The three dimensions of enterprise 2.0


There are many discussions on what enterprise 2.0 is, what it implies. There are many different visions, depending on each one’s interests. From one extreme to the other we start from an utilitarian vision (providing with new tools)  to end with a cultural big bang (new philosophy of organization and economics, new human-centric values). One reassures people even if it’s efficiency is still to be demonstrated and the other scares businesses. None of them is particularly relevant or irrelevant : there’s a piece of truth everywhere and each one builds his own vision finding the balance that meet his values.

This is not very helpful for businesses that are looking for guarantees and certainties. What about facts ? What should they believe in in order to figure things out ?

According to me there are three dimensions that structures the whole discourse on this topic. Everyone is free to mix them together…or not : they can apply either jointly or autonomously.

Tools 2.0

It’s about using tools 2.0 within the company, without changing anything else. I often say it’s impossible but, in fact, it depends on the goals businesses want to achieve. If we rely on what I wrote here, it’s about formal production. The structured side of classical BPM tools is enriched by harnessing informal datas, contextual elements, that gives more visibility to the management to drive their teams and improve the collective knowledge base. As an example, there is the case of the sales manager who asks his staff to document what made prospects sign (or not), to tell how a negociation is going, on the flow. When they want to know (what, how much, when) they use the CRM. When they want to know “what, why, how” they use blogs and social networking tools. It’s about socializing a report that should have been done in one way or the other but would not have been shared. It’s a mandatory part of the sales process.

Here, tools 2?0 are used around the traditional process to enrich it without changing anything neither in terms of organization nor in terms of values or at the human level. So an enterprise may be basically 2.0 (tools are used) while still remaining a top-down organization. This also demonstrates that enterprise 2.0 does not necessaraly mean a more human enterprise or happier employees. It’s not because wikis and blogs are used that a business pays any added attention to its employees.

Organization 2.0

In the previous case there is a real use of tools, benefits, but we are far from delivering the full potential of what is possible. It’s proved that in order to take the most of human capital and the above mentioned tools, people have to work and organize differently. It’s what I called “adhoc” here. People have to be able to escape from the necessary traditionnal vertical process to enter a “dedicated” work model. That’s what I had in mind when I wrote about the service oriented organization (btw I will have to refine this post).

That implies not only to be able, when needed, to switch from a vertical mode to an adhoc mode made possible by new networking capabilities offered by social netwoks, but also to improve management, leadership, evaluation models that makes this shift possible.

Doing that we impact more the heart of organization than in the previous case but without any change of philosophy or values. In the first dimension the purpose was “more efficiciency and productivity”, in this one it’s “even more efficiency and productivity”. The purpose is performance driven without any other kind of concerns.

Let’s also notice that it’s possible to be “organized 2.0” without using the so-called tools (even if it helps) and that it’s also possible to have tools without changing the organization. And that’s it’s possible to have both without paying any attention to employees and without any will for making the enterprise more human.

Philosophy 2.0

To end, it’s posible to have a certain vision of the place of Human in the organization, of the enterprise in the socialy, of ethics, and the will to implement it. If the “tools 2.0” dimension is painless, if the “organization 2.0” is more sensitive because it implies deeper changes (but brings operational benefits), “philosophy 2.0” is what businesses fear above all.

There is no need to implement tools and organization 2.0 to that. In the same way, it’s possible to focus on the two performance driven dimension without paying any attention to anything human or ethic.

This third dimension, even if it’s (too ?) often linked to the two others, have nothing to do with them and ca be considered autonomously. Noble and laudable though it may be, I think that it disturbs more the discourse than it serves it.

It’s important to understand that starting a performance driven project, what is the case for many enterprises, does not mean they are being involved in something that will end with dealing with so sensitive things. Philosphy 2.0 can be a part of the whole package but it can also be left alone.

Companies must be able to build their own 2.0 model, deciding to what extent they will implement each of these three dimension.

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  • Good stuff, Bertrand! I like your conceptual layers, but would argue that Philosophy 2.0 needs to be an integral part of the other two. Otherwise the tool and organizational efforts will not have nearly the impact they should on efficiency and productivity, not to mention effectiveness.

    • Maybe. What makes me uncomfortable is that some people are going too far in Philosophy. Maybe we can distinguish two philosophy layers : one that has to be shared and one that is optional.

      I can understand some have a “revolutionary vision”. It’s been successfully implemented in some organization for decades. But it’s irrelevant for most organization and can even be a threat to them. That’s what I call the “dreamy” part of E2.0, the one that is not mandatory but still scares many clients.

  • Yes! And the problem has been that most Enterprise 2.0 evangelists get most excited about philosophy 2.0 and organization 2.0, whereas many organizations will start by slowly and incrementally introduce tools 2.0 along existing business processes (“collaborative ERP”) — not because it’s the best thing to do, but because it’s easy and straightforward — and only then start thinking about Organization 2.0 (e.g. across the supply chain) — and they may never get to Philosophy 2.0…

    • I think that Tools and Org can me made at the same time or the one after the other. In this second option, tools must come before.

      Philosophy (or most of the philosphy) is optional.

  • Gre Petroff

    There is an chicken and egg argument to be made around … do the new tools change the organization or does the New org need need change tools?

    In some research with customers we have found that there are groups that are using Gmail with Google docs that are working in fundamentally new ways….What started as a cost saving effort led the group into your third dimension.

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