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Enterprise 2.0: What do we know today about moving our organizations into the 21st century?

December 26, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

It does appear that we’re entering a new stage in the maturity of enterprise social computing. The good news: Most of the lessons learned are good ones, yet as we’ll see, some challenges remain.

Based on my conversations with practitioners and thought leaders here and the many discussions over the last two weeks, the practice of Enterprise 2.0 has effectively moved beyond the initial novelty of years past. There’s now a much more practical focus on how to create, manage, and govern social business communities, the specific ways to deliver measurable business value, and most of all, a desire to learn what works best (or not) in the realm of collaboration and social software.

The broad outlines of what it actually takes to apply new social business models have emerged lately along with the techniques to deliver on them successfully in the longer term. In particular, these include topics such as business case, tool selection, worker policies, community management, and the governance of social business environments.

Just as importantly, we are also starting to see customers implementing Enterprise 2.0 in scale. These typically include enterprise social networking, wikis, and social CRM. This is different than a year ago when there were only a handful of stories about Fortune 1000 and Global 2000 companies seriously exploring the potential benefits of social computing.

Potential Benefits of Enterprise 2.0

In the sense that the hard work has started, we are also seeing the end of the beginning for Enterprise 2.0. We’ve learned a lot along the way, particularly from early adopters, and it has been interesting to participate back-to-back in two of the largest enterprise social computing events of the season. This has helped get a sense of what’s taking place in Europe and North America with customers as well as the industry growing up around Enterprise 2.0 in terms of tools and services.

Where is Enterprise 2.0 headed?

  • Businesses are actively seeking information about how best to implement Enterprise 2.0. While last year they were kicking the tires and evaluating what the benefits are (establishing why) there’s a lot more actual project activity this year and this is driving significant demand for knowledge about how. The rise of the 2.0 Adoption Council is one demonstration of this need to share information about what works. Further providing evidence that there’s a need for how: A recent survey showed that 36% of their members were currently managing multi-million dollar budgets this year for Enterprise 2.0. In other words, they’re in the “how” stage. Finally, the end-users I talked with in my workshops at both events demanded detailed, specific information about how to make Enterprise 2.0 work for their businesses.Enterprise 2.0 Project Budgets
  • There is still lots of debate about how to calculate the ROI of social computing. And still few good answers. While credible ROI numbers are essential to the business case of any IT project, the longer cause and effect chains of social software mean that the story is richer yet more complex. But some approaches are becoming increasingly apparent. For example, at the Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT yesterday Kjetil Kristensen noted that we spend 60-80% of our time in the workplace on interaction and collaborative activity. With payroll being one of the largest components of the yearly budget, anything that drives efficiencies in the #1 activity of the workday can create significant returns. Straightforward models that focus on improving specific collaborative activities rather than generic performance improvements will likely have the most credibility here.
  • Certain internal groups are driving Enterprise 2.0 within organizations more than others. Over the last year I’ve had contact with many of the individuals working on Enterprise 2.0 projects and a picture has begun to form about who is moving the social software agenda forward. While there are always exceptions, in general we’re seeing more social computing being run by the groups responsible for collaboration, knowledge management, line-of-business, and corporate communication and less with IT, human resources, and other support units. To me, this seems like the right groups are driving this forward, particularly when they aim at specific business challenges.
  • The trough of disillusionment is the next stage for Enterprise 2.0. You can see this in some of the discussions about Enterprise 2.0 online these days. Expectations for social software often run quite high, especially in terms of seeing immediate returns. And even though some case studies show impressive early uptake and benefits, it can often take a year or more before serious gains can be measured in many organizations. For now, especially as businesses discover the best ways to reap the benefits of social computing for themselves, the Enterprise 2.0 story will have to run the gauntlet of inflated expectations for a while until more maturity is reached.
  • There is still a lot of Enterprise 2.0 discussion out of business context. Often there is this sense that it’s an environment or appendage in a vacuum, without a clear connection with the business. Focus is still on the immediate understanding of what Enterprise 2.0 is instead of what it means in context of the larger organization and its processes. This is particularly true for engaging with cross-cutting concerns such as content management, document management, corporate records archiving, SoX processes, or even unified communication and messaging, the latter two which social computing environments often compete with directly (even while not usually replacing them.) Fortunately, I’m now starting to see this being addressed in some of the latest thinking, particularly here at the Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT. Having full contact with related disciplines and functions will be essential for full success with Enterprise 2.0 in the medium to long term.
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