Enterprises seek social-network effect

Organizations use Web 2.0 tech to tap knowledge resources

Social bookmarking and IRC (Internet relay chat) top the list of must-have tools for organizations that want to leverage Web 2.0 technologies within the enterprise, according to a Web 2.0 Expo panel moderated by Rob Rueckert of Intel Capital.

"The sleeper hit in the enterprise, what I've been waiting for and dying to get going on, is social bookmarking," said Procter & Gamble's Joe Schueller, who investigates R&D and consumer technologies to optimize Procter & Gamble's enterprise.

"We have a very large knowledge base on our intranet that is all in silos, not connected in one way or another," Schueller explained, "so we struggle with a certain Mountain View company to determine the authority of our search."

The panel discussion on Wednesday was intended to educate Web 2.0 entrepreneurs of the needs and hurdles particular to enterprises interested in deploying their wares. , It also included Cisco's Michael Lenz, Socialtext's Ross Mayfield and BEA's David Meyer , sought to

According to Schueller, the main impediment enterprises face in using Web technology to capitalize on knowledge assets is that traditional search-based approaches aren't effective. However, enterprise search can be much more effective when coupled with technologies like social bookmarking.

"What we're hoping is that even with a small but passionate [social-bookmarking] community out of our 135,000 employees, we could start to get some real benefits in terms of enterprise search," he said.

Socialtext co-founder Mayfield applauded the notion of enterprises putting the tools in corporate users' hands and seeing what happens.

Enterprises are looking to Web 2.0 technologies to help them make their information systems more transparent and facilitate collaboration among knowledge workers who might not be aware of each others' existence because they are dispersed geographically or within an organization.

User-centric social-networking taxonomies -- sometimes called “folksonomies” -- can help with that.

"You can find the product manager, the engineer, the salesperson, anybody possessing intimate knowledge of a particular subject simply by how they implicitly use documents in the system," BEA's Meyer said, adding that relevancy has less to do with links than it does the import people place on content, as well as who it is that earmarks a particular document as worthwhile.

Not surprisingly, the chief hurdle large organizations face in capitalizing on social networking in the enterprise is cultural acceptance and user adoption.

"How do you translate the upside of social networking into an overly hierarchical corporate structure?" Procter & Gamble's Schueller asked, pointing out that a manager, who is used to being in control, is just another voice in the democratized atmosphere that Web 2.0 brings to the enterprise.

Answering his own question, Schueller said that showing results is one good way to get buy-in from those on top.

"Once I know the stuff I've got out there can actually be found by others who need it, I'm more motivated to put it out there," Schueller said.

"The value proposition of Web 2.0 is relevancy and fidelity," Cisco's Lenz added.

In other words, make your Web 2.0 rollout relevant, and ultimately, you'll earn user’s trust and faith in the project.