Companies are beginning to come around to the idea that 2.0 technologies offer real business value. As evidence we have reports from companies like Cisco, which attributes billions of dollars in benefits to 2.0 technologies, and a recent McKinsey survey in which 69 percent of respondents said 2.0 technologies yielded measurable business benefits.
Quicker access to knowledge and lower communications costs are among the most frequently mentioned benefits. One of the best explanations I've seen as to how 2.0 technologies can work at savvy organizations came from Andy Blumenthal, CTO of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Writing in a Government Technology column, he explains how such technologies flatten government agencies' traditional information-sharing models:
In the process of moving from vertical to horizontal information sharing and collaboration, we are flattening our organizations. The hierarchies are less important and are shrinking, and the intra- and inter-agency sharing and collaboration are being elevated and growing. Before, we had information or "dots" that we communicated about in our verticals, but now we are connecting the dots, by sharing and collaborating on the information horizontally, across the verticals.
Meri Gruber has a similarly intriguing take on her Competing on Execution blog. I especially like it because she kicks off with a passage about chicken breeding from "Evolution for Everyone." Though seemingly arcane, it wonderfully illustrates her point, that the main difference between traditional enterprise technologies and 2.0 technologies is the latter's ability to enhance community productivity. She writes:
Like chicken farmers, companies win or lose based on the performance of their teams, not individuals. And increasingly on the performance of teams of teams, distributed teams of teams, and networks of customer communities and partners. For companies to outperform their peers, they need a platform for group productivity.
It's a point well taken, especially considering the tendency of financial analysts and others to attribute business success to smart and charismatic individuals like Steve Jobs, Sam Walton and Warren Buffet.
Gruber also points out that traditional technologies and 2.0 technologies can and should work together to achieve business aims. She uses the example of an order-to-cash process, which "works perfectly well as a structured, top-down Enterprise 1.0 application" but is improved if a company employs an Enterprise 2.0 collaboration application to troubleshoot and solve customer problems when an order is delayed.