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Will Enterprise 2.0 Increase Web 2.0 Adoption?

On ReadWriteWeb, Josh Catone asks Is Facebook for Business Really Coming? The post is a good breakdown on how Facebook is growing in terms being useful for business. It touches on areas such as employees networking on Facebook, concerns about security around private content and groups, and inroad against LinkedIn.

The post is a good reference point for thinking about the effects of Web 2.0 in the enterprise. I’ve been out at the Gartner portals conference the past few days. Plenty of good analyst presentations and vendor updates. Expect to see more tagging, implicit activity integration, blogs, wikis, mashups, social networks, etc. Coming to a company near you!

As I listened to the presentations and talked with companies at our vendor booth, I came away with a strong impression that companies are looking at implementing Web 2.0 inside the enterprise. Yes, there are business cases to be built, but more companies are bringing Web 2.0 inside the firewall.

Assuming increased Web 2.0 usage inside companies, what are the outcomes? Of course, there are business improvements that will occur.

But, I think there’s another outcome from this increase. Web 2.0 tools will become more mainstream as employees are introduced to them in the enterprise.

Now, I want to make two points with regard to that statement. One is that “mainstream” is a relative term. In the U.S., there are 211 million Internet users. So one definition of mainstream could be say…50 million users. In the one quarter range. The other point is that plenty of great web sites can/will go mainstream without enterprise adoption. Nice thing about this Web, eh?

OK…with that out of the way…

This idea that companies lead the way for consumer adoption of technologies is not without precedent. Apple had the better PCs in the 1980s and 90s, but Microsoft’s operating system became the standard for the consumer market (Compaq, Dell, IBM). Why? Microsoft became the corporate standard, and employees bought the same technology when they got computers for the home.

As companies adopt Web 2.0 technologies, employee adoption is key to maximizing their benefit. As employees adopt the Web 2.0 technologies at the office, they become more familiar with them at home.

Let’s look at tagging. Del.icio.us has 3 million users. An impressive number, but only fraction of the 211 million Internet users. Many enterprise software companies are offering companies social tagging and bookmarking solutions. What happens once tagging becomes a regular part of the application stack inside the enterprise? People become comfortable with it. They ‘get’ why tagging has value (easy personal classification system, basis for discovering new content). They tag content inside their own companies. They click on tag clouds. They then come home, and want the same tagging experience.

How about RSS? RSS is a terrific way to easily stay up to date on new website content. But how many of those 211 million Internet users actually have an RSS reader of some type? Google Reader, FeedBurner, Firefox subscriptions, etc. Not that many yet. But RSS is going to be more pervasive in companies. Heck, you can even add it to Microsoft Outlook. What happens when people get used to staying updated via RSS feeds at work? They ‘get’ it. And when they get home, they’re stuck with email and their bookmarked websites. Until they realize they can enjoy the benefits of RSS on their computers.

You’re also going to see social networking introduced in the enterprise. Big as Facebook and MySpace are, the majority of Internet users do not have accounts on these services. Once employees are automatically enrolled into their companies’ social networks, they’ll start playing with them and begin to ‘get’ the value if being connected in this way. Maybe they had held off on social networks before (that’s for the kids). But after their work experience, what happens when they get home and want to keep up in a similar fashion with family and friends?

Companies need to be on top of the technology trends to stay competitive. This happens regardless of whether employees are itching for the change (how many employees were demanding groupware?). As companies roll out Enterprise 2.0, how long will it be before employee adoption makes Web 2.0 applications mainstream?

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