Saturday 27 January 2007

It is the Chicken AND egg: Enterprise 2.0

Normally I'm fan of group blogs but so far the FastForward blog (promoting a conference by the same name*) has been a little disappointing - and I should say that this is nothing against the individual bloggers as such, since I know some of them and a few are on my blogroll already. So far, for the wrong reasons, the only post that has engaged my attention is Jevon MacDonald who attempts to answer the question “who can help my company adopt some of these new ideas and technologies that we are hearing about“?

In a list of tips he proposes that:

"There are two conversations going on right now, one about Technology, and one about a Business Ideology. If technology isn’t your thing, then start moving forward with new business ideas and the right technology will emerge, and if you are pegged as a technology person then start opening up the world of low cost options to your colleagues."

James Robertson posted a follow up to Macdonald and also suggests that "Enterprise 2.0 is about taking a new perspective on the organisation, not on a set of technologies" and the first steps should be to focus on people and business needs.

To me, this is approach of one or the other is a mistake. As in the old chicken and egg problem, the trick to Enterprise 2.0 is all about dealing with both sides of the equation at the same time. For example if we look at the wiki case studies so far in this space, such as Motorola, they make it look like it is very easy to introduce enterprise social software. But a survey last year also suggested that other organisations were finding it more difficult - key take aways for me from that survey were:

  • The main reason affecting the choice of a wiki clearly is the simplicity of use and implementation. The expense is only a very small factor.
  • The main problem is the lack of participation of the intended users. Almost half of the participants had to deal with this problem at least temporarily. Thus the encouragement of the employees is an important item to add to the success of the wiki.

Clearly some organisations - the "early adopters" - are going to find it very easy to make the evolution to Enterprise 2.0 where there is already a good fit between the technology and business culture. For these organisations, they never even asked where to start - they just did it. But for others its going to take some work to level the ground between the two. My feeling is that if you focus on one or the other, while you'll see change, you won't necessarily end up with Enterprise 2.0 (to understand what I mean, particularly from the technology side, refer to my earlier posts about the grey area of social software, defining Enterprise 2.0 and why "super users" are the new programmers).

I also think there is an important omission in MacDonald's list of recommended reading - he includes McAfee's recent IT piece in HBR but not his original SMR Enterprise 2.0 article, which introduces the SLATES concept and starts you thinking about some of the management issues that introducing Enterprise 2.0 creates.

*PS I guess that no publicity is bad publicity...

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