Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Weapons of Choice – Choosing the Enterprise2.0 tool kit

Having spent sometime exploring all things Web2.0 and ‘eating our own dog food’ a group of early adopter/enthusiast decided we needed to introduce Enterprise2.0 into our company. Scott had already produced the now infamous ‘meet Charlie’ presentation and we had put together ‘meet Jessica’ a version contextualised for research. With these communication tools in hand we sat down to plan our road map. The first decision was what tools should we focus on? If you look at the cloud of Web2.0 tools available it is clear you need to make some key choices. Invariably at this stage you are resource limited and you will need to show some immediate return in value if you are going at get funding support for the next step. So where to focus your time? Which tools are you going to put into your Enterprise2.0 tool kit?

At the start we chose five types of tools that would define the basic building blocks of our Enterprise2.0 tool kit. These were wiki’s, blog’s & GTDware (Social Content Creation tools) and RSS reader & social bookmarking (Social Information Management tools). Before discussing the tools we did choose it is worth explaining why we decided to not focus on social networking and mash-ups tools.


We chose not to consider mash-ups for the simple reason enterprise is already well served by this type of tool. Tools like Pipeline Pilot and Business Objects are the enterprise equivalent of Yahoo pipes. They can take data from multiple sources and allow it to be transformed and manipulate and then served up in many different forms. If you look further we can consider that most of the Enterprise Information Integration (EII) tools set are in fact expert user mash-up tools. In reality this is the one area where traditional business is actually ahead of the web2.0 curve.

Social Networking

We decided not to pursue this because we did not understand what a enterprise2.0 social network was. We understood what we liked about the social sites we had joined, what value we were or were not getting from them, etc. We knew we would need a social networking solution but also could not decide if we needed a Facebook (social and fun) or a LinkedIn (professional and conservative) or something hybrid. We also had been playing with a early release of Microsoft’s Knowledge Network for SharePoint and just didn’t know how static profile information could/should integrate with tacit profile information and how best to capture it. Finally most of the tools we had chosen had a social networking component within them. We knew that if social networking turned out to be critical early on then we could always use one of these to provide a starting point. In the mean time we could continue to explore and understand what were the requirements for a Enterprise2.0 social networking tool.

Weapons of Choice

Wiki – Provides the space for collaboration and the sharing information in a structured fashion.
This was an easy one, Pfizerpedia, based on Mediawiki was already up and running. It is a great technology that just does structured wiki very well. The familiar look and feel from peoples exposure to Wikipedia certainly helps and there are a great number of useful extensions available from the open source community. Its biggest draw back is the lack of a WYSWYG editor but early adopters are happy to deal with this and will wear it as a badge of honour. Also lacking is LDAP integration. At some stage we knew we would have to resolve these limitation but at that stage our key drivers we just growing the wiki and learning how to manage it.

Blog – Provides core communications and discussion space and an obvious antidote to email.
This again was a simple choice, we had gone with Drupal early on and this had been very popular. We had this in place felt comfortable with it and had successfully got a number of group wiki’s off the ground based on it.

GTDware – Provides lightweight project management functionality to individuals and project teams.
We saw this filling a big gap currently for our colleagues. Our first thought was we wanted Basecamp or a clone. We had a look at activeCollab but it was not ready at that stage and also we had SharePoint looming into view. After much soul searching and experimentation with SharePoint we accepted that SharePoint could ideally fill this gap. Our main concern here was that SharePoint did not meet our key Web2.0 requirement i.e. it is intuitive, it takes less than 10 minutes to learn. However once you realise that it is a platform for developers and not an end user tool it makes more sense and is easier to swallow.

Social bookmarking – A simple and obvious tool that provides immediate user value solving the nightmare of browser based bookmark/favourite folder hell. It is also appeared to be simple on ramp into the world of social collaboration as you immediately can see how other people’s bookmarking can help you.
The choice here was pretty obvious. We had all been experimenting with del.icio.us and while other services offered more functions the simplicity of del.icio.us appealed, we had no hesitation in getting a clone of del.icio.us, Scuttle, up and running. This has all the core features of a social bookmarking service and does them very well. However it does not support communities and again no LDAP integration, something we would soon come to recognise as critical for wider adoption.

RSS reader – We saw RSS as the glue that holds all the tools together. This lets you bring all your activity/awareness monitoring to a single pace and eliminates the need for email distribution list though enabling the consumer to subscribe to what they need.
This proved to be a tricky area not because there was a lack of potential readers but because we realised that RSS is more than just a reader and that we would need a true enterprise solution. In the end this was where we had our first real funding provided and we went with NewsGator Enterprise Server which came with a RSS readers for the browser, desktop and the Outlook inbox.

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