How to understand and position enterprise 2.0 in the real enterprise

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It’s time to sum up all the thoughts I had these last months. I tried to start from both the concerns expressed by C level managers asking for a global vision and ground managers who needed a “hands on” vision because they don’t have time to waste to try to understand such nebulous things. Having to focus on day to day delivery and short term objectives, many see such a fallen-from-the-sky (and on their head) gift as a source of misunderstanding and discomfort.

These concerns are not surprising at all : what is it, what does it bring, how does it work, how to position it and integrate it in the organization as it is today… Talking about a new discipline, lots of things were learnt from early adopters who worked on a “try / fail / improve” model and, in so doing, helped to build a knowledge and know-how corpus. As a matter of fact this corpus was build upon failed and successfull implementations that helped to refine some presupposition that were prevailing at their beginning. The whole helped “followers” to benefit from these experiences.

But we still have to be aware that that’s not by saying “that’s that, that’s not that, one must, one must not” that things will improve. Businesses need to undersand the path that lead to these conclusions to make them theirs, and we all know what happens when one content himself with copying a result without understanding what reasonning often leads to  : lack of self-confidence, fear of the unknown, defensive attitude….then failure.

Rather than proposing an attractive future at the end of a vague road, let’s start from what actually exist to build the future. This will also help to explain the “why”, relying on what can be learnt from past experiences.

In some ways this post is the continuation of a former one whereI tried to see things under a production angle (yes…in the enterprise world everything is about outcomes).

Basic premise : enterprise 2.0 allows to exchange, share, create synergies between employees whatever their position is (inside or outside the enterprise) in a more fluid, easy and efficient way.

Starting point : in any business, everything is organised through sequences of tasks, at both the team or individual level. This sequence is, at the same time, formal (business process) and informal (business routine). That is people’s everyday worklife, that what punctuate their activity, is the common thing that links the thing they do. People and groups are appraised according to these sequences and their outcomes. This can be illustrated this way :

A first sight, any enterprise 2.0 implementation should have been done in order to impact this sequence. Unfortunately things were seldom done this way. There are many reasons for that but the most obvious one was the refusal, if not the fear to look into the way people were doing their everyday work for what could have been nothing more than an experimentation that could end at any time. When the project was a part of strategy decided at high level that was poorly sold (even not sold at all) to ground managers, these last also often refused. In both cases it made enterprises look for another positionning.

Rather than socializing something concrete and actual, enterprises tried to build projects out of people’s everyday concerns in order to make staff change their practices. So “cloud projects” were created. Here, cloud has nothing to do with cloud computing, but it illustrates the fact that those projects had nothing to do with employee’s concerns, with what their managers were expecting from them, with what they were appraised on. What lead to this :

So we continually way communities flourishing and everything possible was done to make them live, even intravenously. Communities became the project by itself instead of being a means. All this was very confusing.

First because nothing could ensure that people will participate in what was something totally disconnected from their day to day work. In fact, when the subject was making sense and that the managerial culture made such a kind of participation possible, there were chances of success. If not theses communities failed. Then because activity based indicators were mistaken for success indicators, while they don’t allow to foresee any operational benefit. Turning social activities into business result does not happen by luck, it’s a matter of organization and process. Last because, “socializing” people outside of the proceses that create value was the best way to demonstrate that social activities in the workplace were nothing more than a funny hobby because, at the end, no value or business related outcomes can be shown.

I’ll end with the star attraction of this (sad) business show : businesses try to make people involved in processes located at the bottom of the previous diagram work according to the rules of the overhung cloud. Applying “community managment ” logics and methods where socio-collaborative management had to prevail worried managers because it mobilized their staff to contribute to things that things that were not contributing at all to their assigned goals and imposed a community manager under the real manager’s feets.

Fortunately, many drew the conclusions that had to be drawn.

– “on the cloud” activities make sense for some subjects provided business understand they have to recycle their production in the traditional business activity and that participation will always be optional.

– the real path to operational benefits is on the bottom of the diagram, provided a social routine is implemented and socio-collaborative management replaces community management.

– then bridges have to be built between both : structured and formal activities may need to appeal to a community to innovate, find answers that can’t be find in their primary scope…and in the same way, when something relevant emerges in a community it has be be redirected to the groups that may find it useful.

So it may look thike this :

Integratiog Enterprise 2.0

We can find here the complementarity between community and socio-collaborative management regarding to the purpose, the need for a social routine applied to everyday tasks and the need for providing active bridges between the two worlds (separated because of the way they work and their nature, what doesn’t prevent someone for being a part of both at the same time).

In practical terms :

I’m an employee, I’m doing my work as before. The only change is that I share factual informations about it, the problems I met and how they were solved. When I’m facing a problem I search if someone already solved the same kind of thing, if not I ask and we solve it together. Once done I use the solution I share my feedback. Most of these activities already exist but non in a efficient way because of the lack of relevant tools. Nothing engaging here : it’s all about facts and business as usual. Sometimes me and my staff may need external feedback from people such as clients, partners, general public… In this case we appeal to communities. So I slightly narrate my everyday work and open myself to others when I miss an information, that there are chances I can’t get things done by myself or won’t have enough time.

I’m an employee and I may want to participate in an innovation or whatever community when I’ve enough time, if I feel like doing so and if it doesn’t prevent me from doing my work.

As a client I can be a member of a product, support or whatever community…with the same limits. On the net I can become “fan” of a product, join a crowdsourcing platform like IdeaStorm or Innocentive.  I know that these companies take benefits of my participation for their internal teams. Sometimes I’m even rewarded for my participation.

Will these two “world” need different tools ? Will a new generation of tools emerge ? We’ll discuss that in a next post but, in the meantime, I advise you to read this brillant post by Hutch Carpenter. Like him, I’m convined that to efficiently create value, all the social activies does not have to be standalone activities but have to happen on the flow (what’s the foundation of social routine). Earlier,  Hutch reminded us that Gartner had created a new category for social software, called “Activity-Specific Social Applications” and defined this way :

As social software implementations mature, application patterns are evolving, and the software industry is responding with activity-centric social application offerings rather than with generic social software capability suites. Delivering a targeted social solution with a general purpose social tool (such as wikis and blogs) can involve significant development, configuration, and templating effort.”

Value can be created anywhere, but this think this value proposal is more obvious for businesses.

Saying that, a new definition for enterprise 2.0 is emerging (if you like this ongoing defintion challenge)…

Enterprise 2.0 is a set of tools and practices aiming at increasing the scope of the human and informational capital that’s accessible and usable in order to execute everyday’s processes and workflows and deliver the expected work in the assigned time limit. It’s not build outside or in replacement for workflows and business processes but around them.

All this gives opportunites and raw materials for lots of future “how tos” posts. More to come later…I think this post is long enough.