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Bringing Web 2.0 into the Enterprise

Today, social networking, and user-generated content web sites are among the most popular sites on the Internet getting millions of hits every day. Sites like MySpace, Facebook, Flickr, and Google Apps allow users to share user-generated content and collaborate with each other like never before. Smart organizations, enterprises, and product vendors are now realizing the potential for Web 2.0 technologies inside the enterprise.

There are some fantastic web applications on the Internet that would provide tremendous value inside of an organization. I’ve spent the last several years working for large professional services organizations. These large service organizations have perhaps the most to gain from harnessing the concepts of Web 2.0 internally. Consider for example an internal Intranet version of an application like LinkedIn, allowing employees to keep current resume and profile information online that can be easily updated by each employee. This would provide a huge value to professional service organizations whom are always looking to staff the next project or fill a clients staffing requirements.

For the developers of a large organization, think how useful an internal Code Snippets site would be. Public snippets sites such as DZone Snippets, allow contributors to share small snippets of code that solve commonly occurring problems. The value of such a repository is even greater inside of an organization where different teams often encounter similar problems. Essentially, a snippets site provides another outlet for code reuse.

In a development group, every project should be maintaining a wiki site. A wiki can be updated by every member of the team to include links to the latest documentation, schedules, and technical data related to the project.

Social bookmarking sites such as del.icio.us also provide examples of a technology that could be very useful internally. If you are in a large development organization, every developer will usually have his or her favorites sites for researching and looking up technical information. A social bookmarking site would allow your organization to harness collectively those favorites and categorize them with a content tagging system. Content tagging has become the preferred way or organizing large amounts of information in the Web 2.0 world.

Even some of the fringe social sharing sites such as Shelfari and LibraryThing implement concepts that would fit well inside an organization. These sites allow users to share information about their personal library of books. Users can contribute book reviews, book ratings, and comments about the books. Software developers are some of the largest purchasers and readers of technical books. Some organizations will even reimburse employees for technical book purchases. A social site allowing employees to share reviews and comments about technical books could be a very useful addition to an Intranet. These types of value-added applications that allow employees to actively contribute content to Intranets will encourage employees to view your Intranet and participate in sharing knowledge and information. This is much better than the centralized content controlled sites that most Intranets are today.

One of IBM’s newest products targeted at the enterprise is Lotus Connections. This is a product that aims to bring Web 2.0 and social networking into the enterprise. The product includes blogging, social bookmarking, wikis, communities, user profiles, and social networking features. IBM is not alone in thinking about the value that these products have. Smaller vendors in this space include HiveLive, SocialText, and Thought Farmer.

There are new and different types of Web 2.0 and social networking sites coming online nearly everyday. Every time I come across a new site, I always imagine how much that site could contribute to the collaboration and knowledge sharing environment and ultimately to the productivity of teams inside of a company. I believe that we are on the brink of seeing more and more Web 2.0 technologies entering the Enterprise. These applications can allow an enterprise to capture more of the ad-hoc and tacit knowledge that typically is not well managed in a large organization. If you are in a position of influence, you should start thinking now about how these technologies can make your own organization more productive. If you are interested in learning more about Web 2.0 in the enterprise, an excellent blog to follow is the Enterprise 2.0 blog from Dion Hinchliffe.

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More Stories By Timothy Fisher

Timothy Fisher has recognized expertise in the areas of Java, Ruby, Rails, Social Media, Web 2.0, and Enterprise 2.o. He has served in technical leadership and senior architecture roles with companies such as Motorola, Cyclone Commerce, and Compuware. He is the author of the Java Phrasebook, and the Ruby on Rails Bible. Currently he is employed as a senior web architect with Compuware in Detroit, Michigan.

Follow Timothy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tfisher