Ok, I’m convinced it’s ‘Enterprise 2.0’

One of the most powerful things I experience in my life is talking to someone about something that I have a strong opinion about, and walking away from the conversation realizing that I had it wrong. Usually the reason is a small nuance that I overlooked.

Yesterday was one of those days. I had the pleasure to meet Steve Wylie for coffee and to catch up. We somehow got on the topic of the debate between Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business. Steve made one statement, “the debate hurts everyone.” What I walked away made me think. It was powerful.


Andrew McAfee defined the term Enterprise 2.0 back in 2006 as “the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers” (source: Wikipedia). As with any forward looking statement, it seemed more a postulate then a proof.

I personally hate anything 2.0, because it perhaps sends the message that this is a new version. It seems to be so overused, it’s almost a joke. I knew it had gone too far when I heard Al qaeda 2.0 a few weeks ago. As a matter of fact, greg2dot0  was born perhaps a little sarcastically to exemplify that point. I’m the same guy just learning, growing and evolving.

Last year at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Santa Clara, a new term started to emerge; Social Business. The implication was enterprises really are getting business done using social technologies. It started a debate about what to call this phase of evolution in the way companies achieve real business outcomes.

My way of rationalizing what to call it was based on the understanding that Enterprise 2.0 was really focused around technology and Social Business was a combination of tools and behaviors. I no longer believe this.

The Debate

Andy argued social business is “past retirement age“. The unfortunate thing is that he possibly was the one individual which has the most to lose if Enterprise 2.0 lost its shine in favor of Social Business. I believed, this actually hurt his case more than helped.

On the other side of the debate was primarily driven by Jive. Tony Zingale told attendees of the Enterprise 2.0 Santa Clara Conference about Jive’s “18 Social Business Imperatives“. In hindsight, it was good marketing, but possibly did more to hurt the industry than help Jive.

Many others have weighed in on the topic and each reached various conclusions (source: Google), but what’s clear is there is still no consensus.


We all are looking to help business leaders, management and users understand this new way of working, yet our inability to agree on what to call it confuses people and make our challenge more daunting. The reality is people hate ambiguity. This impacts us whether a we are a vendor, an evangelist, a practitioner or as a user. As a skeptic, it’s easy to hide behind statements like “Why should I use or buy this stuff, they can’t even agree what the heck ‘it’ is.”

What I believe is no definition will ever be perfect since what we are doing is constantly changing.  Perhaps Andy needs to revise his definition, but I believe labeling what we do as Enterprise 2.0 will make it clear to people what it is and not suffer the ambiguity and nebulousness of what exactly Social Business is.

Full Disclosure: I was a Jive customer in 2010 and now work for Yammer as a strategist. This blog is not a criticism or endorsement of any particular tool or solution but instead aims to raise awareness of the impact of the misalignment as an industry.

5 Replies to “Ok, I’m convinced it’s ‘Enterprise 2.0’”

  1. Greg,

    What I believe you are commenting on is the inherent battle that grows from competing marketing strategies. Or competing standards versions in standards committees. Or religious wars. All of these things are common in that the arguments are usually over very little things that each side feels advantages them or their cause.

    You were right in pointing out that the debate doesn’t help anyone and adds to ambiguity. I would add that any improvement in defining Enterprise 2.0 needs to answer your question “why should I use your stuff?” More importantly, why is this so important to my business that I need to embrace it.


  2. Nice piece Greg….Funny, I’ve been calling it “Enterprise Social Media” recently when speaking to people outside of E20 circles. They all get “Social Media” and know it is hot. I explain it is an Enterprise application of Social Media to improve collaboration and transparency, therefore bringing improved productivity. They seem to understand when I use these terms. I then go on to describe Profiles, Communities (or groups) and an Activity Stream to tie it all together. I tell them think “FaceBook Wall” for enterprise updates when I describe the Activity Steam. It is certainly a challenge and we need to be focused on the right language when speaking to those still on the outside. Making up our own terms is efficient for practitioners, but alienating for those who really don’t care and are just trying to understand “Why should I be doing this?”

  3. As long as the software vendors & influencers ignore the customer’s need we can throw up as many different names and slogans as we want. They aren’t going to buy it because it isn’t a solution they need. There is a long history of marketing cliches that only frustrate the customer: Best Practices was coined and used without any actual Best Practices administrative panel. Best of breed, Best of suite….all best of B.S. The Cloud…isn’t that just a network?

    Business is about change. Change is constant, pervasive and permanent. The sooner we realize that and listen to the end-user the shorter the distance will be from their ears to their pocketbooks. There are so many empty suits spouting the catch phrase dejour it is a wonder businesses spend $250B a year on enterprise software. Although, given the empty promises that ERP delivered and their maintenance contracts to be able to upgrade, might explain why the average system is 11.5 years old and collectively the industry would have to spend $1T in 2015 (Gartner) just to become current.

  4. I think Jim has correctly put it. We have to adapt according to the situation. I’ve called it Social Business (seems to the buzz word for 2011) to Enterprise Social Computing to Enterprise Social Media to Company wide social media with internal and external components to Knowledge Management.

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