E2.0). Cisco offers a variety of professional services, community, and channel programs backed with significant R&D investment to sustain critical mass in the market for collaboration (e.g., telepresence, video, unified communications, and customer collaboration) and enterprise social software. At the Enterprise 2.0 conference you will learn about the investments and partnerships Cisco is making to provide its customers with greater flexibility, faster deployment, and broader availability of business solutions enabled by Cisco Quad.

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