Thursday, April 22, 2010

Is My Employer Practicing Web 2.0 or Government 2.0? How Can I Help?

As an employee, it can be really invigorating to discover that your employer is a trend-setting (or following) participant in Web 2.0 practices. Your employer may actually market this, its "Web 2.0 expertise". This seems to suggest your employer is current, relevant, amenable to open standards generated by a global community of open source evangelists, engaged in online social discussion, promoting its brand (and your good work) around the Internet and basically joining the fun. But is it really?

The "2.0" in phrases preceded by labels including "Web", "Enterprise", "Government" basically indicates the use of web-enabled technologies that foster online community dialogue (vs. a one-way information "push"), the use and support of network-discoverable data sharing tools created with entirely open standards, and the actual participation in online dialogue and information-sharing. In other words:

1) Find and install a tool that allows feedback (or use a 3rd-party service)
2) Enable the tool and its users to both publish and consume open standards-formatted data easily (in the environment it operates), and
3) Actually use it as intended, and let it be used with minimal restraint.

(Point number 3 above is for all those companies who've signed up for Twitter or Facebook, but don't use it in dialogue, or only push press releases).

If your company has an Intranet, or internal portal with all the bells and whistles (supporting employee postings, feedback, chat, etc.), this is a good thing. It's definitely an "Enterprise 2.0" approach - but probably is pretty constrained in terms of the three factors listed above. If the constraints are flexible and community-driven, and the "walled-garden" nature of this "behind the firewall" environment can actually leverage Internet-accessible or sourced data and tools...then your employer really is practicing Enterprise 2.0. But not necessarily Web 2.0.

Admittance to the Web 2.0 club really means that your employee's communications, data manipulation, information discovery, feedback, and knowledge contribution actually happen on the Internet - using freely available tools and services. This activity might be moderated or bounded by some kind of group membership - but it's definitely outside the firewall and on the Web. Some Enterprise 2.0 implementations can and do bridge the corporate firewall (with some content governance controls for security purposes) and the Internet - this "proxied Web 2.0" is a reasonable "on-ramp" to full Web 2.0 participation. By the way, your employees are probably practicing Web 2.0 without the proxy, on their own at home with their other communities.

Government 2.0 is basically Enterprise and/or Web 2.0 for civic purposes...and since "civic" these days includes the drive for a more open, transparent government (in terms of Internet-accessible data) - it's really Web 2.0 enabling better Government. Government entities and corporations with highly informed and advanced Enterprise 2.0 programs or tools supporting citizen-centric missions can make some claim to being part of the "Government 2.0" movement - but the leaders here fully adopt open, Internet Web 2.0 precepts.

While your employer may not actually participate itself (with its own intellectual assets) in Web 2.0, it may deliver products and services (like social extranets or data mashup web applications) that enable clients or others to do so (including for employees during their "off hours", or otherwise "volunteer time"). It may create these purely as a contribution to the global community, in a way that is entirely disassociated from the corporate knowledge systems, intellectual property or branding. Frequently this kind of benefit originates from employees acting on their own, outside corporate governance (though with implicit linkage to their employer and acknowledgment of related policy and social behavior/security constraints). Examples of this include GovLoop and GovTwit - two entirely Web 2.0 capabilities supporting the Government mission. If your employer is an explicit or implicit provider of support for such initiatives - it's practicing Web 2.0.

So, is your employer practicing Web 2.0? Probably, to some degree, especially if you're doing so yourself. If you're not, you can certainly help...it starts with discovery and feedback. Find out what others are discussing, and what tools and methods they're using to discuss it online. Participate, give back, make it better - but learn and stay within commonly-understood public discourse guidelines and corporate Internet security policies (does your employee have some?). Suggest use of helpful Web 2.0 tools on the Internet, to your community members and to your employer. Create some of your own.

If you're an employer, here's a posting about "Supporting Your Employer With Social Media", that can be used to help inform and guide your employees.