Wrap-Up: Interview of Joachim Niemeier with Prof. Dr. Michael Koch, Universität der Bundeswehr, München

As a warm-up dance for the Enterprise 2.0 FORUM on Sept. 18th in Cologne, Joachim Niemeier, the moderator of the E2.0 FORUM, conducted some interviews with our speakers. Below you’ll find a English translation with the key content of the interview with Prof. Dr Michael Koch of the Universität der Bundeswehr, München, who is teaching and researching in the field of cooperation systems.


Questions by Joachim Niemeier (JN) / Answers by Michael Koch (MK) JN: What are the key questions within the E2.0 area you are working on?

MK:

  • I am working on this topic in two areas.
  • First as a researcher (already since the times of CSCW and Groupware) on identifying success factors for the use of social software within the enterprise; esp. for the use of social networking solutions and open-source social software systesms.
  • Second as a practioneer because my research group has the task of implementing a social software solution to support the collaboration in research and education at the Universität der Bundeswehr; within this area we are analysing and testing some kind of integrated blog, wiki and social networking solution.

JN: As you work on this topic already for many years let me ask you shortly whether Enterprise 2.0 is not just old wine in new skins?

MK:

  • A lot of the questions within this field are the same; e.g. integration of the technical solution within the organization and how-to solve this integration from a sociological and technological perspective.
  • But there is a key differnce towards the older days: while office automation, CSCW and Groupware have been set up and made to use within a “top-down” approach, the key idea of E2.0 solution is to let grow the use and utility of social software within a “bottom-up” approach – with the benefits of the individual as key target.
  • Therefore the key element of those project is not anymore the acceptance of the technology but the motivation of people getting involved and participating.

JN: How would you explain the notion of Enterprise 2.0 towards a corporate manager?

MK:

  • E2.0 is the use of flexible web-based tools to enable a better communcation and collaboration within the organisation.
  • Though it is still about technology it is about the notion of technology to change something.
  • Social software as the underlying technology approach can change the way communcation and collaboration is organized within the organisation towards a more flexible approach.

JN: How is Enterprise 2.0 changing the enterprise?

MK:

  • Within the enterprises E2.0 is leading towards a more flexible, participative as well more integrative (in means of including customers, co-workers and partners) way of collaboration.
  • This increase of participation will overcome hierarchical structures and their communicative limitations.
  • This will lead towards changes because co-workers can access information easier.

JN: How is the key “promoter” for the E2.0 project in your organization?

MK:

  • I think in this point the university is not very much different from any enterprise: the key “promoter” for the E2.0 idea are the member of the organization itself – means the academic research fellows and the students.
  • Those know social software tools already from their private use – and want these also for work; e.g. a working groups wants a wiki to collaborate within a research project or others want somekind of blogging tool to support and inform their students.
  • Also in a second point the academic organisation is not very different from the corporate organisation: the IT department does not have enough ressources to support these adhoc demands.
  • Therefore my group is trying to develop an integrative solution while combining “top-down” and “bottom-up” approaches. As in corporations we cannot force any department to use a solution, but we can make it easier to use it. Therefore we are analysing the requirements and want to choose the best solutions and provide advices to how to use this.

JN: What are the key barriers for the enterprise 2.0 topic? What are your advices for this topic?

MK:

  • A big danger is that the topic is positioned too technical; a typical pitfal is to provide a technology but not to provide advices how to realize the benefits with it.
  • Therefore we are not only installing a central wiki and a multi-user blogging solution within our organisation, but also are collecting “success stories” how to facilitat the benefits with these tools; that is what we call “user-orientated documentation” – we are not only documenting how to use the features of the tools but also what benefits they provide.
  • From our experience it makes no sense of pushing the users in some kind of “formal template” approach (means providing templates for setting up informational structures); in the extreme case this will lead towards the avoidance of the new tools; this means we need some new kind of quality assurance for the usage of web 2.0 and social software tools within the enterprise; a good quality method is the “gardening” approach – someone is in charge for structuring the content and assuring the quality while not building barriers for the users.

JN: What are your three wishes regarding a successful E2.0 deployment in your organization?

MK:

  • Actually it is just one big, but very concrete wish: social software solutions must be better integrative. So far the existent solutions are very modular in its own concept but very monolithic when it comes to the integration with other solutions; even open source solutions as WordPress or Twiki are very hard to integrate with each other; businesses need more complete solutions therefore I hope the open source solutions will grow together on a higher level.

JN: What are your expectations for the Enterprise 2.0 FORUM?

MK:

  • I am looking forward towards an open exchange of information and hope to get to know more E2.0 practioneers as well as their cases and experiences.
  • I will talk about two studies where we have evaluated the success factors of the use of social networking services within corporations; within the first study we have conducted an online research on what social networking services are, which functionalities they include and with what expectation they have been set up; in a second study we have analyzed case studies on the corporate use of social networking services and its challenges.

JN: What will happen when the generation Y will enter the enterprises?

MK:

  • From my perspective today the students know a lot of tools and services as StudiVZ or Facebook; but IMO it is not clear to many students how these tools can be used effectively within organisations; therefore I believe that the students nowadays are not any further then the enterprises; but this generation will add some more pressure towards the enterprises in order to use social software tools – though they will not enrich the enterprise with some kind of application expertise.

JN: What role is web 2.o playing with the academic processes?

MK:

  • I see some kind of single usage of Web 2.0 within the universities but cannot say that a lot of faculties or big parts of the academic institutions are using Web 2.0 intensively.
  • There are some examples for using blogs and wikis to support the academic courses; a good appliance is shown by my collegue Barbara Niedner (http://www.unibw.de/sp/lehre/dozent?mid=2&id=29) with her courses on “Generation 2.0 – Kommunikationswissenschaftliche Betrachtung des Web 2.0” (Generation 2.0 – from a communication science perspective on Web 2.0) or “Uni-Flirt Podcast”.
  • With the academic research we are using the whole bandwith of wikis, weblogs (instead of mailing lists) and social tagging services; here you have to distinguish the use of tools within the closed context of academic projects and a public publication of information; we have experienced that the use of weblogs is not favorable for all kind of communications; and weblogs will also not substitute the classical academic publication processes; but if you want to approach some alternative target groups weblogs are a effective way of publication; e.g. in my research field of the “applied sciences of informatik” contacts to enterprises and practioneers is very important and for the dialogue with these target groups weblogs are very helpful.
  • Also the networking within the academic sphere is slowly getting in motion; academic weblogs like the Wissenschafts-Café (http://www.wissenschafts-cafe.net) are being organised; and there are a lot of projects going on under different names like Grid, Science 2.0 or E-Science/E-Research – focusing on supporting the cooperation and the knowledge management within the academic sphere (see http://scholarz.net/, http://www.researchgate.net/, http://www.scilink.com/).
  • And to mentioned as well – all those projects are been developed bottom-up.