During Web 2.0 Expo, and thanks to a partnership with Reply, I met Dion Hinchcliffe. We spoke about his views of Enterprise 2.0, or applying Web 2.0 methodologies in companies. Dion blogs regularly about this on ZDNet, and writes also on Social Computing Magazine. He has a consultancy company, and is launching the Italian and German chapters of his Web 2.0 University, in partnership with Reply. You can read the Italian version of this interview on Reply’s blog about Web 2.0. Da questo link si può scaricare il file mp3 dell’intervista integrale, in inglese.
What is really important about Web 2.0?
The key point here is about the rules for winning on-line, to build the most effective and successful businesses that are powered by your customers.
Do these technologies apply to companies of any dimension?
Even companies that haven’t traditionally been offering products or services on the web have to be connected to the customers. They can service them and provide a better experience about the products that they offer. General Motors had a very successful story on-line, engaging their customers in a very inexpensive and very efficient way.[//]
Which are the main fears of companies about Web 2.0, and how do you address them?
One concern that I hear over and over again is about the user being more in control of the Web than even before, and that most of the Web today is user-generated. Companies are concerned of giving up control, especially of their brand. They have invested on it, and are very protective. They are afraid of losing control of the message they give to the market. But they have to find strategies to deal with it. Of course intellectual property has to be protected, but you also have to need to embrace the model that is becoming relevant in the marketplace. For examples companies can solve this creating sub-brands, more adapt to the Web 2.0 environment.
You often tell the story of Nupedia versus Wikipedia. Why is this an important example?
One of the fascinating aspects of the Web 2.0 era is that we have to make software that works like people works. Nupedia was the original version of Wikipedia, and they had a global networks of minds that helped creating the encyclopedia, but they didn’t let the people become part of the revision process. The more barriers you have, the less others participate. So when they evolved to the Wikipedia model, reducing the number of revision steps and opening to the public, the number of contributions grow immediately. We don’t look to the human factor enough: our products are principly powered by us, and they should work the way we prefer to work.
Do you think that the consumer Web 2.0 can be helpful inside companies too?
Sure. Things like blogs, wikis or communities have been very successful on-line. There is more than one million and a half new blog posts created everyday. It’s an incredible level of participation and productivity. We would like to recreate this kind of participation inside companies, and we can tailor and adapt the systems in order to respect company’s rules.
The "collective intelligence" can work also inside the company?
Absolutely. Today it often happens that the knowledge of companies remains in documents or files that are lost or hidden. If you make it public to the rest of the company, for example using a blog, competences and knowledge of all the company continue to grow.
What means "widgetizing" the Web?
Widgets, that are small application components, represents a new distribution model. It’s a technical way of building applications that gives the end-users data and functionalities in a very simple and efficient way. We will see the rise of products that enable the use of widgets in enterprises. IBM and Microsoft are investing in this direction.
So you think that software can give more result having less features?
Yes, wikis are an example of that. The more complex a piece of software is, the less it can be used in different situations. People will naturally gravitate around the tools that are easiest and more productive.
What are you announcing here?
Web 2.0 University is meant to educate business leaders on how they can apply the innovations of Web 2.0. How to think about a modern product on-line. We already had over 3.800 students that did these courses, and they tipically are from the middle manager up to CEOs. We started in the US and now opening in Europe, and with Reply in Germany and Italy.