Core elements for designing an Enterprise 2.0 portal
Lately I was invited to comment on a concept for an Enterprise 2.0. Based on the range of Web 2.0 applications I’ve seen in the past years, I was thinking about some of the most critical elements one should consider when designing a Web 2.0 application for an organisation. Second, I had to consider that typical Web 2.0 principles and features wouldn’t be known by all those reading the comment. Keeping that in mind, I came up with the following points. This is of course not a comprehensive list, but just what sprang to my mind immediately:
- Configurable, dynamic newsfeed on start page
The most important element for any Enterprise 2.0 portal is a one-stop entry page with a dynamic so-called "newsfeed" about activities of people it’s core. It is what made Facebook so successful and why Facebook has actually built its recent redesign around such a “newsfeed” as the core piece of the site. When you get to the start page, the navigation to places where you can go (documents, links, groups, photos, blogs, etc) is still there, but it takes a backseat. What is more important is what has happened on the portal recently with your peers. In an application for a working environment this could look like:
- Which of your contacts added other contacts to their peers
- Which of your contacts joined which work groups/team spaces/communities and events
- Which of your contacts added new documents, blog entries, links, wiki pages, photos, etc
- What happened in your groups/workspaces/communites (new documents, blog entries, links, wiki pages, photos, etc)
- What new events are coming up
- To which new groups/workspaces/communities and events have I been invited by my peers
- What comments have been posted by your peers on new/your documents, blog entries, links, wiki pages, photos, etc
Unlike static document records, such a dynamic feed will trigger constant ad-hoc interaction between peers, users in groups, and between people which haven’t known each other before. It is where people get connected around activities and events which are directly relevant to them and where further follow-up activities or knowledge exchange is triggered. Of course there need to be sufficient options to configure what kind of newsI see from my peers, as not all information of all peers might be relevant to me.
- Status updates
Another key feature in Facebook to trigger lively interaction between people has been the status update (also featured by http://www.twitter.com/ as stand-alone tool). By making a statement about “What are you doing right now?” people in an organisation could create visibility about their work, and stay on top what’s currently going on with their peers in their teams and communities. It is important to note that this is not just a fancy bell&whistle-feature for private socializing, but it has proven to be an excellent feature within professional work environments. How could these status messages look in your office?
a.) “Writing a report on urban development in South Africa”
b.) “I’m off for a ICT4D workshop in Dakar with the World Bank”
c.) “Need good examples how to strengthen ownership in service delivery projects. Any ideas?”
d.) “Do we have formal templates for handover notes? Can’t find any in the intra”
e.) “Great times article by on One UN reform: http://www.times.org/unreform. Check it out!”
Messages like this, even if only updated once per week, can be an excellent source of peer-to-peer learning. They can trigger associations and interaction which would otherwise not been possible, such as:
a.) “Oh, you’re writing that report, great! Make sure to also include this issue: http://www.greatresource.com/”
b.) “hey, can you come by and give me an update how that workshop was?”
c.) “You’ll find good examples here: http://www.greatresource.com/”
d.) “Don’t know about formal templates, but John Smith has developed something last year which seems useful.
e.) “I don’t agree with the viewpoint of the article, it’s way too optimistic”
By allowing users to comment on status messages, further discussion and sharing of references will be triggered. This is where the instant knowledge exchange happens and – more importantly – knowledge will lead to concrete action. An organisation envisioning an internal Web 2.0 portal should absolutely consider to make this a prominent feature on its entry page.
- Social Bookmarking
An additional feature which seems crucial to me is Social Bookmarking. From my experience, this has probably been a tool which has been the easiest to convey its benefits to Web 2.0 newcomers and non-techies. By maintaining your professional bookmarks for your work online instead of your browser, you will have them with you everywhere you go (on mission, working from home or at a colleagues PC) and get independent from computer crashes, etc. More importantly, you make your bookmark collection available to your peers and you will be able tap into their bookmarks at any time.
By highlighting newly added bookmarks in the newsfeed of the start page (see point 1) you will in addition always stay on top of the current important items found by your colleagues. This has proven to be an invaluable source of ad-hoc peer-to-peer learning with similar effects as the repeated status message update with regard to triggering further interaction and exchange (see 2).
- Integration of external tools
While it is important to build such feature like status updates and bookmarking within the application framework for those who are new to Web 2.0, there are already many colleagues who are effectively using similar free online tools for their work, such as http://www.delicious.com/ (bookmarks), http://www.twitter.com/ (status updates), http://www.dopplr.com/ (updates about upcoming travel), individual blogs, etc. In order to harness the current knowledge sharing activities of these Web 2.0 champions within your organisation, it will be crucial to provide integration of existing Web 2.0 services within your platform. This is also common standard for any Web 2.0 portal today. This way, users can link their external tools with the corporate tool so that their new delicious-bookmarks, twitter and dopplr-updates as well as blog posts show up automatically in the corporate news feed of the user (and therefore their colleagues see them in the main news feed on the entry page of the corporate portal).
Finally, it will be important to allow for easy user comments (see Facebook on how it’s done well) on every item in the website. This includes newly posted documents, links/bookmarks, blog posts, announcements, wiki entries, status messages, events, photos and videos. And of course all these comments, if they are posted from people within my peers list or work groups, need to show up on the my main newsfeed on the start page.
I wonder though whether you can give such a universal advice- doesn't it really depend on the purpose and type of information?