I have experienced a number of occasions over the last few months where it’s clear there is confusion over terminology. Not overly surprising in our complex industry, but in these cases it has been around what I will call the fundamental building blocks of our emerging World, i.e. Web 2.0 and its role in the Enterprise. As I am regularly using these terms in my posts it makes sense to perhaps take a post to offer some clarification of the most popular terms and, most importantly, their relationship to each other. Hopefully it will not be too annoying to those of you who know this already, and may indeed provide you with a ready reference to point others to if necessary. My real point comes out in the last term, the introduction of ‘Business Technology’ being different to ‘Information Technology’.

Web 2.0, a popular term, but actually with some ‘definitions’ that have become the basic ‘principles’ for understanding what is, and what is not, a Web 2.0 solution. The term ‘principles is important as there is not meant to be a set of absolute standards, instead and evolving path in using the ‘principles’ to allow a constant evolution driven by users. The term was coined in 2004 by Tim O’Reilly, a well known industry activist, exhibition organiser, publisher of technology books, etc, and another well known industry figure, Dale Dougherty of MediaLive International, and led to the production of a list of characteristics that identified whether a site, or a capability, was part of the original content Web, which they called Web 1.0, or was part of this new different emerging set of capabilities, they labelled Web 2.0.
The original seven principles also included a statement as to the core characteristics of a Web 2.0 enterprise, and were;

  1. The Web as a Platform
  2. Harnessing Collective Intelligence
  3. Data as the next Intel inside
  4. End of the Software release cycle
  5. Light weight programming models
  6. Software above the level of a single device
  7. Rich User Experience

With the core competencies for a Web 2.0 company defined as;

  • Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability
  • Control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them
  • Trusting users as co-developers
  • Harnessing collective intelligence
  • Leveraging the long tail through customer self-service
  • Software above the level of a single device
  • Lightweight user interfaces, development models, AND business models

Enterprise 2.0, is a definition generally credited to Professor Andrew MacAfee of Harvard Business School who first used it in 2006, (directly after the Tim O’Reilly fully defined the Web 2.0 Meme Map), to describe an Enterprise with a business model and business architecture based on these capabilities. This led to the development of the entire school of thought across Business Schools around the need for Business Model Innovation, driven by the new Technology Innovation. With time and practical experience gained by early adopters this has led to the ‘Interactive’ business model definition of using Web 2.0 technologies to create ‘collaboration’ during the product creation, sales and sourcing phases with the view to profiting in specialised markets, created by and accessed, through Web 2.0 communities. (I am planning to do more on ‘Interactive’ in a later post)
By contrast the term Agile Enterprise was originally linked to using Agile Software Development methods in support of a constantly changing, and evolving, organisation that gains its competitiveness through its ability to change. The key definition and Architecture models are usually credited to Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom who authored the book ‘The Starfish and the Spider’ in which they describe a decentralised organisation which shows the characteristics below. Many thinkers now believe that these same characteristics can be applied to an Enterprise 2.0 Interactive Business model hence the over lap in the use of the terminology and the reason for including the term here.

  • Projects are generated everywhere within the organisation or from outside the organisation
  • No one is in direct hierarchal control
  • Removal of anyone unit does not affect the overall organisation
  • Participants function autonomously providing scalability
  • Roles are amorphous and ever changing
  • Knowledge and power are distributed with intelligence spread evenly
  • Working groups communicate directly and not hieratically
  • Key decisions are made collaboratively, on the spot, and on the fly

Business Technology, (as opposed to Information Technology), was proposed by Forrester Research in a research paper in 2006 directly following the Harvard Business School introduction of the concept of Enterprise 2.0. By definition such an Enterprise would be built on a combination of both Business and Technology in a manner that would not allow the separation of the two skills, importantly the technology used, as well as the manner in which it is used, by the Enterprise is different to the technologies, and business use, made of Information Technology. Forrester obviously connected this to both Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 topics in the manner of the key bullets above. What is more important is why they believed it necessary to do this, and they have refined this in a succession of reports with increasing detail.
The essential argument is that the term Information Technology, IT, was introduced around 1990 to differentiate the technologies, architecture, and the business use, of PCs, Servers, and Networks from the previous generation of Mini and Mainframe terminal based applications. IT has played a very significant role in the internal operational capabilities of Enterprises, but Business Technology, or BTech, is as much about external business winning as internal collaboration so together with the technology represents a new and different generation. Does that mean there is no relationship with IT?. Of course not! Just as IT has a relationship with Mainframe and (still some) Mini applications so does BTech have a relationship with IT in order to administer the same necessary business commercial processes that it current runs.
BUT what is this and how should it be done is a big question, and one that all the current major technology vendors with their customer base on IT are determined to use as their way forward into BTech. Too many of the current CEOs were around in the shift to IT and remember many previous leaders disappearing as they failed to make moves to change; Digital, Prime, Wang, to name just a few.
The other challenge in all of this is how exactly do you treat the Web as a platform and run ‘services’ between enterprises, and this brings up the industry’s huge focus on Cloud Computing, and leads to some very unusual partnerships such as the just announced HP, Intel and Yahoo initiative.
Plenty of challenging stuff in all of this!!! Plenty of open issues too, and therefore this post is intended to provide a starting point for some interesting discussions !!