Web 2.0 : a more realistic systemic approach


This could have passed unnoticed. In a post about Dell an the fact their online shop was more 2.0 than their ideagora Ideastorm, Tim O’Reilly made his definition of web 2.0 seriously evolve from the original one.

For your information, here his the “original” defintion as it can be found on wikipedia today.

Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.

A visionnary definition that was victim of the too many interpretations it allowed and gave rise to techno-centric trends. If the web’s flexibility made it possible to get out of that, adapting the definition to the enterprise’s world, aka enterprise 2.0, which was something like “using blog and wikis within the enterprise” did more harm than good to the E2.0 concept, even if Andrew McAfee refind the termis of its definition from the use of web 2.0 tools within the enterprise to the use of emergent social tools within the enterprise and with clients and partners as I noticed in Montreal in may.

In brief, O’Reilly introduced a major evolution of its vision. Even if I often find discussions about definitions more funny than useful, what this one implies deserves that we have a closer look at it.

What does O’Reilly say ?

I define Web 2.0 as the design of systems that harness network effects to get better the more people use them, or more colloquially, as “harnessing collective intelligence.” This includes explicit network-enabled collaboration, to be sure, but it should encompass every way that people connected to a network create synergistic effects.

What seems important to me is in bold.

• Web 2.0 is not a matter of tools nor of systems, it’s about designing systems. It implies a macro, high level and systemic vision, and it brings us to organizational logics.

• The purpose is not to use social networks but their effects, their production.

According to me, this definition can be applied to enterprises without changing a word, exept enterprise 2.0 for web 2.0

• The “macro” component can be found in the last McKinsey survey that points out that it’s not a matter of tools but of organizational vision. It’s the vision of organization, of systems that conditions what follows. This notion of “system” reminds of what what behind my idea of SOO or my old E2.0 definition.

• The use, not of the networks but of their production seems to be right in line with my “still” analogy : any social activity with a strong informal dimension does create value only if its production can be harnessed by the business, which sometimes need some specific processes to be set up. This is very close to my thoughts on strategy maps : intangible assets value can only be realised through tangible activities and processes, that implies alignement and use in traditional business activities. It guarantees you won’t need to find convoluted performance indicators for your 2.0 project : usual balanced-scorecard like indicators will do the job. A good way to stop mistaking means for goals once and for all.

• L’utilisation non pas des réseaux mais de ce qu’ils produisent est à rapprocher de ma logique de l’alambic : une activité sociale a forte dominante informelle ne crée de la valeur à condition que la réappropriation de ce qu’elle produit au service de l’entreprise soit tout simplement possible, voire organisée lorsque la mise en place d’une procédure s’impose pour y arriver. Ce qui se retrouve également dans la réflexion que j’ai pu mener par rapport aux cartes de stratégie : la valeur des actifs intangibles ne se réalise que dans les activités bien tangibles ce qui nécessite alignement et utilisation au service des activités business bien traditionnelles. Ce qui évite, ceci dit, d’aller chercher des indicateurs de performance alambiqués pour votre projet 2.0 : des indicateurs opérationnels concrets classiques de type balanced scorecard feront très bien l’affaire. Une manière d’arrêter une fois pour toute de confondre la fin et les moyens.

Finally it shows than any enterprise 2.0 issue is more about enterprise than 2.0. Whew !