UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Butler Group Report on “Enterprise Web 2.0: Building the next generation Workplace”

Posted by Brian Kelly on 11 Dec 2008

I recently was sent an evaluation copy of the Butler Group Report on “Enterprise Web 2.0: Building the next generation Workplace” for me to read. Some brief thoughts on the report are given below.

The Butler Group reports are aimed at senior managers who need to understand how emerging technological developments may affect organisational business processes and strategic decision-making. Often such reports fail to engage me, but this report acknowledges that “it would be a mistake to dismiss technology altogether” and goes on to describe how various technological and cultural aspects of Web 2.0 can have significant impact at a strategic level. So I did find the report of interest – and do feel that senior managers who have responsibilities for strategic policy-making which will be affected by use of Web 2.0 in an enterprise content need to be aware of the issues raised in the report.

The technical Web 2.0 description provided is likely to be familiar to many readers of this blog, the four main bullet points being:

  1. The principle tenets of Web 2.0 are that the Web is the platform, software and content are delivered as services, and that people participate.
  2. The technologies in Web 2.0 are generally disruptive.
  3. The technologies of Web 2.0 are still maturing and security and management are to be resolved.
  4. Organisations must investigate the opportunities afforded by Web 2.0 technologies.

Now I would agree with the second point: yes, Web 2.0 is disruptive using the definition in Wikipedia that “A disruptive technology or disruptive innovation is a technological innovation that improves a product or service in ways that the market does not expect“. But I would also agree that organisations need to investigate the opportunities afforded by Web 2.0 technologies.

The report went on to gives reasons why such evaluations are needed, ranging from the new business opportunities which are being provided, the need for corporate managers to acknowledge the importance of the user (something that was in many cases not regarded as a priority), together with a need for “Corporate IT departments [to] reduce, reuse, recycle, re-engineer and re-think if they are to deliver a sustainable IT service to the organisation“.

I think this is right – but I’m also worried that we’ll see large-scale public sector initiatives which fail to acknowledge the disruptive aspects of  the Enterprise Web 2.0 environment and simply seek to replicate existing services using Web 2.0 technologies and fail to engage the users in the processes.  The UK e-University (the government-backed initiative to provide online delivery of UK higher education courses to students worldwide and to give improved access to higher education for under-represented groups of students in the UK) provided a good example of a top-down approach to a national service which was launched with great expectations but “failed largely because it took a supply-driven rather than a demand-led approach to a very ambitious venture in an emerging market. Sufficient market research into the level or nature of consumer demand was not undertaken, and the project failed to form effective partnerships with private sector investors.” according to a report on “Lessons to be learned from the failure of the UK e-University” (PDF) by Paul Bacsich.

Am I wrong in being concerned that similar top-down approaches to national networked services will be taken without learning from the lessons of the past?  So can I suggest that policy makers read this report to discover why “Enterprise 2.0 is about business agility and IT flexibility” – and remember that this isn’t me (coming from a technical perspective)  speaking: it’s the considered reflections of a group of business analysts.

8 Responses to “Butler Group Report on “Enterprise Web 2.0: Building the next generation Workplace””

  1. Paul Walk said

    interesting report by the sounds of it. I’m not sure I quite followed the connection between Enterprise 2.0 and large scale, public sector, national networked services.

    Are you saying there are lessons to be learned from the enterprise space, which can be applied to national, public sector services?


  2. Hi Paul – I’d suggest that we can regard national services as an enterprise: the various JISC services and national Government, for example, can be regarded as enterprise services which are used by others. And just as there’s a need for “Corporate IT departments [to] reduce, reuse, recycle, re-engineer and re-think if they are to deliver a sustainable IT service to the organisation there is an equal need for national services to do likewise. The danger is that that they’ll suffer from even more bureaucracy than smaller organisations may face,

  3. Paul Walk said

    Hmmm – my understanding of the term ‘enterprise’ as it is used in IT definitely wouldn’t include JISC services or national government. Not to worry – perhaps ‘Enterprise 2.0’ has widened the scope….

  4. Hi Paul: Wikipedia has the definitionEnterprise social software, also known as Enterprise 2.0, is a term describing social software used in “enterprise” (business) contexts. It includes social and networked modifications to company intranets and other classic software platforms used by large companies to organize their communication. In contrast to traditional enterprise software, which imposes structure prior to use, this generation of software tends to encourage use prior to providing structure.“.

    Are you saying that a Government department or public sector organisation, for example, shouldn’t be regarded as an enterprise? I would say that Universities are large organisations with business functions and this is also true of Government bodies. For example a post on “Government 2.0: leading the way to Enterprise 2.0?” does suggest that “It’s really starting to look like government is going to make good use of Web 2.0 to transform the way it can ‘do business with’ its citizens“.

    Or does the term ‘enterprise’ as it is used in IT have a different meaning?

  5. Paul Walk said

    Of course a public sector organisation can be classified as an ‘enterprise’ in IT terms, as can a government department. In my direct experience, university IT departments think in these term for example.

    This is not my point.

    I’m making the distinction between what your wikipedia definition calls ‘“enterprise” (business) contexts’ and your examples of national services such as the UK e-University. As you point out, the e-University failed because it had a poor business model: I can’t see a direct connection between this and how they ran their enterprise systems, 2.0 or otherwise.

    Are you saying that Enterprise 2.0 is a more outward-facing approach, less bounded by the business organisation perhaps?

  6. Paul Walk said

    Just noticed that the snow has changed direction….

  7. I understand that the UK e-University failed not only because of its poor business model but also failures in its IT infrastructure (but I can’t say more as this is hearsay and I’d rather avoid the dangers of being sued!)

    But going back to the report, it did cover the various popular Web 2.0 social networks. And looking at a post on “Web 2.0 definition updated and Enterprise 2.0 emerges” it would seem that commentators are suggesting that there is “an anatomy of emerging networked software models” which covers Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 – but the boundary lines are still fuzzy.

  8. […] above in order to provide a meaningful comparison a graph of the usage statistics for a post on Butler Group Report on “Enterprise Web 2, published on 11th December 2008, a week after the Swedish model post, is shown. As can be seen, […]

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