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Bringing Business Value - Integrating Web 2.0 Tools in the Enterprise

From Web 2.0 to Enterprise 2.0

Web 2.0 tools are doing a wonderful job of providing consumers with cool and productive new ways of performing common, simple tasks over the Internet. These tools primarily perform a single task such as allowing consumers to manage their photos, read their favorite newsfeeds, express themselves online through blogs, and communicate with friends via social networks. However, the business environment is usually much more complex since the end user needs to accomplish a series of tasks. As a result, the solutions used in a business environment tend to be broader in scope and require tools with richer functionality and higher standards of robustness and security.

 Another key difference is that enterprise “communities” already exist and tools are used to improve the degree of collaboration between the members of this “community.” In contrast, consumer communities were formed when social networking tools such as Facebook or Twitter were created.

For example, a marketing department may leverage such tools to drive increased collaboration between its extended team, which includes its marketing department, design/interactive agency and public relations agency. This “virtual community” of people around a business relationship already interacts with each other via phone, email and instant messaging – the new tools just integrate into these communications and make them better. In contrast, the Facebook community of thousands of people only came together and started interacting with each other after a critical mass of users decided to use that tool. These differences imply that if you wanted to take Web 2.0 collaboration technologies and deploy them within your business environment, they will not realize their expected potential unless they are fully integrated into the organization’s business process. Let’s look at it more closely.

A project involves a team of people working together to ensure that the tasks on hand are completed on time. The project manager creates a project plan and then works with each team member to ensure that they clearly understand their tasks, schedules, and dependencies. In addition, project managers and team members must continuously communicate with each other to ensure they are all on the same page with respect to project specifications, revisions, and assumptions. Finally project managers must communicate and collaborate with team members to understand the status of their tasks to make sure the project is on plan or it needs to be updated with new schedules. All these activities require extensive collaboration between the players, which today happens via email, meetings, and other ad-hoc tools. Since the schedule updates, documents, and project plans are communicated today via different methods, they usually fall out of sync – so everyone is no longer on the same page. The following figure depicts this issue.

Introducing stand-alone wikis and forums may drive collaboration within project teams, but they still maintain communication and collaboration of various things on different tracks and do not help to keep team members on the same page with respect to schedules, dependencies, and project specifications. True team collaboration can only be achieved by bringing these elements together under the same umbrella, where projects are planned and executed so that users’ opinions, knowledge, and feedback will add value on top of the essential project management tools the organization requires. This integration can streamline project management and collaboration and make it efficient, leading to a more predictable and successful execution of projects – after all a successful project is 20 percent planning and 80 percent execution.

Loosely integrating these capabilities does not solve the problem. As long as schedules, dependencies, project documents and team communication is managed in different software tools, the potential for these elements falling out of sync remains very high. When things are not on the same page, the project is very likely to fall behind schedule, suffer quality issues, or even fail.

Web 2.0 technologies applied to enterprise solutions is called Enterprise 2.0 – a combination of innovative, collaborative and easy-to-use Web 2.0 tools with powerful, robust and process-driven enterprise software. Enterprise 2.0 addresses business processes that require collaboration. Collaborative project execution is an example of an application of such technology. These solutions seamlessly integrate collaboration technology into project management processes to ensure that the entire project team is on the same page and executing the plan. The team members get an email from the system containing an embedded form querying them about task status and they reply back to this email with the status data. The systems automatically consolidate all the email responses and use them to keep the project status current; project tracking becomes automatic and managers save a lot of time by not having to chase team members to understand where they are with their tasks. The solutions then automatically provide alerts and highlights to allow managers to stay on top of their project's ever-changing status and proactively eliminate unpleasant surprises. This allows them to focus on addressing issues to keep the project on track rather than collecting project status data.

These solutions also leverage team-sharing technology to store/share documents, notes, and discussion threads with each individual work item within the project plan, providing team members an easy way to share their knowledge and remain in sync with each other for every task that they are responsible for. As a result, everyone within the team is on the same page, so more time is spent on project execution rather than managing team members and their individual knowledge and tasks. These tools provide a range of options for the team, making it that much easier to understand their directives, voice their opinions, and provide timely feedback.

There is no trivial transition from Web 2.0 to Enterprise 2.0 – however, the example above shows how they can enable and empower an existing business “community” only when they are fully integrated with the business processes.

More Stories By Avinoam Nowogrodski

Avinoam Nowogrodski is the CEO of Clarizen (www.clarizen.com), a provider of Project Execution solutions. Clarizen has seen tremendous interest in its product by focusing on collaborative project execution, rather than project planning.

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