I wrote a few months ago about the fact that all the Web 2.0 buzz was about consumer applications that were often quite cool, but not really enterprise-grade. Well the discussion has finally shifted toward working out what Web 2.0 means in the enterprise. And more importantly: how Web 2.0 technologies fit in with the longer-term shift toward service-oriented architectures (SOAs).
It started with Dion Hinchcliffe commenting on the gap, or even discord, that exists between SOA technologists and proponents of light-weight Web 2.0 technologies. Corporate IT doesn't believe Web 2.0 can scale, while web developers don't understand why SOA proponents have to create so much complexity in their architectures. John Hagel expanded on the cultural differences between the two camps in his Edge Perspectives.
Peter Rip at Leapfrog Ventures analyses what aspects of Web 2.0 technologies and companies could be transferable to the enterprise. He's right to insist that enterprise software is not dead as a concept (as many are quick to say these days, especially European VCs), nor is it dead as a VC-backable business model. The question is only how enterprise software vendors will assimilate the new technologies to drive competitive advantage. Or how new vendors will emerge with enterprise-grade tools and applications. A number are doing it already. See Kapow Technologies, whom I've written about in the past.
What is really interesting is in Hinchliffe's latest post is his (albeit brief) mention of how vendors of enterprise software (say BPM, content management or portals) could really learn from the ease of use of wikis and blogs. Adoption rates for Web 2.0 technologies are an order of magnitude higher than can ever be achieved with traditional enterprise apps, which are clearly "optimized for early adopters or getting through the acquisition evaluation process."
Clearly community (customers, employees, suppliers) and collaboration (product development, teamwork) are concepts that exist in the enterprise. So traditional enterprise app vendors that don't learn from technologies that are revolutionising web-based sharing/collaboration risk losing their edge to those that do. And because many of the new technolgies are what I would call "non-invasive" -- eg, they can be deployed incrementally in the enterprise -- your installed base may not present as strong a barrier to competition as you may have thought.
Likewise tags and RSS feeds have universal application, not just on the consumer web. When will established enterprise apps provide support for these as standard features? Surely a corporate environment is the perfect closed community to have its own folksonomy. Isn't that what all the investment in Knowledge Management systems was about??
Ross Mayfield published interesting excerpts from a business school journal article (and even a Harvard case study) that are now looking at the use of Web 2.0 technologies in the enterprise.
The dialogue has begun, but are the enterprise software vendors listening??