I had the good fortune or bad luck (depending on whether the joy of learning outweighs the pain of traveling) of attending a number of interesting talks and panel sessions this week on Enterprise 2.0 and Semantic search. I started the week at the FAST users conference (Fast Forward 08), and sat in on the Keynotes from Andrew McAfee of Harvard and Don Tapscott, author of Wikinomics. I then traveled up to Boston on Tuesday to be the “industry” guy on a Semantic Search panel hosted by EntreTech.
What became clear to me is that Enterprise 2.0 is still grasping for a clear place of its own in the Web 2.0 world. The stories that both McAfee and Tapscott relayed at the conference were fascinating and persuasive. They both believe that Enterprise 2.0 is on its way, and that the youth that’s moving into the workforce will demand collaboration tools in their jobs that match the tools they use in their off time. While this sounds good on the surface, I believe it misses one of the key points that’s often missed in Public vs. Enterprise applications. As good as Google, is almost never good enough in corporate applications. If that presumption were true, FAST, Autonomy and Endeca simply wouldn’t exist, we’d all own Google Appliances for our Enterprise level search needs.
Obviously, that hasn’t happened - all of the Enterprise Search vendors have grown rapidly over the last few years, because enterprise applications simply aren’t one size fits all. The needs of every customer differ, sometimes drastically from one to the next, so a one size fits all model simply isn’t going to cut it. So how does this play into Enterprise 2.0? From what I heard this week, I believe that Enterprise 2.0 is going to go suffer a bit before it gets its footing because its being pitched as Web 2.0 with better administered communities, and that simply isn’t going to cut it for most companies. I believe the future is in understanding what’s being discussed in the enterprise, and exposing that to the users. Certainly FAST believes this, because their Text Mining technology has come a long way in the last year.
Text Mining is going to be the key technology to making Enterprise 2.0 work, because you can’t afford to have multiple communities that are discussing the same thing… that’s fine on facebook, because its not your job, but the cost of duplication in the enterprise is high. Text Analytics and Semantic search will allow users to discover their co-workers with a similar community and leverage the combined knowledge effectively.
Going forward, Enterprise 2.0 and Semantic Search will get a lot of press, but I doubt they’ll seriously transform the enterprise until people realize its not Web 2.0 behind a firewall.