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Web 2.0 + Clouds = Business Network Transformation & Joined Up Government

I remember writing a blog post entitled ‘we want Web 2.0, whatever that is’ a couple of years back drawing attention to the challenge of hype in connection with the new technologies and their capabilities as laid out by Tim O’Reilly in his original definition of Web 2.0. http://oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html My plea was to understand the entirety of Tim’s thinking in order to really grasp the very profound concept he was trying to identify. Instead what I saw at the time were a lot of moves by people and product vendors to make anything, and everything some part of the Web 2.0 bandwagon in the belief that would encourage people to try, buy or use, their product.

Today its possible to apply the same concern to ‘clouds’, and in so doing once again miss the very real point which to me is that; ‘any real form of ‘clouds is about sharing at some level or other’. That may be by some form of virtualisation at the technology level, but the real impact of this thought is in the new kinds of business solutions that can be introduced. If you now mix in Web 2.0, and the impact on people being able to behave very differently because they have new ways of sharing too, usually called collaboration or social networking, and it’s a really powerful transformation mix. Tim O’Reilly didn’t quite see all of this, but he did visualise the impact of a business change, adding in 2006 to his original seven statements that defined Web 2.0 a definition of a business model based on applying the Web 2.0 values to form very different enterprise capabilities.

However it was left to Andrew McAfee of Harvard Business School to come up with, and popularise, the concept of Enterprise 2.0 as the description of a business able to use Web 2.0 tools and techniques to change its ways of working. I have heard various ways to describe Enterprise 2.0, but though they may be slightly individually different overall they are all recognisable as being sufficiently similar to say that we seem now to have got a working, or workable, common view on what the term means. Yet just at the moment when we seem to have a consensus, see later in this post, Andrew McAfee seems to have decided that we need to redefine the term and what it stands for.! I need help to understand how to apply this new thinking which he outlines in his blog under the title of Enterprise 2.0 version 2.0. http://andrewmcafee.org/blog/?p=76

In spite of this ten different well known people in some top Business Schools across the USA have got together to write a chapter each around a single common framework with the opening and closing sections by Geoffrey Moore, (famous for his work on technology adoption in Crossing the Chasm, the concept of S curves etc), to explain exactly what Clouds, Web, etc bring to business. This represents a remarkable uniformity of opinion, and approach, to the topic of the book which is in its title: ‘Business Network Transformation’ edited by Jeffery Word. It’s already listed on Amazon even though it has not been released. http://www.amazon.com/Business-Network-Transformation-Reconfigure-Relationships/dp/0470528346 The best way I can describe what this is all about is to quote the synopsis on the flyleaf;

This book is about the evolving nature of global business and the ways that a company’s network of relationships (with suppliers, customers and other partners) is being reconfigured to derive competitive advantage and increased profitability.
Business Network Transformation is a true market movement and isn’t something that can be ignored. As the pace of business change accelerates and businesses become increasingly connected, business networks provide the new source of competitive advantage for companies. We are now witnessing a global transformation into dynamic and orchestrated business networks in which each entity is focussed on its key differentiation while collaborating with others in its network to deliver shared business value, speed of innovation, and costs benefits.
Companies rely on partners not only to take on non core activities so that resources can be funnelled into innovative activities, but also to collaborate with them for new product development and new ways to enter attractive markets. Globalisation and deregulation are empowering companies to discover innovation and talent from all corners of the world and to enter emerging high growth markets that require new partnerships. Companies in the value chain must act as one entity to serve the end customer, who is armed with more information and has more choices than ever before.

The basic outline the book delivers comes across as somewhat obvious in terms of the ability to make use of the connectivity, interactivity etc, that now connects everyone and everything together, but the devil is in the detail of each chapter and its part of the overall framework. Does it describe Enterprise 2.0? Well I don’t know now Andrew Mcafee has changed the rules, but what it does do is provide a convincing approach to getting real business value from the new technologies, and in particular an explanation of what and how joined up Government might really be delivered. For that reason it’s got to be on the right track and worth reading!

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I’ll have to check out the book. I’ve noticed that people hate definitions and always debate terms such as Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Gov 2.0, Cloud computing, etc. And while I agree that there are nuances to these terms that are often missed, I think the main value of the popularity of terms is it sheds light on general trends. And it provides at least some focus for the outsider who is looking in and may be interesting. It’s a frame of reference to get people thinking in a different way and looking at new technologies. For example, people are starting to get a basic 101 definition of cloud computing. While it may not be perfect, it is interesting enough to get people to dive in and hopefully learn more to get a more advanced 400 level understanding.

andy mulholland

yes I totally agree with you – looking for the value in what you are trying to achieve is more important than the purity of the approach to match a technology jargon war! and as you say people are getting the hang of how to get quick and decent wins now with virtualisation inside the fire wall through to external hosting.