Why Web 2.0 does not work inside Enterprise

I am writing this post with the hope that you will prove me wrong – you will point out all the fallacies in my argument. These are the collections of views that I have come across, on why web 2.0 concepts and tools are not much of use inside an enterprise.

Incompatibility – Structured approach in enterprise vs. Self-organizing approach in web 2.0

There are fundamental differences between how an organization works and the basic principles of web 2.0. Every organization has a clearly defined hierarchy. Goal setting and responsibility allocation is normally top down. Most activity has a clearly defined deadline.

In web 2.0 all these are suppose to happen in a voluntary – self organizing manner. It is not clear how these two mechanisms can coexist?

Web 2.0 hype – Solution in search of a problem

Any technology enthusiast will naturally be excited about wiki, blog, social networking etc. As a result, the first question that gets asked is “what Web 2.0 tools can we use within the enterprise”? This is followed by the question “where can we apply these tools”?

This is the wrong way of approaching any problem. The right way is to start with a business problem and search for the best way to solve that problem. The search may lead to specific web 2.0 technology or it may lead to some other solution which is better than using any web 2.0 tools.

However, in most organizations, the starting point is technology to be followed by a search for problem. If a suitable problem is not found then something is invented.

Small size of community

All web 2.0 usage statistics indicates that only a small portion of any community becomes an active contributor. Others are only passive reader and the ratio is typically 1:100. To make any of these initiatives successful, significant number of people has to contribute. (See this interesting article – New Twitter Research: Men Follow Men and Nobody Tweets)

To get a significant number of contributors, one of the two thinks has to happen. The first possibility is to select a subject or an area where there is a large community already in existence within the enterprise. Such situation is not very common.

The other possibility of success is when the size of the enterprise is really large, may be more than 100,000 people. So, for a typical organization, the chance of success of web 2.0 initiative becomes very low.

Limiting impact of the organization boundary

Typical social networking technologies work well in a social situation. It is about establishing link between people you know and expanding the chain through existing links. It is about expanding the horizon.

Therefore, the whole process will lose its effectiveness if it is bound by the enterprise boundary.

Conflicting need – Security restriction vs. Open access

In recent times, enterprises are highly conscious even paranoid of security needs, both physical as well as electronic. More and more checks and access restrictions are being implemented.

Such a restrictive environment is in total conflict with the open culture and free access required for web 2.0 to succeed. So, how do you even start implementing it in the current environment?

17 Responses to “Why Web 2.0 does not work inside Enterprise”
  1. Hi Udayan,

    Let’s just say I am not even going to try to persuade you. Worked with a Big 4 consulting firm and personally helped clients benefit from Web 2.0 concepts and technologies. It’s magical!

    If the objective of your blog posting is to attract readers I think you have been successful 🙂 If you really need help and are looking for approaches and benefits of Enterprise Web 2.0, I would like to direct you to my blog – http://youarenew.blogspot.com


  2. Tony Brice says:

    My opinions, point by point, as a provider of advanced enterprise social media solutions talking to customers all day, every day:

    Incompatibility: Most organizations – more importantly, people in the organizations — are in constant need of pushing beyond deep-rooted structure. The best social media tools for business give people the means for working in spite of hierarchy.

    Hype: And the Internet was just a fad in 1995, right? Like most things, enterprise social media will go through the typical hype curve (peak of excitement, trough of disillusionment, etc.). What follows will be profound and lasting.

    Community size: This one is a valid concern but it, too, will dissipate somewhat. At cubeless, we were reluctant early on to offer our solution for communities of less than 500 but now, some of the most successful ones are in the 250-400 member range. There’s also the opportunity for customer-focused communities where you get the combined power of ALL customers in one place (if you’re brave enough to facilitate your customers communicate with one another).

    Organization boundary: Boundary, schmoundary. Social media is like gas, it will expand to take up whatever room you’re willing to give it. And members will ensure that communities expand to a valuable size or look for another solution.

    Conflicting need: Another valid concern but this is what separates some of the wannabes from the hardened, enterprise-ready solutions. Will IT Security and HR continue to do their jobs as gate-keepers? Sure. But the successful social media platforms will effectively mitigate real and perceived risks and move forward with implementation.

  3. Megan says:

    Respectfully, I couldn’t disagree more. Chiefly there seems to be some confusion about the differences between Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0. There are a number of finite assumptions in this post that seem to also hinge on a perspective that enterprises neither grow or adapt. It’s sorta the gist of E20 in the first place.

    Incompatibility – Structured enterprise vs. Self-organizing web 2.0
    I’m not certain how perceived differences mean that some manner of social, or open tool would now work within a hierarchy. Coming from an organization with both a rigid hierarchy and a thriving social suite, the correlation seems short sighted to me. What we’re asking organizations, and more importantly people, to do is change the way they do work. I commonly do deadline work on a wiki (and conveniently have a time stamp that goes with it). The assertion that “In web 2.0 all these are suppose to happen in a voluntary – self organizing manner” is simply incorrect as applied to Enterprise 2.0.
    The open and organized concepts coexist through leadership and change management. There must be a plan for use that leaves room for the open/social/emergent.

    Web 2.0 hype – Solution in search of a problem
    That’s painting with a pretty broad stroke. While I agree that many organizations start with tech and hope for the best, many don’t. An army of voices in the E20 community have been touting the importance of change management, the need to address challenges and not simply toss a tool into an organization with no plan. I am a member of a community where I interact with E20 practitioners from more than 50 organizations and I’ve yet to hear that they simply bought a tool and are hunting for a problem to fix. There are many organizations that will simply try to place a tool without understanding what they are doing, and it’s likely they won’t enjoy much success.

    Small size of community
    Scale certainly impacts outcome. And IMHO the quality of content in an E20 (again, not Web 2.0) environment speaks to the quality of leadership, change & community management deployed with it. It’s also important to remember that E20 (and Web 2.0 for that matter) isn’t one size fits all for every solution. My org is roughly 20k and it works well. What we’ve implemented wouldn’t be a match for a 20 person organization, but other solutions could be.

    Limiting impact of the organization boundary
    In my environment many staff work at client sites, are disconnected, and do not have the daily interactions that create strong professional networks. Our solution has drastically changed their ability to connect with our organization, and in some cases, their own teams. This is in fact broadening their horizons. As clients and partners are offered access to the space we continue to broaden their connection and information horizons. Again, equating a way of work solution with a simple social network isn’t seeing the whole picture of what’s available.

    Conflicting need – Security restriction vs. Open access
    You implement by understanding the totality of your security restrictions fully. The nature of our work dictates that we adhere to security, compliance, and technology export laws. We were able to keep it simple by aligning to the existing security measures, and instituting a community management plan that encompasses mitigation, education, and coaching for users. This planning must include your legal and human resources professionals.

    Basically, it is by no means impossible. Equally, it is by no means as easy as plopping a wiki down in an organization. You’ve done a great job of pointing out some of the perceived challenges. Having made it through these challenges, and having seen a number of others do the same, I can’t agree that they’ll bring the E20 movement to a halt any time soon.


  4. Udayan,
    you entitled your post “Why Web 2.0 will not work…” but should have written instead “Why Web 2.0 does not work…”. The fact that most firms are still reluctant to use Web 2.0 and social media does not prelude the future.
    Concerning the structured approach in enterprise, hierarchy and processes sure will evolve. In a few years, every employee will bring his own tribe with himat work, and it will quickly become a matter of salvation to introduce new work habits behind the firewall, or productivity will get down and best people will fly away. Don’t expect people who will be immersed in the social web all day long to go to work like they join a religious order. Existing top-down structures won’t help it for long.
    Concerning communities, free-form networks do not work the same as communities on purpose. Think about occasions when people are supposed to collaborate, such as building a bid or setting up a project. In those cases, there is no lurker, everybody has an active role and is ready to act appropriately. Of course, these roles have to be redefined for Enterprise 2.0, in order to allow people to build consensus or trigger innovation together. These are what I just called “micro-processes” on my own blog. Anyway, a team is more than the sum of its parts, and more and more companies are adopting some kind of collaborative software.
    Today enterprise is vertical, restraint, top-down and focused on tools. It will take time, and a lot of commitment, but things are already changing. A lot.

  5. Gia Lyons says:

    My clients can prove you wrong. http://www.jivesoftware.com/jiveworld/agenda#overview. In the enterprise, it’s really about evolving existing collaboration and business networking behaviors in the context of existing business processes. That’s mostly what Enterprise 2.0 is. It’s just the next step in the line after “knowledge management” and “groupware.” What’s different, though, is a desired change in corporate culture, and the desire for USABLE software that works out of the box rather than requiring extensive setup, configuration, or integration with existing systems.

  6. Sacha Chua says:

    Works for us at IBM. =) Good social computing guidelines and a collaborative environment make a big difference. (Speaking as myself, not as a company representative…)

  7. Guo Du says:

    Web 2.0 will not work inside Enterprise THE SAME WAY AS INTERNET.

    Those points are the right concern for enterprise. But it does work to enable teams to collaboration and innovation. Of course there might be some restriction due to business control.

    When we say Web2.0 in enterprise, doesn’t mean it’s all behind the firewall, it’s integrated with public social network and partner network.

    Enterprise 2.0 just started 🙂

  8. Thanigaivel.S says:

    Hi Udayan,
    I do acknowledge the fact we have lots of roadblocks in implementing the Web 2.0 in an enterprise, but i would support the adoption rather saying no because, we are becoming more structured day by day in turn we are bound by lots of rules creating roadblocks to the basic freedom which we exercised to reach this growth in the organization.

    Change is the only thing that never changes, the faster we embrace it the more experienced we are.

    1. Any innovation or growth that has been attained did not always start with a Structured approach. Structured approach comes only when we have identified a system and wanted to continue with it and also have a highly predictable growth rate. My opinion is self-organiszing is compatible in enterprise if this is given to the right team.

    2. The more enterprises are becoming conscious of security needs and start implementing restrictions the growth/innovation within the organisation is also restricted. Implementation of web 2.0 tools which kindle/share/explore those innovative thoughts will bring back the energy which was the seed when the organisation was started.

    Regarding the the size of the community and the size of people contributing, i would like to point out Pareto’s Principle 80/20.

  9. Pritam says:

    HI udayan,

    i think we have proved you wrong we have impleted enterprise networking in mahindra in march and we have received 30 lakh hits from our users about 40000 profiles have been created out of a total base of 1 lakh.

  10. Smriti says:

    Hi Udayan

    Like Anuj I am also unable to defy your points as it is a matter of security and Integrity within the organization. In addition our clients get much affected if they come to know about some inconsistent communication going on within the organization.
    What I can suggest is we can go for the development of some in-house Web 2.0 Tool.This not only will solve our purpose but also be consistent for the whole organization. Further,it can be marketed as a product. Hope this gives you some Idea….

  11. Smriti says:

    Hi Udayan

    Like Anuj I am also not able to move ahead in defying your points as it is the matter of security and integrity inside the organisation.Especially it affects our client if they come to know of some inconsistent mode of communication going on within organisation.
    One thing which I think we can upbring in the here is to have a Web2.0 Tool built IN the and FOR the organisation. This can keep pace of all the security and integrity related issues providing the consistency as well. Plus it can result in an in-house Web2.0 product. Hope this gives some Idea to you…

  12. amit bhatt says:

    Issue is not with technology, tools, technique or information content or even intent. Issue is to use these amazing tool in a right way and make sure that they keep their freshness… and they are used by every body not only as a viewer but as well as a contributor, collobarator.

  13. amit bhatt says:


    Why not use windows share point services 3.0 as a starting point to create enterprise wide portal. This will allow content managenment, sharing , collobaration, and what more … enterprise wide sarch and knowledge base creation.

  14. Anuj Sood says:

    Dear Udayan,

    I tried hard to prove you wrong for the use of web 2.0 but couldn’t find myself moving ahead.
    And rather than proving you wrong, i can only agree with oyur points.
    All points you mentioned are very right and accurate in such a big organisation like ours.

    I think the only one way if it can be made successful is implementing it temporarily at a small scale and then looking for the output.

    Another way, if we can have both in enterprise, web2.0 would prove to be an extra advatage to search out the problems and other online discussions which can really save a lot of resources like time, money.

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