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Manage your business, Web 2.0 style

Web 2.0 tools are doing a wonderful job in providing consumers with cool and productive new ways of performing common, simple tasks over the internet. The success of Web 2.0 allows consumers to try a large variety of tools and find the ones they like for managing their photos, reading their favorite news feeds, expressing themselves online through blogs and communities and more.

However, the business environment is usually much more complex and needs to address a wider range of scenarios; therefore, it requires tools with richer functionality and higher standards of robustness and security. Another difference is that enterprise 'communities' already exist and tools are used to improve the degree of collaboration between the members of this community. In contrast, consumer communities are created as a result of the adoption of social networking tools such as Facebook or Twitter.
For example, a marketing department may leverage such tools to drive increased collaboration among its extended team -- which can include its marketing department, design / interactive agency and public relations agency. This virtual community of people around a business relationship already interacts with each other (albeit via phone, email and instant messaging) -- the new tools just integrate into these communications and make them better. In contrast, Facebook's communities of thousands of people only came together and started interacting with each other after a critical mass of users decided to use tool. These differences imply that if you wanted to take Web 2.0 collaboration technologies and deploy them within your business environment, they would not realize their expected potential unless they were fully integrated into the organization's business process. Lets us look at it more closely.

A project involves a team of people working together to ensure that the tasks on hand are completed on time. The following are steps project managers should take to execute successful projects. 

  • Create a project plan and then work with each team member to ensure that they clearly understand their tasks, schedules and dependencies.

  • Project managers and team members must continuously communicate with each other to ensure they are all on the same page with respect to project specifications, revisions and assumptions. 

  • Communicate and collaborate with team members to understand the status of their tasks to ascertain if the project is on plan or if it needs to be updated with new schedules. 

All these activities require extensive collaboration among the players, which today happens via email, meetings and other ad-hoc tools. Since the schedule updates, documents and project plans are communicated today via different methods, they usually fall out of sync -- so no one can stay on the same page for very long.

Introducing stand-alone wikis and forums may drive collaboration within project teams, but it still keeps communication and collaboration of various things on different tracks and does not help with bringing team members on the same page. True team collaboration can only be achieved by integrating such tools within the environment where projects are planned and executed such that users' opinions, knowledge and feedback will add value on top of the essential project management tools the organization requires. This integration can streamline project management and collaboration and make it efficient, leading to a more predictable and successful execution of projects. After all, a successful project is 20 percent planning and 80 percent execution.

Web 2.0 technologies applied to enterprise solutions -- called Enterprise 2.0 -- is indeed a combination of innovative, collaborative and easy to use Web 2.0 tools with powerful, robust and process-driven enterprise software. There is no trivial transition from Web 2.0 to Enterprise 2.0; however, the examples above show how they can enable and empower an existing business 'community' only when they are fully integrated with the business processes.

Organizations must take the following steps to implement Enterprise 2.0 tools:

  • Integrate Web 2.0 collaboration technologies into existing tools that automate the process, rather that deploying them stand alone. Collaboration is integral to the success of the process and the tools should reflect that.

  • Ensure these tools are easy to adopt, so the entire team is using them. It takes one 'weak link' to break the chain.

  • Ensure training and change management, so the process is always being followed. Ad-hoc collaboration without the process can create chaos.

  • Provide metrics and reporting so the process is always up-to-date.

Avinoam Nowogrodski is the CEO of Clarizen, a provider of Project Execution solutions. 

Avinoam Nowogrodski brings over 20 years of experience in sales, engineering and business management to Clarizen. He brings insight and expertise gained in those positions to Clarizen's vision of bringing collaborative project management to every...

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