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Five Common Enterprise 2.0 Misconceptions

September 4, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments
  1. It will take a long time for organizations to figure out how to adopt Enterprise 2.0, if they ever decide to. This might have been true two years ago, but is no longer the case. The adoption story will vary for every business, but grassroots adoption is most common in organizations today with formal adoption somewhat behind. Uptake, while often uneven within individual organizations, has actually been both swift and steady with employees using both “blessed” and “guerrilla” social tools as well as personal services such as Facebook and Twitter in their daily work. A combination of grassroots and formal adoption is resulting in about 1/3 to half of all organizations using Enterprise 2.0 tools today.
  2. Enterprise 2.0 is harmful or will disrupt corporate hierarchy and management structures. This also just does not seem to be happening, even if a few people are predicting it still. Dozens of Fortune 500 companies are formally using Enterprise 2.0 tools today and are not reporting this. They are however reporting better productivity, improved communications, the ability to find information, and cost reductions. But not the collapse of corporate structure. What is true is that additional lines of communication are opened including channels to weak ties and other broader influences. The traditional org chart, never a very good measure of what people actually do at work other than identifying who does their performance reviews, is being augmented by the social graph, not replaced.
  3. Enterprise 2.0 is about helping workers socialize, not achieving specific business goals. While adding a social or community dimension to the workplace is indeed something that Enterprise 2.0 will enable, the open and persistent nature of work inside Enterprise 2.0 environments ensures that they are often a better tool for achieving communication or collaboration-based work. Enterprise 2.0 environments leave information behind for later discovery and reuse, they are asynchronous (not interruptive of workflow), scale better to a larger audience, and let the right organization and structure emerge naturally. That they are social means through which networked activities can be tied to a worker’s identity facilitates expertise location, social reputations, and trust in social sharing and contributions to build up. But the most important aspect is that these tools are freeform, meaning they can be applied to a wide range of business problems including project management, information management, hiring, contracts, status reports, meeting notes, business process management, gathering innovation (brainstorming), internal communication, problem tracking, or any of a hundred other major business activities including even end-user software development and mashups.
  4. The use cases of Enterprise 2.0 aren’t understood. While many are yet to be discovered, the known use cases of Enterprise 2.0 are many and varied. In addition to the general business activities given in the previous point, there are more specific ones including creating company “pedias” that contain up-to-date knowledge bases about company-specific knowledge, project wikis where all the information and knowledge of a project is kept as open, in-process, and dynamic artifacts, and blogs that allows departments to communicate with the rest of the organization about timely issues without the the lengthy publishing cycle of the intranet team, and which harness collective intelligence in their comments and replies from the rest of the company. Social CRM is another area where Enterprise 2.0 is coming into the fore. Many other use cases are known.
  5. Executives and senior managers don’t “get” Enterprise 2.0 or view it as a threat or distraction. While they may not always use the term, social computing and Web 2.0 is frequently of great interest to most business leaders that I talk to. The changes in society ushered in by pervasive social tools has not escaped them and figuring out if it’s relevant to the ways they run their business is a key, if sometimes still unanswered question. That these tools are not perceived as a magic bullet that will cure all the ills of their organization is probably a very good thing. Given that the case studies that have reported ROI numbers have generally reported promising results, you can expect more executives and managers to investigate. And while they may not know all the nuances, most people are using social tools in their lives can extrapolate what that means to how much better communication and collaboration at work can be.

While I certainly don’t believe that Enterprise 2.0 advocates should run a victory lap any time in the near future, the trends are that social tools should be present in the majority of organizations by 2010. While some studies have shown that as many as a quarter of all workers will actually resist/avoid Enterprise 2.0 tools, the same thing happened with the transition from postal mail to telephone, accounting pads to spreadsheets, mainframes to PCs, memos to e-mail, sneakernet to local area networks, and many other famous transitions in the history of business.

While it’s entirely possible something may cause social tools to abruptly stop their broad movement into the workplace, history tells us that it’s just not likely. While the inroads the tools are making are almost certainly outpacing true absorption right now, we are truly witnessing the beginning of a transition to a more open and social business environment, whether we call it Enterprise 2.0, social computing, or whatever it ends up being referred to. And what it’s certainly not, is a crock.

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