Thursday, 29 March 2007

Saving E2.0's Soul

I've always been a fan of Tom Davenport and was disappointed that when he was last in Australia I ended up being elsewhere, so I didn't get to hear him speak in person. Its also a shame that Davenport doesn't really blog; not quite as bad as Ray Ozzie, but I feel the blogosphere doesn't appear to hold much attraction for him. So in some respects we shouldn't be surprised by his suggestion that Enterprise 2.0 is more likely to be the "next small thing". Commenting on the vision put forward for E2.0, Davenport says:

"Such a utopian vision can hardly be achieved through new technology alone. The absence of participative technologies in the past is not the only reason that organizations and expertise are hierarchical. Enterprise 2.0 software and the Internet won't make organizational hierarchy and politics go away."

Mike Gotta - following Davenport and a response from Andrew McAfee - adds this analysis:

"I have a slight disagreement with Andrew McAfee that these tools are radical departures from previous generations of communication and collaboration technology. I see these technologies more as a natural progression. Tools emerging under the category of social software are benefiting from common application, infrastructure and network services that were not mature in the eighties and nineties. There was a reason e-mail was the "killer app" 15 years ago. A store-forward model was the only viable design given unreliable end-to-end networks with limited bandwidth. There was a reason a platform such as Lotus Notes was such a huge hit in the market."

I want to put a different spin on Davenport's perspective. Firstly, he thinks that the next big thing will really be in the area of business analytics - however, I think he failing here to see what the impact Web 2.0 and other related technologies will have in this space. More on that another time maybe, but think about mashups and "Data as the Intel inside".

But the main issue I'm sure Davenport has is that he probably feels he has seen and written about this all before. One of my favorite Davenport pieces is his 1994 HBR article, Saving IT's Soul: Human-Centered Information Management. In it he presents a manifesto for building information systems that focus on how people use information, rather than machines. He suggests that human centred information management should:

  • Focus on broad information types;
  • Emphasize information use and sharing;
  • Assume transience of solutions;
  • Assume multiple meanings of terms;
  • Continue until desired behaviour is achieved enterprisewide;
  • Build point-specific structures;
  • Assume compliance is gained over time through influence; and
  • Let individuals design their own information environments.

Pretty good for 1994 don't you think? No wonder he thinks E2.0 is old hat. But Tom - don't give up on E2.0... we need your help to save its soul too!

1 comment:

  1. Susan Scrupski10:13 pm

    Hi James. I'm a regular reader on your blog. This month we're bringing together Tom (Davenport) and Andy (McAfee) to hash these issues out face to face. My hunch is they'll agree more than they'll disagree, but my hope is we'll elevate the real issues surrounding adoption of e2.0. We're looking into streaming live, but short of that, we'll post the videopodcast for the international community. Please forward any specific questions you'd like to ask these guys-- it's your event!

    Great blog, btw. Susan
    see the description of the event here: http://tinyurl.com/22pz9q

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