Enterprise 2.0 : my predictions for 2009


Honestly I was not sure I would conform to the annual predictions tradition. Finally, since my 2008 edition was not that bad (shift from “social tools at people’s disposal” to the acknowledgement it needed inclusion in business process) and Susan kindly asks for it, I’ll try to do something interesing this year.

That said, I will divide my note in two parts. As any good “thoughtleader” sometimes mistake predictions for his own wishes, I’ll try to be lucid enough to clearly separate both and end my note with a few pious hopes.

Let’s start !

2.0 will dissolve into enterprise : at the very beginning, the term enterprise 2.0 came from the eponymous web tools and the spirit that lead their use. Companies have their own constraints by nature, to which adds the context we all know : need for performance, search for new values and models. Even if it perfectly fits with the 2.0 spirit, it’s now about a more macro and deep vision that questions of adopting tools seems to be far far away. It’s rather about implementing the culture 2.0 in culture and organization. Enterprise 2.0 is enterprise before being 2.0 and nothing will be done without a coherent macro approach and both a management and organizational vision. Let’s be clear : companies’ concerns in 2009 will be all about performance, values, vision and finding a way to its future. 2.0 will not exist until it will be able to relate to these issues, either beacause of tools or a system of values. The technoligical discovery side is dead.

Integrated tools first : interactions between employees are protean and use ase many chanels as many needs exist. In order to take the most of its social capital, a company has to create synergies between many tools that are most of time adressing a one and only chanel in order to provide employees with a coherent work platform where everything is accessible through one interface. More, the social networks logic which is the quintessence of social capital use and relies, de facto, on sharing contents and exchanges in order to identify and exploit the informal side of the organization, the way people actually word, needs all these bricks to be unified. Either for companies or people, it becomes essential not to have to switch between 4 or 5 tools according to their purpose. By the way, as tools will mix melt together, we will forget the concept of  blog, wiki, bookmark, in order to focus on productive actions : I write, I share, I ask, I improve, without any consideration to the technological notion behind. This may be trivial for power users but will be key for average usages. After experimentation, now comes the time of rationalization.

Cloud computing is delayed : I’m one of those who fully suscribe to the vision Nicholas Carr exposed in “The Big Switcch” : one day applications will only be a service delivered through the net. But the revolution will take more than one day to happen, most of all in large businesses. There’s a culture to change, guarantees to give, a need to prove things before making them mainstream, the fact it’s hard to say that, on the one hand information is a key asset and on the hand that it has to fly outside company’s walls (although it’s natural to give one’s money to a bank…). So, even if cost reduction logics would make it obvious, I think 2009 will still be about experimentations and controversies, that companies will try pilots with non senbile dats but that  the “Big Day” will still have to wait. What does not mean it won’t happen.

• The end of “soft value” : Enterprise 2.0 ROI have been a taboo subject for a long time. ROI would be soft..or wound not be at all. What’s good with crisis is that they wake up dreamers and now numbers and real case studes will be needed. These numbers do exist, they can be found, but il will suppose to work on intangible assets driven value creation. There might be a limit to what I say : in these hard times, creating membership and community feeling may be very important for businesses. But no one will say that too loud because its impact can’t be expressed mathematically on the bottom line.

• Business Process Redesign : it was evoked in 2008 and the message begins to be understood. Some began to try things and, in 2009, we’ll see some companies rethinking their business processes in order to include social tools in. Knowing that a tool that’s not used for work can’t help to create any value and that, fortunately for them, companies didn’t wait for web 2.0 to happen to organize production, they will hace to wonder what existing thing has to be changed, which flows must be driven through new chanels and which new practices have to be adopted if they want the 2.0 promise to be kept. Even if it means I take a little risk in my predictions, I think we’ll see the beginning of a reflection about indicators, especially financial and accounting ones, in order to valorize in a more realistic way everything that’s about intangible assets, which would be key in enterprise transformation once indicators will be adapted to the current context. Whatever, once the first process will be redesigned, we’ll see the emergence of a reflection on network based business models which is the ultimate phase of a successful transformation.

• Mobility : an increasing demand from users to access their applications from anywhere on any device is in the air and companies are more and more likely to comply with that. Need for efficiency and productivity.. Maybe this demand may help cloud computing adoption.

A double paradigm shift in software industry : the prevailing vision according to which “any buisiness issue could be solved by technology” will encounter hard times. Any issue can be solved by people and software only help them to free themselves from some limits. It’s often necessary but never self sufficient. As a consequence, vendors and clients will have to understand the difference between selling / buying technology and selling / buying added value. A new discourse that will imply a deeper understanding of operative and management issues.

• Low profile for millenials : they were expected to change the world and drive web 2.0 tools adption but they’ll have to keep a low profile in a context that don’t pay any attention to originality. We don’t have to expect them to be change leaders or levers for software or practices adoption. I didn’t agree with Tom Davenport when he said 2009 would be bad for social networks but I fully suscribe to his opinion on millenials limits. As time will go by, enterprises will change with them. Not for them.

• Enterprise 2.0 facilitated by new jobs : a new form of organization means the emergence of new jobs dedicated to enterprise 2.0 facilitation. Enterprises realizes that and are working on. A true lever for change.

• Business Intelligence For People : since web 2.0 tools have to find their place in employee’s day to day tasks, rather do it on a way that really improves efficiency. On this point, the only really new valuable thing I heard in 2008 was Business Intelligence for People which Reid Hoffman told me about during a diner a few weeks ago. I often talk about personnal information supply chain but the notion of personal BI at the era of knowlegde economy may be an important efficiency lever for companies that will put it at work.

• No crisis for enterprise 2.0 : as I recently heard from an HEC Business School professeur two weeks ago, there is no crisis. As a matter of fact a crisis supposes a sudden dysfonction and the will to restore the previous situation. Restoring the previous situation would be the worse thing to do for both economy and enterprises. Consider we’re not in any crisis or downturn but in a reinvention and redisign period where any new manterial, idea, practice may potentially help.

Now some pious hopes…

• Forget enterprise 2.0 for good : the sooner people will talk about enterprise without 2.0 the sooner it will be obvious that the work on concept is over and now it’s time to turn it into vision, stragey, process, tools, management practices…

Read Goldratt again in order to understand that the change is about shifting from a push to a pull way of organizing work, that focus on local performance is a burden to global optimum and collaboration, that we use outdated indicators that block change. Nothing better to provoke the needed paradigm shift. And a quick look at Deming‘s work may also help to understand the very nature of a always evolving organization which an important part of the 2.0 culture : things are never finished, everything is an ongoing process.

• Accountancy is revisited in order to make it coherent with 2009 world and economy. Reality doesn’t have to adapt to indicators but indicators must evolve in order to provide the best vision of the reality in order to make accurate decisions. The dematerialization and knowledgization of economy makes it really urgent to look into this case.

As you can understand, the true issue with enterprise 2.0 now is the very nature of organization which needs to quickly forget the too connoted side of 2.0

To end, for those who don’t fear headaches, this is what seems to me being the deep sense of organizations in the upcomming years, regardless to enterprise versionning :

Entreprise = Theory of constraints + agility + PDCA + freeform collaboration on opportunistic basis + social business + adequate communication tools.