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BPO Journal

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Enterprise 2.0

I digress a trifle. Well, Web 2.0 really is about commons based peer production and the outsourcing of production, particularly information production, to the social commons. So, not too much of a transgression here.

An article in the recent issue of Sloan Management Review by Andrew McAfee, a professor at Harvard Business School, points to interesting applications of communication tools of Web 2.0 - blogs, wikis and group messaging software — in modern enterprises. In particular, McAfee states that these tools allow for spontaneous, knowledge-based collaboration and enable efficient organization of knowledge. For example,
It has historically been the case that as organizations grow it becomes more and more difficult for people within them to find a particular information resource - a person, a fact, a piece of knowledge or expertise. Enterprise 2.0 technologies, however, can be a force in the opposite direction. They can make large organizations in some ways more searchable, analyzable and navigable than smaller ones, and make it easier for people to find precisely what they're looking for. The new technologies certainly don't overcome all the dysfunctions of corporate scale, but they might be able to address some of them.

It's interesting that while these characteristics of Enterprise 2.0 technologies - scalability, ease of use, memory and low start-up costs - enable a cumulative approach to knowledge building and efficient organization of knowledge, they also introduce problems of quality control and noise. An integral part of incentives to contribute in Enterprise 2.0 technologies is democratization marked by a lack of unilateral control. The limited ability to control the information that employees generate in the system requires searching through a lot of useless information to retrieve required knowledge. and this, in effect, increases search costs.

McAfee does point to other challenges that these new technologies bring with them. "Busy knowledge workers won't use the new technologies, despite training and prodding," and "most people who use the Internet today aren't bloggers, wikipedians or taggers. They don't help produce the platform - they just use it."

All of which seems to suggest that enterprise 2.0 is not really a knowledge management platform. It's more a means to collect, describe and even organize pertinent knowledge. The extant challenges of knowledge management - retrieval, transfer and context sensitive interpretation still remain.

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