In the last week there has been a ton of discussion around the take up of Web 2.0 techniques in the Enterprise starting with a paper called "Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration " by Andrew P. McAfee of the Sloan business school which had a good description of the Web 2.0 phenomenon and used Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein a case study for the Enterprise.This was followed up by a post on his blog.
Nick Carr came back with some cautionary notes and then there was some discussion backwards and forwards which was picked up by a number of mega bloggers like Dion.
Anyway the conclusion that everyone seemed to come to was that people in Enterprises are busy or there are so few of them that its unlikely that community and hence Enterprise 2.0 will occur unless mandated by management which seems like a bit of an oxymoron to me, a point nicely made by Dion.
Dion's argument is that control will pass to the workers and in specific cases that is true and so control is a moot point. Such cases are industries in very competitive industries (such as Microsoft) or which are ailing and haven't much to loose or are even under fire.
I think this presupposes that community will start in the organization first and I just don’t think that this is generally true. One of the advantages of working for Microsoft is that you get the opportunity to see how these new techniques play out in an enterprise company. Today we have an amazing and dynamic blogging and wikiing population both inside and outside the company. Indeed if you add up the number of Sharepoint Portal sites in Microsoft it's humongous. The experience that I see in Microsoft is that the most dynamic and strongest use of community techniques is at the edge of the enterprise where we interact with the customers.
We are beginning to see the same thing in areas such as marketing; indeed most of the large enterprises I talk to today are looking very seriously at providing community elements to their web presence right now. In the next year this will become an avalanche and then we will start to see the people in enterprises participating in their own community sites much as is happening in Microsoft.
So what we will see is a blurring of the boundaries of organizations; enterprises will become more transparent and formless which in many cases is a good thing. In Microsoft's case for instance it has had a very positive effect on the perception of the company. What we are beginning to see is the destruction of the Iron Curtain of the Enterprise.
So if the future for communities in the enterprise starts at the edge then what are the factors that will inhibit such usage? Clearly the major ones are security, legal and IP concerns. Again an advantage of working at Microsoft is that you can see how these this have been addressed by an major enterprise and how successful we have been. The answer in our case so far is that it is very scary water where no one is sure what the right answers are but it does seem to be possible to become more transparent without giving everything away or getting sued.