Businesses move to embrace brave new world of Web 2.0

23 Sep 2008

Innovation, agility and re-use are forcing organisations globally to push aside old technologies, models and architectures to make way for the brave new world of Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 is a paradigm shift in the way the internet is used. It involves a more open approach to the internet, and user-generated content in particular, such as blogs, podcasts, social media and special-interest review sites.

“Technology vendors and industry commentators have been appending the ‘2.0’ suffix to all manner of enterprise products and domains over the past year or so in an attempt to signify something new, innovative and user-focused,” said Richard Edwards, information management practice director at Butler Group.

“But the term ‘Web 2.0’ still remains the touchstone of the IT industry,” Edwards said, adding that the social forces driving change in the consumer computing world are also impacting the way business gets done.

Edwards believes that social software, collaboration and real-time communications are now pivotal parts of the ‘Enterprise Web 2.0’ story, and that these in turn are acting as conduits for new cultural ideas and practices.

“The ideas, concepts, tools and technologies behind consumer-oriented social networking software are being reshaped and remodelled for enterprise use,” said Mike Thompson, Butler Group’s business process management practice director.

Rob Hailstone, software infrastructure practice director at Butler Group, explained: “Enterprise Web 2.0 is underpinned by the broader concept of Enterprise 2.0 – a paradigm shift relating to service oriented architecture (SOA) and IT virtualisation.”

In some circles, the terms ‘Enterprise Web 2.0’ and ‘Enterprise 2.0’ are used interchangeably to describe the application of Web 2.0 ideas and technologies in the enterprise.

However, Butler Group analysts believe that a clear distinction exists between the use of these two terms, and that this differentiation is important to maintain, as it enables more meaningful discussions to be had when examining the future role of IT within the business.

The failure to consider the impact of social enhancement technology on the performance of the enterprise is a big mistake, said Mark Blowers, enterprise architectures practice director at Butler Group.

“The management of customer, employee, partner and stakeholder relationships is vital for all organisations”, Blowers said.

“The social aspects of Web 2.0 are mirrored in the corporate world of Enterprise Web 2.0. Workforce mobility and changing communication patterns are two more trends that are driving change at the infrastructure layer. As such, unified communication and collaboration requirements are an important part of Enterprise 2.0 strategies.”

Continued developments in web browser technology – such as the new internet Explorer 8 and Google’s Chrome browsers – have led to new, rich internet applications that offer Windows-like performance and behaviour.

“It is clearly a mistake to think that Web 2.0 is all about technology, and likewise Enterprise Web 2.0; but it is also a mistake to dismiss the technology altogether,” said Michael Azoff, senior research analyst at Butler Group and a major contributor to the report.

“Selecting and implementing enterprise social software solutions, next-generation collaboration solutions, and rich internet applications requires careful thought, consideration and planning.”

Edwards summed-up Butler Group’s view: “The driving force behind every aspect of Enterprise Web 2.0 is the experience of the end user, whether that be employee, customer, partner or stakeholder. This means that all organisations must reassess their IT strategies in view of this clear and distinct shift in direction.”

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years