For a number of years now, Forrester has used the following definition for Web 2.0:

A set of technologies and applications that enable efficient interaction among people, content and data in support of collectively fostering new businesses, technology offerings, and social structures.

For many Content and Collaboration Professionals (C&C Pros), the first half of this definition looks very familiar. Providing knowledge worker with better access to information and co-workers along with communication tools has been the primary goal since collaboration tools began to seriously penetrate the enterprise 20 years ago.

Now the second half of the definition "in support of collectively fostering new businesses, technology offerings and social structures" is a bit different. This maps to some potentially broad and strategic organizational goals.  This is at the core Enterprise Social Media. And Enterprise Social is here. Smart C&C Pros have already begun to take a leadership position in guiding their organization down this path that could be game changer, albeit one that is fraught with challenges.

Here's the challenge: As collaboration moves from being document-centric to more people-centric, the rules change. "Need to know" becomes "need to share". This can be scary, particularly for folks in HR that are concerned with privacy, legal folks that are thinking of intellectual capital, compliance, and the list goes on. Let's not even bring up the word WikiLeaks for heaven's sake. You get the picture.

Now, the real challenge; All that said, for many organizations, it's far worse to hide your head in the sand. The organizations that embrace a new way of working will in fact, foster new businesses, technology offerings and social structures. And if your competitors are doing that, you can ignore it at your own peril. And you know what? If you don't provide the capabilities to your workers, they may well go and provision it for themselves. And that might well be a whole different kind of trouble.

The good news is that a whole bunch of organizations ranging from defense contractors to pharmaceuticals to government agencies and one and on (all highly regulated and with a lot to lose) are well along the way to figuring out the right balance that can drive organizational benefit and still protect organizational data. Key considerations for 2011 include:

  • Establish the business value to your organization. Look for areas in your business where access to information, expertise and community wisdom will drive measurable value. Think innovation, think better customer support, think better design, anywhere where knowledge workers are driving key business initiatives with sub-optimal information and expertise. C&C Pros will need to work more deeply with business leaders than you may be used to to get this done.
  • Embrace the risk. Go meet with HR, legal, compliance, etc. and begin to develop policies that will safeguard the organization and still drive broad information sharing that fuels people-centric collaboration. Two things to keep in mind: Your organization probably "protects" a whole lot more information than it needs to. And, there is risk avoidance in transparency. It might be a lot riskier to be using tools like email and file servers which can hide "smoking guns" until the worst possible moment.
  • Prepare for a new role. C&C Pros will sit at the center of driving change in their organization. This will meet working across organizational boundaries in ways that will be challenging and rewarding.