Recently, I was involved in various twitter conversations about different topics. In one tweet, I was invited to take a look at a project entitled “Enterprise Social Media Experiment” which is present in the SDN wiki.
ESME is intended to be a social messaging platform for the enterprise - think Twitter, Plurk, Pownce, Jaiku, etc. Twitter has been the subject of numerous scaling & availability concerns, and newer services like Plurk are introducing a more conversational aspect. SAP is known for producing a reliable, scalable platform, NetWeaver, which seems like a natural place to build such an environment with an enterprise focus. Not only would there be real-time "microblogging" and conversations, but this could be controlled by existing security mechanisms (role & group filtering), would be logged & audited (necessary for compliance etc.) and would be content-searchable in a secure manner (TREX).
Dennis Howlett has Enterprise Twitter - the BPX view about the topic being interesting from the perspective of BPXs. As I thought about the origins of the project, I was much more fascinated by what the experience teaches us about Web 2.0.
There are variety of Web 2.0 technologies/tools that exist (blogs, micro-blogging, wikis, social networks, tagging, podcasts, user review sites, etc) and these tools are growing in terms of their usage. However, these tools are often looked at independently from one another. The most interesting question, especially from a Enterprise 2.0 / corporate perspective, how do these technologies relate to one another / complement one another and how can you use the information that they produce in an efficient manner to promote innovation.
Of course, if you are looking at these environments from a marketing perspective you might envision a single campaign to improve brand awareness that uses a Facebook presence, increased twitter-based interaction with customers and a viral video campaign on YouTube. Although there may be some common themes on which the campaign focuses, the interaction between these tools is still rather loose.
I’m less interested in marketing-related possibilities and more in the area of product definition. In this manner, I view ESME as a new product that is being defined via user-based content.
Thus, you have a transition from one Web 2.0 based tool to another Web 2.0 environment. Both tools are based on social networks that overlap but are not exactly the same.
The implications of the transition from Plurk conversation to SDN wiki
Now, you might be thinking “So what, why should we care about this transition?” If you look at all the talk about Enterprise 2.0, there is one topic that is often present: what are the use cases where this new technology can really prove its worth.
I always view Web 2.0 environments as places where raw ideas often surface and then evolve as they interact with others (individuals and their own ideas). At some point, however, if these ideas are to evolve into something concrete (innovative product idea, software project, etc.), then they usually require a different environment.
If you look at Dell’s Ideastorm, there are thousands of great ideas – and sometime they are quite crazy - about Dell products. If the ideas were to remain in this environment, then the end users might not have any real benefit from their creativity. These ideas must move into other product development systems at Dell to determine whether the ideas are technically feasible and commercially sound. Thus, there must a transition to a different (in all likelihood more traditional) environment for the Web 2.0 content to actually influence the design of Dell products.
Questions that arise
I have no idea how the ESME project will evolve, but my experience with the project has led to a few rudimentary thoughts / questions where I don’t have a clear idea of what the best answer might be. I’d like to share a few of these points and leave them open for others to think about (or maybe discuss in the micro-blogging environment of their choice)
· What content remains in plurk / twitter and which content should be placed in the wiki? Should random ideas evolve in the micro-blogging environments and then move to the wiki to be expanded / structured? What about taking an idea that emerges in the wiki and using it as a basis for a conversation in twitter? Can you even control the content creation in these two environments? Should you control it? Is the nature of these Web 2.0 environments such that corporate control/direction would destroy their effectiveness?
· How can you move content from environment to the other? Cut & paste is very cumbersome for such activities. What sort of technology / UI elements could be used to perform such transitions?
Thinking about how such transitions might be used in an actual NetWeaver environments, I’d like to suggest the ability to combine a plurk conversation with the Introducing Eventus: How You Really Deal with Business Events to create situational composites.
The basic premise of Eventus would appear to match the underlying character of many Web 2.0 technologies.
First of all, business events are not only triggered from within enterprise systems but also from unstructured channels like email and phone conversations. Then, to deal with events, people fight fires: they run into each other on the shop floor or in the hallway, they write email, they talk. They don't necessarily run through written procedures and even if they do, the procedures sometimes break. So the events people deal with often involve collaborative problem-solving between people spanning not only departments, but also companies (and not to mention, days, weeks, months...). In the end, it can take several people working together to come up with a process and set of steps (and their solutions). This is people thinking about the work - not the process. The process evolves out of the work - instead of the other way around.
By bringing the two environments together, you might be able to drag/drop a plurk conversation onto an Eventus screen and create a project wiki staffed accordingly and filled partially with the content from the conversation.
Such an interaction might just be a pipe dream but it reflects the common demand in the corporations to use the content from Web 2.0 environments more effeciently and in a fashion that more easily allows ROI to be achieved.