Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Enterprise 2.0

One book I am looking forward to (and now on my Wishlist).
Andrew McAfee has a new book coming out later in the year, Enterprise 2.0: New Collaborative Tools for Your Organization's Toughest Challenges. The first chapter, the author informs us in his blog post and also via a Tweet, is available for download, from the publisher's web site, here. The PDF is is 20 pages long, and takes half an hour to go through.

For those who don't know the author, Andrew McAfee is "... currently an Associate Professor in the Technology and Operations Management area at Harvard Business School, and a visiting Associate Professor at the Center for Digital Business in the MIT Sloan School of Management", and coined the phrase "Enterprise 2.0" in an article, Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration, in the Spring 2006 issue of the Sloan Management Review. That was shortly after the release of Google's Gmail in 2004 (Wikipedia article), that really was the first popular and successful example of Web 2.0. Flickr could also be considered in the same category, but in my opinion Gmail is what really got people talking about the possibilities of Web 2.0 technologies in making everyday web based interactions way more powerful than had been thought possible.
It’s a book about how businesses are using a new set of technologies that appeared over the past few years on the Internet.
My thoughts, based on this one chapter:
First, it’s an overview and description of a bunch of new and (to many people) strange technologies and technology based communities: blogs, Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter, wikis, prediction markets, the PageRank algorithm, Delicious, social networking software, and others. It’ll describe what each is, concentrating not on its technical details but instead on what it’s used for—what tasks it accomplishes and what needs it’s designed to fill.
Okay - I have a quibble here. Anyone in an enterprise who is serious about the topic and picks this book would, should be disappointed if it does not have at least some technical background and information on the technologies described: blogs, wikis, search algorithms, etc... I am not talking about getting into describing the APIs with code stubs and all, but a basic primer on the technology would be a sine-qua-non. To not talk about the underpinnings of these technologies is to somehow perpetuate the feeling that IT managers either don't need to or are somehow incapable of grasping these basics.
This is basically a sort of comment made whilst flying blind, given that I have not read the book.
  • The second point, that I wonder about aloud, is how this book will manage while treading the fine line between using examples of current products and companies to illustrate the principles and benefits of Web 2.0 as applied within enterprises on the one hand, and not end up relying so much on these companies and their names that the book quickly reads dated in just a couple of years because the companies seem quaint or have gone out-of-business.
    There were enough examples of books that came out at the turn of the century proclaiming that Ariba, Webvan,,, and what have you were the harbingers of the new age of technology, of doing business on the net, and how these companies would render all the "old world" companies irrelevant and out of business. Guess where these companies are today?
This should be a fascinating chapter. Especially if these tools are really generating results:
I’ll use case studies, supported with both well established theories and new frameworks, to show how and where the tools of Enterprise 2.0 are being deployed and generating results.
Given that many enterprises, with a few notable exceptions, are still struggling to emerge into the world of Web 0.1, let alone Web 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0, this book for most enterprises may well read like a technical description of the Star Trek Holodeck as it would appear to people from the medieval ages; so very advanced and powerful and incomprehensible as to be indistinguishable from black magic and sorcery, to be reviled and burned at the stake of bureaucracy. Maybe I am fretting excessively. However, read just a few posts from and you may just change your mind.

While at the time of writing this post there is no cover image available for the book on, McAfee had blogged (Judging by the Cover… : Andrew McAfee’s Blog) about the book and its cover, which I have taken the liberty of reproducing here in this post. I like the title and all, but I find the cover indescribably ugly and unremarkable. Light blue lines?? Boring light blue color?!! Enterprises are not boring places to be; they can be exciting and full of fun and offer incredible scope for effecting change on a grand scale. Black on white, white on red, anything would look better than this.
I seriously hope the final cover is different, and more importantly, better. If not, then at least it could be rectified in subsequent editions: paperback maybe.
Though in the larger scheme of things, one could argue that you should not judge a book by its cover. Yeah right. Whoever said that had never heard of advertising and the concepts of "blink".

I will post a review of the book when I get my hands on the book. Needless to say, US$19.77 (that is almost a thousand Indian Rupees), even after a substantial 34% discount on, is costlier than I would be willing to pay. Note that I said "willing" and not "cannot". That is a subtle but important economic distinction. I shall therefore have to wait for it to turn up at some lending library, or with a financially better-off colleague, or at the Amazon Vine program, or as a digital edition on Safari, or if I wait even longer, for a paperback edition that is priced lower and within the thresholds of my "willingness".

© 2009, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.