2009 is the year of Enterprise 2.0? Hold your horses…

Last week was a big news week for Enterprise 2.0. It all started with this report from Oliver Young of Forrester Research stating that nearly one in two businesses will make use of Enterprise 2.0 technologies in 2009.

The Forrester Report was followed up with a post by Dion Hinchcliffe on ZDNet (“The Year of the Shift to Enterprise 2.0”) citing “The tools have arrived. How enterprise knowledge and is created and flows within our organizations is beginning to change dramatically.”

I absolutely hate throwing cold water on a promising data point, but I’m having serious difficulty reconciling these take-aways in the face of a bunch of other findings. Here goes….

The footnote behind Implementation numbers

I’m as much of an Enterprise 2.0 cheerleader as the next guy and I even make a very good living off it. But let’s be honest here. Whilst the report says 1 in 2 companies will deploy some Enterprise 2.0 tool, a more glaring finding is that only 1 in 10 users adopt the tools, once deployed.  What good does that do to anyone? “Enterprise 2.0 faces serious risk of fizzling out” should have been a bold warning in the summary of the Forrester report.

A recent teaser of “Intranet 2.0 Global Survey” based on 552 organizations shows that social computing technologies such as social networking and mash-ups have very tepid uptake. Take this comment for instance:

Social media adoption has accelerated on the corporate intranet, led by blogs, wikis and discussion forums. Despite a low cost of entry—often below $10,000—adopters are not reporting outstanding satisfaction with the investment, especially among the executive ranks, driven by inadequate planning and weak or non-existent business plans.


Satisfaction levels with Intranet 2.0 tools is low:

  • Only 29% of organizations rate the tool functionality as good or very good; 24% rate them as poor or very poor
  • Satisfaction rates with executives is dangerously low: only 23% of executives rate the 2.0 tools as good or very good; 38%% rate them as poor or very poor

Discussion Forums and Wikis driving usage

Discussion Forums and Wikis are some of the technologies that are on top of the heap when it comes to interest.

First, granted that Discussion Forums have evolved, but really, they’ve existed for decades before the advent of Enterprise 2.0. There’s been plenty of momentum behind this social computing technology and Enterprise 2.0 can hardly take credit for generating interest.

Moving on to Wikis. Looking at the evolving vendor landscape, its clear that Wikis have not proven to be a strategic investment and have quickly fallen into the commodity category. See how SocialText, previously a Wiki-only provider has now enrichened its offering with Social Networking and Micro Blogging. Similarly, Atlassian Software’s Confluence 3.0 product (Wiki Software, today) is expected to include Social Networking and Microblogging software.

If achieving an Enterprise 2.0 design for your organization can be executed by Discussion Forums, Blogs and Wikis, congratulations. You’re on your way. To really affect the way partners, suppliers and employees accelerate business activity, it’s going to take a lot more than that and the evolving vendor product offerings is proving this.

Distribution and Adoption

If 2009 is the year of Enterprise 2.0, where are the distribution channels? None of the larger SIs have declared intent or even large scale interest in creating practices, as of this time.  I’m not talking about social computing technology distribution (where SaaS can remove the need for traditional SI implementations). I’m referring to Enterprise 2.0 enablement which is much larger than a point solution or a platform implementation. Its the stuff that has to do with business execution and adoption.  A new crop of E2.0 consulting firms will emerge to will lead the charge here but that hasn’t happened yet.

Every E2.0 vendor I’ve interacted with is constrained by economic realities when it comes to blowing up a large consulting force that can truly transform their customers into a 2.0 design. The good ones understand the need for this and would love to do it but alas, its not meant to be in the near future.

Last week, I attended the TieCON 2009 event where I had the opportunity to listen and learn from Brad Smith, CEO of Intuit. It was one of the best keynotes I’ve ever sat in on. Amongst other things, Brad talked about how they generated 2,100 new ideas in 15 months by allowing employees to spend 10% of their time generating ideas. Now they may well be using an innovation platform such as Spigit or some combination of open collaborative technologies. But its the organization design and behavior change that made this a reality. Any application used was instrumental I’m sure, but only a piece of the puzzle.

The final proof

I was pretty much done making my case until I saw this excellent write up by Enterprise 2.0 colleague, Susan Scrupski about her thoughts on Sapphire, the SAP conference that explores innovative business solutions. Susan highlights how Enterprise 2.0 was largely sidelined at this important event. Some selected quotes here:

The reality is SAP and its global customer base are just not ready for the socialization of the enterprise. It’s just not a topic that commands attention at this massive event (despite my valiant efforts to bring it up in every executive briefing). The majority of conversations at SAPPHIRE revolve around common themes such as decision-making, analysis, data, spreadsheets, databases, reports, statistics, and business processes. In other words, the real work that goes on in real businesses. Is that surprising? No.


Last year, if I searched on Enterprise 2.0, I’m fairly certain I would have found zero returns for scheduled sessions. That there are two this year is, indeed, progress. Further, the soft language of 2.0 has seeped into SAP’s strategic speak and hopefully, strategic consciousness. Leo Apotheker, SAP’s co-CEO and reigning commander in chief name-dropped a smattering of prevailing social buzzwords in his opening address i.e., transparency, collaboration, trust, and social communities. So, a big high-five from me to the speech writer for positioning SAP as a “we get it.” And, in reality, they do get it. They just haven’t incorporated deep social-collaborative functionality into their product suites (yet). This is about where the majority of large customers are. They “get it.” Some may be even experimenting with it (even if they’re not calling it Enterprise 2.0), but it’s not yet core to their business.

Sure, larger firms take a while to move into new territory but they generally start talking about new concepts early on if they consider them to be strategic to their business and technological roadmap. When one of the worlds largest business software vendors is just about dipping its toes into the E2.0 waters, you have to think about how long social computing deployments are going to remain point solutions and purely emergent before they can be DNA changing in any way.

End Note

What the news of last week tells me is that there’s an uptake in social computing technology interest. But Enterprise 2.0? Not by a long shot. Here’s the difference.

I think its time to call out purely emergent implementation models (not that there’s anything wrong with that) vs. strategic use of social computing to achieve open collaborative and transactive work models.  Both have their place. But only the latter leads to an Enterprise, destined to achieve a 2.0 design.

By the way, if any of this is important to you, consider coming to the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston next month where I expect such topics to be discussed at length. Use this link for a 30% discount.

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Toby Ward
Toby Ward

Well, your assertion is a little unclear, but the finding that you quote "The tools have arrived" is correct. 2008 was the break-out year for these tools, as is reinforced in my study, the Intranet 2.0 Global Survey (http://intranetblog.blogware.com/blog/_archives...). 550+ organizations of all sizes from all parts of the world -- the numbers don't lie. However, to support your claim, these tools are stiill in their infancy, and not unlike the corporate intranet, have a lot of room and need to improve and evolve. Some leaders like BT (750,000 wiki pages), Sun (5,300 employee blogs) and Sabre (90%+ of employees are using their intranet social networking tool) will stand out from the pack, but the numbers show that all sizes of companies have adapted the tools -- about 50% of organizations. No one has said though that all of these organizations are doing superlative things, and that all employees are using them; this takes time. But you cannot argue with the numbers.

Chris Almond
Chris Almond

Sameer - after responding to your "Is 2009 the Year of Enterprise 2.0" question on the LinkedIn E2.0 discussion group (http://www.linkedin.com/groupAnswers?viewQuesti...), I followed your link over here.Your well thought out post (along w/Susan's observations) is in key with a growing chorus of bloggers (myself included) who think that E2.0 needs more time - that the technologies (and the expectations set by the ISVs for how they should be used) have raced way ahead of the rate at which company cultures can adapt.Yuri Alkin nails the trend analysis here: "Curious Case of Enterprise 2.0" http://bit.ly/1eXmom (...check Yuri's response in the comment thread too)Yuri's post inspired me to declare that E2.0 is now into the "trough of disillusionment" phase of the technology hype cycle. I make my case (actually, Yuri makes most of my case for me...) here... "Enterprise 2.0 in the trough of Disillusionment": http://bit.ly/9NLDT


Chris, thanks for the comments and useful links. Your post is an excellent read. Ironically, I posted about the "trough of disillusionment" ttopic as well here: http://bit.ly/8FYH2


Sameer,As always a very provocative post - and frankly an honest look at the adoption data and issues. The adoption of E2.0 feels erily similar to the early days of Unified Communications, which is now coming more into the mainstream from what I can tell. I think you touch on one of the most critical issues facing adoption, which is an integration into business processes, which users understand and can translate into value. As you know, that is the core of our approach at Helpstream. Keep the posts coming.Bill


Thanks Bill. The next 12 months are going to be really exciting in this space as we hit new maturity levels. Eugene Lee of SocialText made some important points in this interview (http://blogs.zdnet.com/Howlett/?p=913) where he talks about E2.0 vendors coming to getting to collaborate. If that happens, I hope that the traditional process vendors will also join at some level so we have a realistic mix of social and process going forward.

Oliver Young
Oliver Young

Hey Sameer, while I wholeheartedly agree with you that Enterprise 2.0 has a long way to go to be a viable long-term business, I do not believe that the concept of people-centric collaboration has any potential whatsoever of fizzling out. I think the problem you may be running into here is keeping the vendor viability and the user value distinct and separate. In one recent report with my former colleague Gil Yehuda, based on the impact we are seeing from companies that adopt these tools, we concluded that wikis and social networking will have significant success in the enterprise when all is said and done, while most other Enterprise 2.0 tools will have moderate success (good, but not great). http://www.forrester.com/Research/Document/0,72...At the same time though, when looking at the vendors in this space, I conclude that the market is not going to be particularly forgiving. In a recent report I wrote: "The enterprise Web 2.0 market is experiencing an explosion of activity among enterprises seeking collaboration and productivity improvements. While that explosion is placing Web 2.0 technology in the hands of millions of knowledge workers, cutthroat competition, commoditization, bundling, and subsumption are all offsetting the associated license revenue growth. How bad will it get? Forrester expects that most Web 2.0 tools will experience falling average deal sizes over the next five years, with some deal sizes dropping by more than half."In other words the vendors in this space has a tough task ahead of them -- you may have noticed that I did not make any such claim that 2009 would be the year of Enterprise 2.0.I good dose of cold water is almost always helpful; just be careful which side of the equation you throw it on.


Hi OliverI'm intentionally throwing it on the customer side/user value, actually. Also, I wasn't implying that you personally predicted this to be the year of Enterprise 2.0 or that -people centric collaboration- (but one facet of the larger bag of social computing benefits) is about to fizzle out. That said, if the adoption patterns remain at the levels you discovered, there's no network effect to make this a better way to work and folks will go right back to process centric work styles. My general argument in this and previous posts is that there's a distinction between Enterprise 2.0 (a state the enterprise achieves) and social computing technologies (that vendors sell). The former has ways to go. The latter (part of which promotes people centric collab) is moving along fine but don't expect it to lead to DNA changing results for the customer if its a general purpose or point solution. On the vendor side, I whole heartedly agree with your assessment and quote above. In fact, I cite your report in the course of my work. :) The good news is that some of the leaders in this category are focusing on driving E2.0 change beyond a customer install.

Jordan Frank
Jordan Frank

At the end of the day, we are all very busy and a little shy (I often refer to most people as "beta bloggers") - so bringing people around the E2.0 table under the banner of a work process is just what folks need to commit to the platform. As you say, whether you call it Enterprise 2.0 or Social Computing, the mix of tools including blogs, wikis, discussion forum and tagging can be used in strategic efforts to achieve Open (or closed - as is occasionally necessary) and transactive work models. The deployments I have seen succeed the fastest and become the most enduring are those that are built under the backdrop of a defined work process that is better conducted wiki or blog-style than in email, notes, sharepoint or whatever the alternative. Patterns emerge within these deployments that change their nature and branch into new uses of the technology - but leveraging the core process (or processes) is vital to gaining high participation and user attention retention. With respect to the "tepid satisfaction" you refer to, consider two issues (1) many organizations may be using mediocre tools found in Sharepoint or via open source platforms that don't fit their given need and (2) many organizations may have just "thrown it out there" rather than strategically deployed the E2.0 platform to meet a given need. I'd expect most organizations to try out various tools and use cases until they get it right.


Good comments as always Jordan. I think we're going to see a lot of more strategic deployments over the next 12 months. If for no other reason, leading E2.0 providers will start to move from general purpose to multiple LOB specific solutions or go back to the drawing board and recast their offering completely as functional or vertical specific. That's when it will get much easier for the business buyer to understand the relevance of the product.Its the same evolution process that's always existed.


  1. […] What sparked today’s post is a post from Sameer, 2009 is the year of Enterprise 2.0? Hold your horses…. […]

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