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Web 2.0 and the Enterprise

Create systems that people want to use

Unless that person is involved in the discussion thread, he or she can easily miss important information about the topic. In some cases, the information may be informally documented elsewhere in the system, so a loose connection may already exist. For the user, however, having to chase this information is time-consuming and frustrating. Users are forced to make the connections on their own, and even if they make the connection, how do they find and navigate to the correct discussion thread?

In a Web 2.0 scenario, the discussion forum would have the ability to link to or reference other artifacts – such as other services, applications (for example, customer transactions in a CRM application), or documents – as “attachments” to a discussion thread. The transactional application would know that it had been referenced and would indicate the reference, providing users with a connection back to the information in the discussion thread. In other words, Web 2.0 is all about creating systems that increase in relevance as the number of users increases.

In addition to the “contextual connection” (linking or referencing applications), less obvious services and technologies such as phones could be brought into the overall user experience. Another way to enrich the user experience is to integrate presence awareness into the systems, services, and applications to provide a more efficient communication infrastructure.

Communication – Efficient and Instant
Especially in an enterprise environment, efficient communication is essential. Although e-mail has surpassed many other communication channels in importance, it has also skyrocketed in frequency and volume. Other effective communication channels such as instant messaging (IM) are gaining importance. While initially trivialized as simply “chatting” for personal pleasure, IM is now recognized as an important means of efficient, timely communication with the built-in benefit of instant feedback.

Instant feedback is realized in two ways: feedback about the status of the person a user wants to communicate with, and feedback in the form of the person’s reply, potentially in real time. This service can be leveraged in many ways to increase the contextual value of information within an application. For example, let’s look at the discussion forum again: the identity of a discussion participant could be linked with his or her IM status and viewed by anyone looking at the thread. In addition, other users could be allowed to contact the person directly via IM or e-mail.

Another aspect of Web 2.0 is accessibility of services. While applications were once accessible only via regular workstations, modern communications technology allows services to follow you wherever you go. Cell phones, mobile devices, and even Internetwork routing (for example, from IM to phone) provide an unprecedented level of service availability and access to applications.

With the introduction of “over IP” services, such as voice over IP (VoIP), and channel-independent communication protocols, such as Session Initiation Protocol (SIP), the endpoint and communication channel become irrelevant. Communication requests are routed between different types of devices, whether phones, IM clients, or other SIP-enabled devices.

Intelligent routing, in combination with aggregation of services, ensures that messages and information end up where they need to be – where you are – and not in some obscure place or scattered around in different applications.

 A Picture of the Future?
Imagine a scenario involving Sam, a seasoned veteran in our company, who works in a Web 2.0 world.

Before leaving home, he goes through his latest messages via the company’s “Web top.”

While on the train to work, Sam gets a call on his cell phone from an important customer, who asks about the status of an order she placed last night. The customer’s call was routed to Sam’s cell phone from his office phone, because Sam’s present status indicated that he was “on the road,” and his preferred communication method in this case is his cell phone. Sam promises to call the customer back as soon as he arrives in the office. As a reminder, Sam creates a task for himself using his cell phone, which synchronizes the task back into his calendar.

When Sam arrives at the office, he logs into the company’s network, and his status is set to “in the office.” He opens the corporate Web top to see what’s on his plate for today. Recognizing the callback task he added earlier, he looks up the customer’s record, which indicates the forwarded call from this morning; the system automatically recorded this information based on the customer’s phone number. Sam makes a note about the call, stating that it was an inquiry about the order status.

Under Recent Orders, he locates the customer’s order and sees that the order has a threaded discussion attached to it, as well as the protocol of an IM conversation about the order. He quickly accesses the discussion and reviews the conversation, which tells him that Frank, the clerk who is processing the customer’s order, has some questions. Fortunately, the presence indicator shows that Frank is online. Sam uses the Contact via IM option to open an IM conversation. Frank explains to Sam that the order was initially missing some information, but all was cleared a couple of minutes ago, so he was able to process the order.

Immediately following the conversation, Sam uses the Contact via Phone option to initiate a phone call with the customer to update her about the status. After the call, Sam changes the status of the task to indicate that the customer’s request was completed.

Meanwhile, a colleague asks Sam to review a customer contract. A new task for the review request appears in Sam’s task list, and Sam uses the action in the task list to navigate to the relevant document. The document management system shows a connection to the CRM system entry for the customer, which Sam checks to find the details about the customer. He then opens the document and reviews it. After he finishes, he marks the task as done, automatically forwarding the process to the next required reviewer.

A glimpse of the future? Not at all. This is Web 2.0, and it is here now.

Web 2.0 – More Than a Fancy Term
Too often, new ideas and concepts in the IT world disappear as quickly as they appeared. Not so with Web 2.0. If you look closely, it’s nothing new. Almost all of the pieces that comprise the concept have been around for quite some time and have evolved into a better and complete whole.

Web 2.0 is not about inventing something new; it’s about how to leverage existing tools and services in new ways, and how to reflect contextual relationships between apparently unrelated services to produce a holistic view of things – to create systems that people want to use, rather than have to use.

Research Sources

 

More Stories By Philipp Weckerle

Philipp Weckerle is principal product manager, Oracle Portal Product Management. He leads both the product management efforts on Oracle Reports as well as content lntegration, located in the Oracle Austria office in Vienna. He has been a featured speaker at industry conferences including Oracle iDevelop, Oracle Development Tools User Group, and Oracle Open World.

More Stories By Vince Casarez

Over the past 12 years, Vince has held many key positions at Oracle. Currently, he is Vice President of Product Management for WebCenter, Portal, and Reports. He also has responsibility for managing the WebCenter development team handling the Web 2.0 services. Prior to this, he focused on hosted portal development and operations which included Oracle Portal Online for external customers, Portal Center for building a portal community, and My Oracle for the employee intranet. Previously, he was Vice President of Tools Marketing handling all tools products including development tools and business intelligence tools. Prior to running Tools Marketing, he was Director of Product Management for Oracle's JDeveloper. Before joining Oracle, Vince spent 7 years at Borland International where he was group product manager of Paradox for Windows and dBASE for Windows.

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Most Recent Comments
Ramesh Loganathan 05/19/07 08:52:46 AM EDT

Good to see the notion of Web2.0 in the enterprise gain more traction. This article though, I feel, presents a very narrow and often confusing views on how Web2.0 can fit into enterprises. I see some ambiguities and contradictions.

Web2.0 is more than just mashups (highlighted in the article). And web2.0 should not be confused with web portals. And then the notion of web2.0 services- which is vague and confusing.

As a paradigm, Web2.0 (beyond RIA) brings some freshness into IT solution architectures. A different way of looking at solutions in the enterprise- that with the advent of web went from the hitherto fat-clients model to the now prevailing server based model. The user is now rendered as a passive user of systems available on the internet. While the user does have a whole lot of knowledge and value add possible. The likes of wikis, blogs and syndication have now opened up some interesting possibilities. Especially in creating a more nimble organization and in better capturing and utilizing knowledge and wisdom with the employees.

(Posted some more views.. http://jroller.com/page/rameshl)