How do I know this? EMC, which is facing an uphill struggle for market share against the likes of Microsoft and IBM in the collaboration tools space, shared some statistics on how its employees use Web 2.0 tools during a meeting with analysts and writers in New York which I attended last Friday.
It turns out that EMC employees, numbering some 40,000 across 60 countries, make significant use of collaboration tools, and that use is only growing. For instance, its collaboration platform is home to 154 active communities as of the first quarter of 2009, up from around 120 in the last quarter of 2008. The number of wikis has grown from 2,500 to 3,483, the number of new discussions from 1,400 to 1,783 and the number of groups from 15 to 85. Whitney Tidmarsh, head of marketing at EMC, noted, though, that the number of new blogs actually went down from 400 to 122. That's a huge drop-off, especially when compared with the growth in other areas.
Whitney thought that drop-off signified that something was amiss, but I think it's exactly the opposite: the conversations occurring on blogs has moved to other, more collaborative venues -- like discussions and groups. Because, let's face it, blogs are a broadcast medium -- not a place for discussion. Blogs have someone's name on them -- which indicates ownership. For instance, Erik Sherman and I own this blog, and even while we welcome discussion (we really do), the fact is that any discussion here is only as a reaction to what we post. No one else is free to post their own blog.
Discussions groups, on the other hand, allow comments, suggestions and statements from all members of the community. Facebook, Twitter and, eventually, Wave, are the contemporary expressions of earlier bulletin boards and forums, and it's this paradigm, rather than largely one-way communications vehicles like blogs, that will ultimately carry the day.
While the traditional software vendors, including Microsoft, IBM and EMC, will have to retool their applications to reflect this evolution, but Google, Facebook, and Twitter face a more daunting issue, which is educating their new customers on the best uses of the technology in a business context. Dan Woods, CTO of communications consulting firm Evolved Media, noted that "to be successful, [companies] must do things differently... than when we are collaborating as individuals and consumers."
For enterprises, that means making decisions along the lines of whether or not to create predefined groups or allow them to evolve spontaneously, whether to limit participation to particular sets of employees, and whether to allow employees to engage in activities that could be considered frivolous.
This is less acute of an issue for the likes of EMC, IBM and Microsoft, which are familiar with enterprise culture, and have existing communications channels with corporate executives. Google, Facebook and Twitter don't have that history, nor those relationships. They will depend to a great extent on finding executives looking to take advantage of Web 2.0 to stimulate innovation, and will have to ensure their corporate champions understand the distinction between Enterprise 2.0 and Web 2.0.
[Image source: David Erickson via Flickr]