By Monica Mehta
November 2009The new generation of social Web technologies has clearly arrived: Wikipedia, Twitter, blogs, and Facebook have all left their marks on popular culture. But businesses, generally more conservative than consumers, are only beginning to take advantage of Web 2.0 tools. Easy to implement, these technologies encourage creativity and collaboration that inspire innovation and increase productivity.
At the same time, they emphasize a bottom-up approach that empowers workers—a major cultural shift for traditional organizations. And while social technologies may upset the org chart, understanding this cultural change could mean the difference between the success and failure of an Enterprise 2.0 strategy.
“Enterprise 2.0 is not just a technology, but a state of mind that your organization is going to become much more responsive and open and do business in a different, more personal way,” says Charlene Li, founder of the Altimeter Group and author of Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies (Harvard Business School Press, 2008). “Organizations will start to open up and feel comfortable doing that.”
To get started, Enterprise 2.0 initiatives require leadership from top-level management. Here are a few ways to make Enterprise 2.0 a cultural and operational success in your business.
Organizations often function with knowledge silos, in which certain employees are experts with certain types of knowledge, such as the best office supply vendors. Web 2.0 tools such as wikis, blogs, and social networks can capture this unstructured interaction among the rank-and-file workforce and quickly convert it into institutional knowledge.
“The traditional business model incorporates the theory, ‘All good ideas tend to come from the top,’” says Vince Casarez, vice president of product management for Oracle’s Enterprise 2.0 and portal products. “Enterprise 2.0 solutions and Web 2.0 technology allow companies to tap into the key knowledge and passion of every employee.”
Casarez says systems must transform the wisdom of the workforce crowd into organizational process and policy. This wisdom could include employees’ ideas about managing the business more efficiently, generating more revenue, or offering new products and services. “I want to link up my structured processes with these unstructured activities,” says Casarez. “Next year, when I do my budget, I’ll have some lineage information to understand how I came to those conclusions, or perhaps I have a set of projects that I’d thought about doing, but now maybe they’re more relevant, given the business climate, competitors, or new opportunities.”
Oracle’s Enterprise 2.0 offerings include a number of collaborative tools. Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g allows customers to create online portals and Web sites with services such as discussion forums, blogs, and wikis. It allows users to share documents, post project status updates, and discuss projects. Oracle Beehive is a complete collaboration infrastructure that enables employees to team up through Web conferencing, calendar, instant messaging, and e-mail tools. Oracle Beehive embeds collaborative tools such as Web conferencing directly into existing business applications and processes. With these applications, employees can share information within and across teams and develop new ideas and products. Communications that would otherwise be lost, such as briefings or brainstorming sessions, can be stored for future reference. “With tools such as Oracle WebCenter Suite 11g and Oracle Beehive, we’ve orchestrated Web 2.0 services into a prebuilt, ready-to-use application for sharing, collaborating, and working together, embedded directly inside any application,” says Casarez.
Empower Your Sales Team
The sales organization often presents the biggest cultural challenge for a new IT system, and understandably so. Representatives on the front lines want to spend as much time as possible selling products and making money for the company (and themselves). Any technology not aligned with that goal can be perceived as an administrative chore. Although some critical sales data must occasionally be collected from the sales team via strict policy enforcement, effective IT change management is best achieved when the new system helps reps sell more products. Fortunately, new Enterprise 2.0 tools do just that.
A large part of what sales reps do is unstructured. They network with potential clients and peers, conduct research to identify new leads, and brainstorm about content that helps sell to clients. This is where Enterprise 2.0’s social customer relationship management (CRM) technologies play a valuable role, offering reps new opportunities to more efficiently perform daily functions using technology.
For instance, Oracle Sales Prospector can mash up internal and public data to create profiles that include the products and services existing customers have purchased, the units they purchased, and the net dollars paid. It uses this information to provide recommendations on what products they are most likely to buy next, based on the buying history of customers with similar attributes.
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