Is the Enterprise ready for “Enterprise 2.0”?

I came up with this title before I really had an idea of what I was going to write. Something along the line of a trend I have been sensing lately about the bubble bursting, and various announcements of mergers, acquisitions, and partnerships. I kept reading to find the spark to get me started when I read Andrew McAfee’s post How to Hit the Enterprise 2.0 Bullseye. That got me thinking. My initial tagline supposes that the tools are ready, its just those stodgy old IT departments that need to get with the program. Now I am wondering if the reverse isn’t also true: Is E2.0 ready for the enterprise?

McAfee says that we should look back to previous work in sociology and other fields to help explain the value of social computing environments. He primarily points to the work of Mark Granovetter about the strength of weak ties. He is pointing out that so far we (E2.0 practioners and proponents) have not yet done a good job of explaining the value of social computing to the heads of our enterprises. He is providing a suggestion for how to do this by giving examples of how different types of relationships can be supported by different social computing tools. He points out that we need to understand what it is we want to accomplish before we jump in with the coolest new tool, just because it is new and cool.

As I write this I am reminded of Steve Rubel’s post a few days ago, The Web 2.0 World is Skunk Drunk on Its Own Kool-Aid. Are we getting too infatuated with technology for technology’s sake (or worst for money’s sake) and not really looking at what value we can bring to the table?

What this all amounts to in my mind is that only when the Enterprise 2.0 vendors really engage with enterprises and understand the realities of operating in a large enterprise environment, will we see a significant uptake of these technologies.

My Day Job

They announced our 3rd quarter results last week . Things are not going in the right direction. Headcount reductions are happening. Does this mean that I will be a free agent by the end of the year…who knows? But being the good boy scout that I am, my motto is be prepared. So if you, or someone you know, is looking for an Enterprise 2.0 Practitioner, let me know, I am open to looking at opportunities.

Check here for my details.

Back Door Adoption of Web 2.0 in the Enterprise

Steve Rubel posted an interesting commentary, clearly directed at corporate IT management. He points out part of the reason why adpotion of Web 2.0 practices in the enterprise is slow to happen:

Unfortunately for corporate IT, however, they will find that they can’t move as fast as Web 2.0 does. Talent isn’t the issue here. IT inertia, long-term vendor agreements, the law and Sarbanes Oxley are all weights that can shackle corporations.

This is definitely true, but I am not so sure that back door adoption will happen as inevitability as he suggests.

 …a more free spirited workforce is using what’s freely available to them because it fills a void. With this, information is flowing into data caverns that only the employee – and really no one else – controls.

The reason being the rules and policies that most enterprises have in place. If IT (and corporate) management are serious about controlling where information resides, they have the tools in hand to make it happen, namely disciplinary policies and reward & recognition. I am not saying that I like it or think that is the way it should be, but that is the way it is in many orgainzations. Yes, technically, I can access all of these great tools, but if doing so is a career limiting move, I am going to think twice about doing so.

 I think the inevitable outcome is that the best and brightest that are now coming into the job market will choose to steer clear of organizations that value control over choice. Change will occur over time, not because the “controlling” enterprises will change their ways, but because they will become anachronistic and fade away and new organizations will take their place.

1%ers, 10%ers & 90%ers

One of the main things I am working on now is, how to change cultural and behavioral norms to improve process and productivity. Of course my hammer for attacking this “nail” is Enterprise 2.0. I believe that the tools of E2.0 will be great productivity enhancers and innovation drivers, but I am one of the “1%ers”, those that play with the shiny new toys just for the promise of things to come.

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The problem is how to get from “I think this is great” to “Everyone is using it”? My approach so far has been a bit random, tell everyone that will slow down long enough to listen and assume that they will immediately agree and change their old-fashioned ways. … You know what, it’s not that easy. … Now don’t get me wrong, I have had successes, but not to the level I had hoped for 10 months ago.

I am beginning to figure out that my job is not to try and change everyone’s thinking (let’s refer to “everyone” as the 90%ers) but to find and influence the “10%ers”, those that will try new stuff as long as there seems to be some rational justification for the switch. The job of influencing the 90%ers falls to the 10%ers. If I can show the 10%ers that there is real value then they will spread the word.

Cars and Horses

The other day I was watching an old John Wayne movie, Big Jake. I one of the early scenes there is a cultural clash between the new-fangled automobile and the tried and true mode of transportation, the horse and mule. Of course in the movie big John is the horse rider and those in the cars are made to look the fools.

It got me to thinking, is Enterprise 2.0 the “new-fangled automobile” when compared to the tried and true “horses” of traditional IT platforms, with Microsoft and IBM in the role of “Big Jake”?

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Funny, I don’t see many people riding their horses to work these days.

Enterprise 2.0 and The Innovator’s Dilemma

From the Headshift blog, I found this fascinating perspective on how many (most) large organization IT departments look at Enterprise 2.0.

 Behind “Enterprise 2.0” Performance: Exploitation or Exploration?

My favorite quote is:

At the same time, Microsoft, IBM and likes currently are wondering what to do with social computing. They take a lot of time to market relevant and powerful solutions. Most of the time they revamp old appliances, brand them as 2.0 and full stop. They only satisfy people who are not in the know. They create dissatisfaction among employees. They favour both brainwash and brain drain so that you don’t get the best employees. They cost time, resource and money. Overall, they jeopardize corporate performance. So it might be time to consider open-up your information ecosystem to real innovation by adopting products marketed by start-ups or crafted by value-added consultancies.

This is a huge paradigm shift for most organizations. Is it the right way to go? Hmmm…

I think anyone in this situation needs to read Clayton Christensen’s book The Innovator’s Dilemma. Christensen points to the problems that entrenched organizations have when facing a significantly changing environment. Basically his answer is not to make a full stop radical change in direction, but to move into the new space through independant efforts that are not beholden to the existing power structure, and most importantly not financed by the same budget system. Often the new paradigm has different rules and metrics and using the old measures to evaluate the new environment will never predict an “reasonable ROI”, at least until it is so late in the game that you missed the wave and are playing catch-up.

 If you are in this situation, read the book, you will not be sorry.