Enterprise 2.0 before Web 2.0?

Posted: January 19, 2010 in Enterprise 2.0
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

An incredible amount has been and is being said about the two terms Enterprise 2.0 and Web 2.0 – and recently discussions in leading blogs about the two topics have moved to the mutual dependency of those two concepts.

If you listen to Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at MIT (video below), you’ll learn that, crudely defined, Enterprise 2.0 is Web 2.0 inside the firewall. And according to Stowe Boyd,

“Enterprise 2.0 has been a simple and useful metaphor that assumes that Web 2.0 technologies (like contemporary social media, social networking, social tools, and the underlying set of technologies that make up the Web 2.0 model: open source stack (LAMP), web as a platform, open APIs, and so on) can be beneficially applied in the enterprise context. This means the eventual displacement of various enterprise technologies and business practices by new ones, strongly influenced by what is happening and working in the open (not enterprise) web.”

Nothing weird or controversial there. I can fully subscribe to those definitions.

What I want to examine in this post is:

  1. To what extent successful deployment of Web 2.0 requires Enterprise 2.0
  2. Generation Y as an Enterprise 2.0 driver in its own right

To what extent does successful deployment of Web 2.0 require Enterprise 2.0?

This is definitely a very good question and one that can’t be justly answered without making some assumptions. I would like to think of Web 2.0 as creating a strong dialogue with your customers (or “users”, which is becoming the Web 2.0 term of choice). It’s the culture of interaction and users expect authenticity, openness and responsiveness. They expect a good look under the bonnet, but they don’t necessarily expect perfection. In fact if they see and experience too much perfection, they immediately suspect “fake”. Imperfection is a fully accepted circumstance in Web 2.0 and tells users that this enterprise is human – after all. This is what some (most) managers still don’t fully understand. Letting go and exposing some of your imperfections is okay as long as you’re honest about it and tell people you’re going to do something about it.

Of course being honest and authentic requires you (the employee) “to know”. You need to know what the company strategy is, what your company’s position is on certain issues, how to respond to criticism, how to route questions you can’t answer, what tone to use , what media to get involved in (Facebook, YouTube, blogs, Twitter) and a lot more.

That’s where practice comes in. In his blog, “Practice inside to express yourself outside”, Gil Yehuda, guru and former software developer, compares living by Enterprise 2.0 to the very critical testing of software prior to release. He says, “one of the early lessons I learned as a technologist was the importance of testing before “going live”. As a developer and project manager I learned how carefully software must be tested — tested for functional correctness, usability, security breaches, performance issues, and failure conditions. Testing was a time consuming part of developing code, but the cost was outweighed by the value of getting it right. Moreover the cost of rolling out bad software was too high to risk. No one wants to test their software in production — with all eyes on you, and the cost of failure so high!”

The point is you don’t expose a 2.0 immature organization to Web 2.0. At best it will have absolutely no impact (which is actually what happens most of the time, when organizations decide they “have to be on Facebook”). At worst it can result in disillusioned users and the viral aspects of Web 2.0 spinning out of control.

From this perspective it would definitely be wise for organizations to introduce an Enterprise 2.0 culture prior to Web 2.0.

Generation Y as an Enterprise 2.0 driver in its own right

In previous blog posts I have talked about the labour market revolution taking place before our eyes; the growth in workforce numbers of Generation Y, the digital natives – soon to become the biggest labour market generation. This generation has totally different expectations to work and to enterprise software. They tend not to think in hierarchies, they think in networks and they expect enterprises to accommodate them.

I just read an interview with SunGard’s CEO Cristóbal Conde talking about flatter and better organizations. He says: “Collaboration is one of the most difficult challenges in management. I think top-down organizations got started because the bosses either knew more or they had access to more information. None of that applies now. Everybody has access to identical amounts of information.”

This is a brilliant point and Conde goes on to state that the management challenge is to establish a meritocracy in a highly dispersed environment (assuming that most organizations these days are virtual and/or geographically dispersed). He suggests the “answer is to allow employees to develop a name for themselves that is irrespective of their organizational ranking or where they sit in the org chart. And it actually is not a question about monetary incentives. They do it because recognition from their peers is an extremely strong motivating factor, and something that is broadly unused in modern management.”

SunGard uses very simply tools, like Yammer (which my organization, Akselera, also introduced a few months ago) and focuses on Enterprise 2.0 as a cultural exercise fully embraced and supported by top management.

A recent survey by the AIIM stated that 71% agree that it’s easier to locate knowledge on the web than on internal systems. This was across all employees and my guess is that among Generation Y it was close to 100%. The same survey found that 75% of all employees said that “better use of shared knowledge” was one of 3 top driver for Enterprise 2.0 initiatives in their organization.

Interestingly the survey didn’t ask the respondents if Web 2.0 was a business driver for Enterprise 2.0. It would have definitely been interesting to see “shared knowledge” and “Web 2.0” measured against each other.

Regardless, I think it is reasonable to conclude that:

  • Enterprise 2.0 does not need Web 2.0 as a driver.
  • Web 2.0 will have a much better chance of succeeding in Enterprise 2.0 ready organizations
  • And with the rapidly growing numbers of digital natives in the workforce, Generation Y and sound leadership should be viewed as a strong Enterprise 2.0 driver in its own right.
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Comments
  1. Mikkel Lund says:

    Hi Ole,

    Thanks for the post. Put shortly: I agree.

    I usually avoid questions of definitions as much I can, but I still wanna add my thoughts. (definitions attempt to be exhaustive in their nature, which in these wiki-days is quite tricky).

    I see one important difference between the web 2.0 and the enterprise 2.0 concept: one is related to TECHNOLOGY and the other is related to GROUPS OF PEOPLE. And usually when I focus on the distinction between man and machine the lines become EXTREMELY BLURRED. I can’t tell when one starts and the other ends.

    I agree that enterprise2.0 doesn’t need web2.0 in a strict sense, but at the same time I think it would hard to implement “sound leadership” without web2.0-it-infrastructure to facilitate sharing “identical amounts of information”, as Conde says. So the two concepts can be separated strictly speaking but strategically it wouldn’t really make sense, as I see it.

    About enterprise 2.0: I see TRACK DEPENCY as the main barrier. This is also why I agree that the coming youngsters, the Y’s, who at some point will replace us, will surely rule the day and do some serious 3.0-kick-assery. Their habits are different and most likely are way more adaptable.

    Adaptable and extrovert people will be the great workers of the future.

    • olekassow says:

      Yeah, in fact, both e20 and w20 are a lot about people and communications and less about technology (which is probably more of a facilitator).

      Just came out of a conference, Social Computing, in which a lot of the talk was about adoption. Many of the e20 pioneers reported major adoption problems initially and found leadership buy-in to be crucial – and not just lip service. Leaders need to be courageous, ask open questions, admit that they don’t have all the answers, appear imperfect – in order to encourage dialogue. This, in turn, boils down to culture – and, let’s face it, in some cultures it’s next to impossible to get leaders to accept that premise.

  2. Eric Reiss says:

    A great article, and important conclusions. But I did note a couple of minor issues along the way.

    With regard to Conde’s comments, I agree with his point in general, but people do NOT have access to identical amounts of information (or more importantly, identical information). If they did, Edmund Phelps would not have won the 2006 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics.

    Moving on…

    An organization that can handle Enterprise 2.0 (assuming we accept McAfee’s definition) will probably perform well in a Web 2.0 environment, Enterprise 2.0 is not necessarily a prerequisite for success in Web 2.0. Thousands of organizations have been able to capitalize on, for example, Twitter because someone in the organization understood its value and understood how to use the tool. In fact, I would argue that many organizations that are successful with Enterprise 2.0 cut their teeth on non-commital Web 2.0 activities.

    As to the AIIM survey, I cannot say I’m surprised by the results. Google generally indexes better than most internal search engines because it has been taught to do so. Alas, most companies buy an expensive search-engine license and expect the software to do all the work for them. It’s like buying a car and assuming you’ll automatically become a first-rate driver, even if you’ve never sat behind the wheel before. In truth, search engines need a lot of tweeking to get them to work optimally. To compound the problem, most “internal” systems have a fuzzy set of goals. Are they KM (knowledge management systems) designed to share resources? Or DM (document management systems) which are basically electronic filing cabinets? Or some kind of an ill-defined internal marketing tool? And far too much information behind the firewall is still locked in the walled gardens of individual hard disks and not available to a wider audience (internal or external).

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