(cross posting from Mike Riversdale: Enterprise 2.0 New Zealand style blog)

I’m gonna make three points:

  1. SaaS is thin to the max
  2. Web 2.0 is SaaS PLUS the Internet
  3. Enterprise 2.0 is “Web 2.0” within the organisation

SaaS? “Software as a Service”

1 – SaaS is thin to the max.

Software as a Service (SaaS) is software delivered via the browser (or some such “online client”) following the following basic rules of playing:

  • There is no software to install on the machine you’re using
  • There should be no assumptions made about what type of machine you’re using
  • There can be no expectation that the machine you’re using can store anything more than is required to facilitate the current session

I believe this is a return to the ‘good’ old days of dumb green screen terminals – just quicker, prettier and much glossier. I was gonna say ‘easier’ and ‘friendlier’ but hey, you can’t compare eras in sport and you probably can’t in computing and I remember my terminal doing me just fine at the time.

Oh, and another phrase you’ll oft hear is ‘thin client’.

So, it’s software that requires a server somewhere to run all the bits and bobs.

2 – Web 2.0 is SaaS PLUS the Internet

So what’s the difference between SaaS and Web 2.0? In my view it is the addition of “connectivity” to the mix.

Web 2.0 is software running on servers out there and serving up applications usually via a browser – that’s SaaS. But Web 2.0 goes beyond living on the interconnections of the Internet from birth. The apps are built to use the sharing of information (to and from), the sharing of software (open source and the use of APIs) and the sharing of people.

The finest place to share is on the Internet – that’s why Web 2.0 can only live on the Internet. The Internet/Web 2.0 is (currently) imbued with a spirit of openness – it demands that we share and when we don’t it gets all uppity and sulks. When Napster was told it couldn’t share it withered in the Internet environment.

BTW, sharing does not equal a free for all, but it does demand that you explicitly explain and code the reasons for not sharing from the moment someone uses you.

To allow this sharing the conceptual walls around Web 2.0 applications are much more fluid and permeable. If you think of these “walls” then an SaaS application isn’t really that different to a PC installed one. They don’t really share themselves. And there are times when I am perfectly happy with that – I am glad Xero is a SaaS product and not Web 2.0, who wants the finances of your company being shared? Although, in this creative environment maybe the boundary will blur … who knows.

Web 2.0 also has a community feeling about it, a definite sense of wanting to play with others and, as Nat Torkington so memorably said (about Flickr), “You can feel the humanity front and centre”. I believe that is because all good Web 2.0 products work with connections of people (in Flickrs world it’s through the media of photos) because the people delivering them know that we don’t live in walled gardens.

3 – Enterprise 2.0 is “Web 2.0” within the organisation

Can ya see where this is going?

Enterprise 2.0 – well it is, in my view and work:

Enterprise 2.0 is the application of the Web 2.0 technology and mindset within an organisation.


And if we now agree that Web 2.0 is more than just SaaS you can see how Enterprise 2.0 can have a dramatic affect on an organisation, especially those that believe they live in walled/closed environments. Of course no organisation really does exist in such a manner unless the staff are chipped in the neck on their first day and then monitored and controlled 24/7 … anyone work in such a place?

But don’t forget the fundamental environment that Web 2.0 lives within – the Internet.
This isn’t software taken from the Internet and installed within the organisation.
Taking MediaWiki, the software the runs Wikipedia, and installing it on your company network will not give you Wikipedia or anything like it. It’s a different environment.

There are, therefore, two types of Enterprise 2.0:

  1. Using Web 2.0
  2. Using Web 2.0 software

They come with very different emotions, issues, challenges and approaches.

I suspect that most organisations (and certainly those here in New Zealand) only think about the second option and that’s fine. However, do people also consider that removing the software from its environment can be akin to taking a fish out of water – without the Internet have you considered the following?

  • How can the underlying software connect back to its home (the Internet)?
    (think about this – Continuous Innovation in the Online Office)
  • How can the service you’re providing compliment what the staff are already using outside your walls?
  • How can the software support your staff’s real life connections (colleagues, clients, friends, family, competitors …?)

All of these are questions around the “permeable wall” – a characteristic of Web 2.0 and therefore Enterprise 2.0.

Other related posts:

Mike Riversdale

I (Mike Riversdale, aka Miramar Mike) have worked all my professional life alongside users of information with my work with software vendors (Business Objects, Sydney), New Zealand government agencies (Department of Corrections, Ministry of Health, Christchurch City Council), charitable organisations (skylight) and private/public companies (Fronde, Etam). My focus is always on the real users and their information demands - I have been called the "people's poet"! Working for Fronde and as an independent consultant my role is to introduce the concepts, educate around the challenges and ultimately help deliver available, findable and useful information to those that need it. I am experienced in the full gamut of Enterprise 2.0 tools and, despite a leaning towards open source, I am totally vendor independent - whatever works for the client!

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