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Enterprise 2.0 Demystified

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Asian Paints is trying to solve a problem that plagues all companies once they reach a certain size and have multiple offices — employees in one location know nothing about those in another, even if they are working on the same projects. After its spate of acquisitions and expansion over the past decade, Asian Paints has over a hundred offices in India and abroad. It has become too big for its staff to communicate and share information or even know each other by name, especially if they happen to be functionally and geographically distant.

The paint giant is tackling the issue by using a tool, Huddle, based on an IBM suite, Connections. Huddle is what is described as an Enterprise 2.0 tool or social business software. Think of it as mainstream social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Quora designed for use inside the organisation. Huddle allows employees to blog, collaborate, post information for sharing and updating project status in a way that relevant people in the organisation can see. Now Asian Paints is rolling it out on mobile so that co-workers can also communicate on the move. "It is breaking down barriers between functions and business units," says Deepak Bhosle, chief manager (IT) of  Asian Paints.

Meanwhile, Kishore Biyani's Future Group is using a Huddle competitor, Kinetic Glue, for its own Enterprise 2.0 journey. It connects 1,300 co-workers, allowing them to connect, post updates, share information, both professional and personal, in real time. Telecom company Bharti Airtel, software firm Persistent Systems, pharma major Dr Reddy's Lab and bathroom slipper manufacturer Paragon Polymers are also working on Enterprise 2.0 software, as are several dozen other Indian and global companies in widely disparate business areas. Supplying them with these social tools are both big companies such as IBM, Microsoft, Google, Cisco and Oracle and dozens of startups, both in India and abroad.

Suddenly, lots of companies, it seems, are trying to become Enterprise 2.0 organisations. But what on earth is Enterprise 2.0?

You can thank Harvard Business School professor Andrew McAfee for coining the term Enterprise 2.0. He created it to describe an organisation in which workers collaborate effortlessly, sharing data, cutting out wasteful linear communication — and so boosting productivity multifold. To bring in a little confusion, others added terms such as social enterprise, social business, collective intelligence, collaborative enterprise — or just E2.0 — to describe the same beast.

At the heart of the E2.0 movement is the feeling that current methods of communication are inefficient. Even email — which was supposed to be a huge improvement over the old snail mail, fax and phone conversations — is beginning to show its age and infirmities. Avalanches of email are generated daily in companies with far too many people copied than are necessary. Communication often happens at cross purposes, and many end up never reading half the emails they get. Worse, email is often not even marked to those who need to see them.

Clearly, organisations need to move to communication that breaks down silos and promotes better work. Collaboration has been something of a Holy Grail for management gurus. And it has been the search for better means to collaborate that has led to numerous management innovations and software tools being developed — from cross functional teams to enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to intranet bulletin boards. ERP, in fact, was considered a great leap forward when it first appeared, because it allowed different departments to work with the same information to make their decisions with a certain degree of cross-functional transparency. But now, ERP is old hat, and has reached its maximum utility.
The hope that E2.0 will mean a quantum leap in collaboration is based on the premise that formats that encourage open and emergent communication will trump formal conventional communication. Also, as the success of Facebook shows, it is easy to make friends with total strangers and share information on all sorts of matters, given the right platform.

The E2.0 tools started popping up in 2006, but it is only now that the movement is gathering steam. Research firm Forrester predicts that Enterprise 2.0 software will be a $6.4 billion market by 2016.


  • Working together helps avoid duplication and delays in response

  • Collaboration keeps each other focused

  • Everyone is updated on progress and status

  • Everyone is clear about the results to be achieved

  • Everyone brings their ideas, expertise and knowledge


  • Easier access to information; you get it when you want it

  • Content is managed

  • Wikis are collectively maintained

  • Blogs are created

  • Search is easy and related to work


  • Everyone speaks the same language on the brand

  • More co-workers know each other

  • Helps isolated people to be on common platform

  • A distinct company personality emerges

  • Motivation goes up


  • Top down gives way to open communication

  • Employees can make their work visible and get feedback

  • Employees get easy access to senior management

  • HR can run recognition and other initiatives through social tools

  • People start learning and learning individuals are more engaged

The E2.0 Promise
The early adopters of E2.0 are bullish about its benefits. They say that it has broken down barriers and allowed collective intelligence to be harnessed easily. But they also admit that they have not started formally measuring productivity gains and return on investment from E2.0 tools. Still, almost all say they are experiencing intangible but powerful benefits.

With Asian Paints, the software has been such a hit that it has got dealers learning and using best practices. And more stakeholders now want to be part of the Huddle system. Cisco Systems says that one of its banking clients, who was earlier sceptical, is now becoming a convert to the cause. Cisco demonstrated to its client the benefit of ease of information capture and retrieval using its Quad software. "In the coming few years, 25 per cent of their experienced workforce is due to retire," says Minhaj Zia, director (collaboration) of  Cisco India & Saarc. "Capturing on-the-job non-formal information is critical for such organisations, specially as they prepare to recruit new employees." Cisco uses its software, Quad, to capture knowledge so that later, users' questions can be answered. "This more informal, friendly way of communicating makes people more willing to share information and employees even prefer asking one another than calling on experts outside the system," says Zia.

Persistent Systems, a software company and another Quad Systems client, has over 2,000 active users. Ajay Deshpande, principal architect of Collaboration Practice at the company admits that it is not meant to replace conventional communication tools. "We do not see this as an alternative to current methods of communication, but as a platform that helps improve communication across locations," he says.

Persistent has also been using Quad for its sales team. Each salesperson updates status after a meeting. This has led to teams in different locations learning from the tips they get from each other. Apart from Cisco's Quad, Persistent  is using another collaboration platform called eMee, which uses gaming and social networking concepts to redefine employee engagement and boosts morale and team spirit.
Meanwhile, at Future Group, Jonathan Dotan, head of digital and media strategy, says that they are using Kinetic Glue to inculcate a sense of values of conversations. "We encourage users and administrators to use a variety of platforms, so on a weekly basis, my team sends out articles on social media and new media marketing. What was previously being read through email is now happening internally. You can then centralise all the information for a particular project to keep everyone aligned."

Tools Of The Trade
The big difference between E2.0 tools and traditional email, point out several evangelists, is that a workforce that communicates dynamically and contextually learns faster. They are also more likely to be engaged in the task.

Airtel, a client of IBM's Connections, uses several tools, including SMS-based, on its own mobile networks to offer employees better communication. "For us, E2.0 is about the interaction among employees. They can be working anywhere, anytime in a secure manner and get a lot of personalised services," says Amrita Gangotra, director (IT) of Bharti Airtel. "We are a mobile company; even before the social networking became a rage in the enterprise world, we started working on things like giving work-flows on interactive SMS, giving leave application for people who are on-field. Then we revamped our intranet services by using the latest tools such as chatting and blogging, started by the top management with discussion forums around that," she says.

In rolling out its E2.0 initiative in 2010, Airtel bucked conventional wisdom. While most companies ban enterprise social media for personal use, the company decided to do the opposite. "We accepted the fact that employees multitask and mix up their personal aspect with what they are expected to do at work," says Amrita Gangotra. "We opened up widely-used social networking sites and employees started using it at lunch hours. We had a policy document with a code of conduct for using when we got this in the organisation. When we first opened it, we were tracking bandwidth consumption, malware etc. So we noticed that there was a huge surge in usage of all these sites during the time we were allowing it, but over a period, it became steady and spread through the day. We allow the convenience to people to be more productive. A lot of them work 24/7... they can work along with using these tools for personal communication, so productivity at large has increased," she says. Airtel reviews activities that employees are expected to complete, and says that time taken to complete them has decreased.

Paragon  uses IBM Connections to encourage employees to create activities, share documents in a group,  and loop in colleagues in a discussion through micro-blogs. "Social enterprise tools will help us to send less email," says Mithun Abraham Joseph, junior director of Paragon Polymer Products. "It's a task to sift through whole lot of emails when you are looking for one particular thread of communication. With IBM Connections, we can create activities and all communication related to a subject is easily accessible to all those it is meant for," he says. But Joseph admits that E2.0 tools are more for intangible benefits —simplifying processes and offering better accessibility for example — than about any specific tangible gains.

Dr Reddy's Lab (DRL) started the journey by using a tool called Yammer in early 2011 before shifting to Connections. Its chief information officer Atanu Roy says their choice of tool was unanimous. "We moved to IBM Connections as it integrates with IBM Lotus suite of products," says Roy. The company is rolling out social software in phases and will have more than 14,000 employees as users when roll out is complete. "IBM Connections is akin to Facebook, Twitter and Wiki, which will help us network better and flatten organisational hierarchies," says Roy.

DRL says that Quickr, which is a part of IBM's social enterprise software, helps employees network with the company's strategic partners on product development. "Our scientists and partners are all spread out and these services allow us to create communities and projects within which all communication and documentation will stay." Much like the other early believers in E2.0, Roy says that financial returns are immeasurable. "These are hugely transformative tools. We hope it will aid in product development, reduce time to market and also reduce attrition rate," he says.

While most companies are using E2.0 to share updates on projects and help foster a collaborative atmosphere, some are using it to actively solicit ideas. Budget airline FlyDubai uses a software called Qontex which looks and feels like Facebook. FlyDubai uses the tool to constantly get cost-cutting ideas from its employees, buying them into the initiative and keeping them focused on the immediate goal. Pulling in ideas even from those not directly connected to a task is another benefit of social businesses. 

 "The future of all enterprises is social," says Jay Pullur, founder and designer of Qontext, "It's just that there are too many misconceptions about social media at the workplace. It is not about Facebook. CEOs are worried about it, but are also open to learning because they don't want to miss out on a revolution."

For the people who want to deploy E2.0 for their companies, there are many software suites to choose from. But making a selection to fit their needs best is very difficult. At one end are the big names. Forrester has named IBM Connections as one of four leading social enterprise tools, globally. It offers employee profiles, communities, blogging, social bookmarking, task management, content library, a wiki system and more. And because people need to stay connected wherever they are, IBM layered a "Social Anywhere" capability that extends collaboration to mobile devices. There are even enterprise apps available on the iPad and other devices.

Besides Microsoft's SharePoint, which started out more for file sharing, but then evolved rapidly to allow employees to work on a website, ideate and join communities, its Dynamics CRM solution is packaged with a social layer called CRM R7 2011. It provides real-time notifications and quick sharing of information from colleagues and friends. "With social media acceptance in the personal productivity space fuelled with social collaboration sites, it becomes easy for organisations to bring that familiarity within the enterprise applications as well," says Subhomoy Sengupta, group director (business solutions) of Microsoft India. Other IT majors offering social business solutions include Google and Oracle.

For those who don't have big bucks to pay or are intimidated by dealing with the big guns, there are tools available even in the middle and low price ends. Many of these are developed by startups — both Indian and global. Globally, there are Jive, Telligent, Moxie, Newsgator and Socialtext, all of which have emerged strongly in the past two years. Jive had a big IPO recently on a valuation of $800 million — not quite in the league of Facebook, but not shabby either.

Meanwhile, in India, former Wipro vice-chairman Vivek Paul has started Kinetic Glue, while Chennai-based SpadeWorx, set up by three IT professionals, has come up with a package called Ideacomb, which has an impressive client list including Reliance Industries, Vedanta Group and Mahindra & Mahindra. (See page 36 for a partial list of E2.0 offerings.)
Could E2.0 Lead To F2.0?
Could the great Enterprise 2.0 dream end up as Failure 2.0? The scepticism comes from the memory of the abject failure of Knowledge Management, a big buzzword barely a decade ago. Everyone is familiar with company blogs and wikis that were started with great enthusiasm only to fizzle out and lie neglected until the boss frog-marched someone up to make an update and crank it into working order again.

Implementing social media is after all not half as easy as installing the software, even if it is as familiar as Facebook. Support from the top, a proper fit with a company's culture, integration with workflow and processes, and a perfect match with goals, are just some of the challenges.

Almost everyone in the area of social business agrees that company culture, not the software, is the key. Speaking at the Nasscom Emerge Forum last November, Gautam Ghosh, India Marketing Lead for BraveNewTalent and a specialist in HR (human resources) and E2.0 development, said that large organisations were just not ready for E2.0. "If I am rewarded for achieving individual goals, the last thing on my mind is collaboration," he said. Gautam pointed to the ground realities of a normal organisation. Should one share half-baked work and risk being judged by colleagues and senior management, or should one update others when a project was worthy of being showcased? And if sharing information does not lead to rewards, employees are happier keeping both their ideas and their expertise to themselves. Why help others soak up one's hard-earned bank of knowledge?

In some organisations, sharing information or even communicating unless necessitated by a need-to-know situation is outright discouraged. Often, senior management may strictly control the flow of information from the top as a means of keeping the company arranged in manageable silos. Organisations that do this can hardly leap-frog into Enterprise 2.0.

Enterprise marketing manager and social media practitioner Laurie Buczek disagrees that the culture must first be overhauled before collaboration can work. On her blog, Beyond the Cube, she outlines the many challenges of E2.0 but says the integration of collaboration with work is the most critical. Culture will change from pervasive use of social tools: "Lack of cultural change is not social business's biggest failure," she says, "The biggest failure is the lack of workflow integration to drive cultural change."

In smaller companies or startups, ramping up to new styles of collaboration could happen quickly because there is no baggage to deal with, but here the business scenario will play an important influencing role. In uncertain economic times or when a startup enters entirely unchartered waters, management may shy away from allowing open communication.

For dynamic collaboration to be intrinsic to an organisation, the technologies must click into place with the work process. The more an employee has to exit a task and get into some other environment to communicate, the less likely the collaboration is to sustain.

E2.0 technologies must also not run counter to a company's long-standing processes. If they do, the adoption will inevitably take years to come about with a strong possibility of people just giving up on it because it is so different from "the way we do things". Buczek said that many employees tend not to use new collaboration tools robustly: "I have witnessed teams who cannot even spell video conferencing, and who use team meeting and collaboration sites only as document warehouses and engage in collaboration via email ping pong."

Jay Pullur, CEO of  Qontext, says people are often too busy tackling email to even try social tools at work. "We should not think that 100 per cent of the organisation will start to use social tools straight away. It takes time to discover and adapt." Experts suggest allowing conventional tools to coexist until they die a natural death.

New social tools may be a poor fit with an organisation's goals and line of business. Management may then see social technologies as the next shiny thing, but hardly necessary. And if they make the mistake of installing collaborative solutions without an adequate fit or because it is what evangelists say is the next wave, they only up their chances of F2.0. Unsurprisingly, many see E2.0 as a solution looking for a problem.

Some of the companies and their Enterprise 2.0 offerings
AVAYA offers consultancy and designs a tailored solution around its product Flare that can range from messaging and video chat to an entire ecosystem including analysis of big data

CISCO QUAD is a platform designed to make information and expertise emergent and collaborative across geographic and organisational boundaries

GOOGLE's apps, from Hangouts on Google+ to Docs, are already used by professionals. Not customised to suit specific company needs, but they have the advantage of being free

IBM Connections helps professionals connect with coworkers, customers and partners on multiple platforms. Task execution, ideation and efficiency to drive business results are the aim

IDEAWORX describes itself as an idea-centric social networking. An ‘idea' can be created using text, sketch or video. Clients include Aditya Birla Retail, Reliance Industries and Vedanta Group

JIVE promises to take intranets from being about content to being about people. It works to turn static knowledge into living data and claims a 34 per cent reduction in the time taken to fetch data

KINETIC GLUE provides sufficient hand-holding for clients to ensure product is best suited to company needs. Acquired Injoos in 2010. Clients include Future Group, LandT and Yes bank

MICROSOFT SharePoint integrates with Microsoft applications. CRM R7 provides real-time notifications and sharing of information. Features such as Workplace give a collaborative environment to employees

ORACLE Social Network's four aspects —conversations, business objects, content and activity streams — promote discussions, track content flow and present a summary of employee updates

QONTEXT is an easy-to-use Facebook-like solution. It integrates readily into other platforms including Salesforce, for customer-facing communication besides the internal collaboration

Yammer Not a comprehensive solution, but Yammer is a pioneer in enterprise social networking. Free, and as usable as Facebook, it helps create a workspace to brainstorm, compile notes and solve problems

Zoho Launched in 2005, Zoho has offices in the US, India, China, Japan and Britain. It offers a range of applications tailor-made to suit any small or medium-sized business

Sumeet Anand, CEO and founder of Kreeo, a knowledge management or "collective intelligence" company, says that Failure 2.0 is inevitable if there is no purpose and if technology is implemented blindly, just because everyone else is doing it. "Most of the time we didn't start with a business purpose. We took the tool and then looked at how to apply it." Anand warns strongly against taking a shrink-wrapped product and thinking it would work automatically. Each scenario is different; each culture unique. Enough thought needs to go into how a technology is to be deployed because technology does not run itself.

There are experts who wonder whether collaboration itself is a worthy goal. Many creative geniuses work best by themselves. Marc Buyens, an analyst with many years in the IT industry, warns against thinking that collaboration is the solution to all problems. "The expression suggests that collaboration is some kind of objective, a purpose, a remedy to a problem, since more collaboration will cure the many flaws of today's enterprises. This thinking is at least partially incorrect."

Then there is the worry that at some point, the new tools will lead to a deluge of information which will be as hard to handle as today's email avalanche. After all, how many posts can you read and absorb in a single day?

Despite all those worries, many organisations think that the E2.0 movement is gathering the kind of momentum that makes it hard to ignore. And it won't be long before businesses will have to be social to survive and thrive.


(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 05-03-2012)

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