Friday, 28 August 2009

Enterprise 2.0 crock? Depends how you define it…

 

   Dennis Howlett makes some well justified criticisms of Enterprise 2.0 at ZNet’s Irregular Enterprise blog.  I’ve never been a fan of the term ‘enterprise 2.0’ (in the way the term is usually used), and for example, have commented previously that:

“I have the same concern about ‘enterprise 2.0’ which the CIPD report (based on Andrew McAfee’s work) describes as web 2.0 behind an enterprise’s firewall (eg Yammer vs Twitter).  To me, enterprise 2.0, or ‘business 2.0’ anyway, is about a new way of working, which can be enabled through the use of web 2.0, but can also be supported through other face-to-face techniques.”

 

But I do think there is some value in the term too.  Here are some thoughts on Howlett’s points:

“Regardless of what you’re told by the E2.0 mavens, business has far more pressing problems. The world is NOT made up of knowledge driven businesses. It’s made up of a myriad of design, make and buy people who -quite frankly - don’t give a damn about the ‘emergent nature‘ of enterprise.  To most of those people, the talk is mostly noise they don’t need.They just want to get things done with whatever the best tech they can get their hands on at reasonable price. That doesn’t mean some wiki, blog or whatnot.”

 

I totally disagree with this.  I think society’s expectations of business have changed drastically (the global reset), and businesses understand the way they need t operate to take account of these shifts.  Plus post recession, many organisations are going to have to do the same or more with less people.  There are two key ways to deal with this situation.  Either improve the capability of each person (their human capital), or the relationships that provide the synergy between the people (the social capital).  E2.0, in my terms (I don’t care that much about whether it’s emergent), provides one means of developing the social capital to respond to this new situation (see my next post for more on this).

 

“Communities are driven by passionate community evangelists who, for the most part I see as driven people. They don’t have an allegiance to the company or brand but to the idea of community. There’s nothing wrong with that but I have to ask the question - what happens when they move on or become tired of batting their head against a brick wall? As someone engaged with community building as a stepping stone to transformation I understand the challenges.”

 

I agree community participation will often follow the power law – a few people will make most of the contribution.  So what do you do?  You recruit and develop your employees to get more people who will participate and hence, shift the curve.  And when one of your evangelists leave, you try hard to recruit another.

 

“Like it or not, large enterprises - the big name brands - have to work in structures and hierarchies that most E2.0 mavens ridicule but can’t come up with alternatives that make any sort of corporate sense. Therein lies the Big Lie. Enterprise 2.0 pre-supposes that you can upend hierarchies for the benefit of all. Yet none of that thinking has a credible use case you can generalize back to business types - except: knowledge based businesses such as legal, accounting, architects etc.”

 

I’m a fan of flat structures and squashed hierarchies, but I don’t think these are essential parts of E2.0.  The key is to identify the sort of social capital you want to develop, then identify how you can create this.  The strategy that emerges may be to flatten hierarchies, but it may not.  There are plenty of other very valid ways to develop social capital too.

 

“In the meantime, can someone explain to me the problem Enterprise 2.0 is trying to solve?”

 

Enterprise 2.0 in my terms creates social capital that enables organisations to set new or more stretching business goals.  It doesn’t necessarily solve a problem.  It certainly provides an opportunity.

 

 

 

 

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