Enterprise 2.0 (E2.0) has the potential to dramatically change the way businesses are run across the globe. However, we still witness enterprises struggling to effectively empower employees with web 2.0-style tools and technologies that combine the concepts of websites, composite applications, content management and social communities, all delivered via a seamlessly integrated open modern user experience platform.

Let’s look at some questions these organizations have. How can business transformation be achieved using E2.0 and modern enterprise portal? How exactly do such tools promote productivity and innovation? How does collaboration between the social enterprise and corporate hierarchies take root? How smooth will the transition be?

The answers to these questions, and perhaps many others, about the potential of E2.0, are sometimes very clear and some very baffling – as is the case with all things new in the realm of technology. Yet, there is growing evidence today that the adoption of E2.0 not only leverages technology platforms to solve problems, but delivers long-term sustainable value as well.

E2.0 is the concept of adding social tools and some social paradigms to enterprise business processes and activities. Increasingly organizations recognize the mandate to create a modern user experience that transforms existing business processes and increases business efficiency and agility. They want to create tools to encourage contributions and an infrastructure to expose the right information or the best ideas for dealing with an issue or a problem.

It involves more than just setting up a Wiki or other social media component to connect people. Rather, it is about integrating these tools with existing applications and infrastructure to transform the existing business model and tap into the creativity and intellectual capabilities of all employees.

Tacit knowledge for growth

Enterprises that want to use modern enterprise portals successfully must unlock the collective intellectual property of its employees, often tacit knowledge pools that lie unexplored and underutilized.  Many enterprises have been quick to add a social layer – blogs, Wikis, and Twitter – in an attempt to become the ‘new social enterprise’ without really engaging with the people who they expect to contribute and then collaborate through these platforms. A crucial element for success will lie in an organization’s ability to recognize this latent awareness and then transform it into pools of knowledge created by smart people – many call this the new intelligent enterprise knowledge platform.

Way forward

Consider the three key challenges that organizations encounter today. One, they need to make it easy for users to interact with all information sources. Two, they need to enhance their portals with rich web 2.0 services to present a comprehensive view across all business processes. Finally, organizations need IT departments to deliver upgrades, customizations and new applications faster, as well as give users the ability to customize and personalize applications on their own in order to respond faster to the dynamic market.

While traditional enterprise portal technologies can meet some of these challenges, they lack the speed, flexibility and abilities for user-driven customizations provided by integrated E2.0 services, which are so crucial for the survival of an organization in a competitive environment.  What organizations need is a single unified enterprise portal that has the capabilities to empower business users to build their own social networks and applications, as well as customize and personalize existing applications without the assistance of IT.

Let us look at a different side of the picture now. Managers love order and dislike chaos and this is true for most organizations. In an E2.0 environment – in contrast with traditional businesses where information flows in an ordered path – information flows laterally, as well as up and down. An organization’s management must be convinced about the need for a change from traditional thinking to one that is more receptive to the lateral flow of information across the enterprise. It represents controlled chaos and is a great way to promote greater employee collaboration while boosting productivity.

Integration challenge

How then do we integrate the modern enterprise portal technologies into the enterprise? This represents a challenge as most organizations have traditional systems in place, which support business processes and are also repositories of invaluable knowledge. If these ‘legacy systems’ can be integrated together to provide a complete and comprehensive solution, it represents an unbeatable recipe for success. However, with legal and auditing demands for enterprise integration and transactions rising, a failure to meet these standards is not an option.

Middleware assumes strategic significance

Today, businesses are looking at middleware to protect their investment in legacy applications and hardware, while delivering the agility needed to compete. Residing between the data repositories and the applications, middleware is an ‘invisible’ layer of software that has assumed strategic significance. Built as suites of modular components today, middleware provides greater value beyond integration as it provides a comprehensive set of products including tools for application development, integration, identity management, collaboration and business intelligence. Enterprises can create rich connections among their employees, processes, information and applications for greater productivity and cost savings.

A middleware platform that is complete, open and integrated can provide enterprises with the ability to deploy modern enterprise portal technologies that provide a foundation for innovation within organizations, boost resource utilization, and increase worker productivity.

Future perspective

The ability of businesses to be agile and responsive to change is more important than ever before. The market imperative to access the right information and people at the right time has led to an increased interest in building a next-generation enterprise workplace. There is increasing realization among companies to foster the development of new ideas, tap into critical employee thinking and knowledge, and enable the synergy of teams to revolutionize their existing business models.

The potential impact of enterprise social computing is significant in the medium to long-term and with early adopters beginning to witness huge advantages, modern enterprise portal technologies are already on track to becoming a business reality.

Modern Enterprise 2.0 portfolios must enable businesses to utilize innovative web experiences thereby extending brand engagement and web presence to mobile and social channels. Portal and composite applications can help deliver intuitive, personalized and contextual user experiences for various enterprise applications. On the other hand, unified content management will ensure seamless access to the right information in the appropriate business context. This is of course complete only when supported by social tools that accelerate business processes by enabling users to collaborate on activities and connect with internal experts to address business challenges. When this entire portfolio of portal, web experience management, content, and social technologies is integrated into a single platform, it enables organizations to leverage the power of Enterprise 2.0 and transform their business.

The success of the 21st Century Enterprise will depend on how it implements and engages with this collaborative approach to running the enterprise business in the years ahead.

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