Technology has expanded beyond the physical barriers of an enterprise, hence the wider use of the newly coined expression "extended enterprise". Technology has indeed opened up to new opportunities of increased collaboration and knowledge sharing.
Four main application environments can be identified that meet immediate requirements and are interconnected to this phenomenon, called Enterprise 2.0, as they enable contextual organisational models and logics to meet the emerging trends and evolving needs of networks of partners and customers.
Social Network & Community: the creation and support of social networks and communities, or cooperation, using tools that facilitate the exchange and discussion of ideas as well as extended knowledge interaction beyond the boundaries of a business (blogs, forums, social networking tools, expertise search, advanced user profiles, etc.).
Unified Communication & Collaboration: supporting knowledge management in any form of communication and collaboration, internal or external to the enterprise, in a uniform way and independent from the tools used in order to transmit its content (Web, land and mobile phone lines, TV, etc.) through adequate instruments and infrastructures (audio/Web/video conferencing, instant messaging, Voice over IP, etc.).
Enterprise Content Management: supporting content and document management, within the organisation and outside its confines, using tools that improve accuracy, accessibility and integrity (Web content management, document management, record management, enterprise search, etc.).
Adaptive Enterprise Architecture: supporting flexibility and reconfiguration capabilities of processes in line with changes within an organisation's strategy using advanced tools and technologies for Business Process Management (BPM), Service Oriented Architecture and mash-up (SOA), Software as a Service (SaaS).
Below is a more detailed description of the benefits that can be reaped from implementing the tools of the four above-mentioned application categories.
Social networking tools primarily bring intangible benefits, for instance they improve the sense of belonging and environment in an organisation, support further collaboration and improve customer relations. At the same time they have an indirect impact on improved efficiency and cost reduction by creating a sort of social and organisational "infrastructure", making interrelations more flexible.
The main benefits in terms of productivity that come from the introduction of unified communication and collaboration instruments are linked to the possibility of resorting to flexible ways to work, regardless of the place of employment and the reduction of travel costs replaced effectively by communication services and video conferencing. Less measurable, but certainly significant, are the benefits of the introduction of new relationship and self-service collaboration logics.
The use of Enterprise Content Management technologies can increase the efficiency of all those activities that require access to past information and documents in the short term. It is also important to mention the long term effects relating to an enhanced knowledge management and increased effectiveness of decision making processes.
The introduction of Adaptive Enterprise Architecture instruments and logics implies a more flexible approach, which is translated in the ability to manage organisational change, evolving business processes and activities in a timely and cost-effective way as well as all the benefits associated with increased efficiency and responsiveness.