Previous articleLinks for 10/27/2008
Next articleLinks for 11/01/2008

Is web 2.0 dead or is business replacing buzzyness ?

You must have felt this agitation that went through the blogosphere these last day, but that was also relayed by traditional medias. Web 2.0 is dead. The rumor didn’t start from this note from Michael Arrington but since he’s got a bigger loudhailer than most of the population his voice carried farer. Then hundreds if not thousands of people predicted the end of web 2.0.

I can’t see anything particularly cleaver when some people say that when the economy’s going through hard times, the more fragile companies may come off badly. Among those companies there’s no need to have a second sight to guess all those that operates on an emerging market may be concerned, which is the case for web 2.0 startups…but not only. Not enough to convince me of real soothsayer abilities, nor to applause such perceptiveness, knowing it’s easy to ring the alarm when the city is burning just when you’ve been knowing fire raisers were at work for a long time. Those who were pushing for “everything 2.0” even without sense or business model, prefering the “buzzyness model” could wonder about their past analysis. They themselves killed “their” web 2.0, turning it into a hudge holdall where they put everything and anything. But once smoke will be gone, many interesting things will remain, the only things that value creation can rely on, that makes it possible to build real business models. For this reason, I see these troubled times we’re experiencing as a salutary stabilization phase. I’ll end with a comparison with our late web 1.0. Even if some babies were thrown with the bathwater, companies that adresses a real need, that delivered a real valuable service, survived the crisis and are still alive.

In brief, I’d rather rank the “web 2.0 is dead” buzzword in the “who lives on noise can only survive making more noise” category.

So, what’s about Enterprise 2.0 ?

Things can be seen from two points of view : companies that are changing (or not) and companies whose job is to play a part in this transformation. But both are tied : since some companies have a vital need for deep change, there’s a market for their suppliers.

Don’t think in terms of solutions, what would be mistaking means for goals one more time and take the market by the wrong end, but in terms of needs.

Of course, during a crisis period, budgets are shrunk. But it doesn’t mean there are no budgets : it’s all about allocation. And allocation goes to what will help companies survive or play their game well, knowing it’s often by working hard and seriously when market shrinks (working…not withdrawing into oneself) that an enteprise acquires the ability to make the difference when times will become easier. So let’s have a look at what matters.

• Innovate : I’m not talking about finding the next big thing, but all of the small improvements that makes a company more efficient in day to day business in order to survive hard times.

• Do more with less : because of restrictions, businesses will have to be more agile than ever. I think there will be be two main trends : less fat and more insourcing

  • insourcing : it means taking outsourced key competences  back into the enterprise (because of coase law…) knowing in such hard times it’s cheaper to have them inside than paying for outside supplier. But it will be only about core and rare competences;
  • Less fat : organizations 1.0 developped an impressive non productive mass with people whose job is to control the guy to whom reports the one who checks the one who controls the person in charge of cleaning the toilets. Some disintermediarization won’t harm organizational performance. Most of times it’s not about people but about the usefulness of a part of their job. A few weeks ago I was talked about a 32 levels of hierarchy company…no comment.

• Strenghten teams : there’s nothing worse, when companies need all their people’s energy to face big challenges, than having people who doubt, who fear the future, feel lost in their organization. Since it’s proved that involvement directly depends on the ties people forge at work, a nework-based approach my have a critical impact on cohesion. It also applies to external relationships : clients, public opinion.. people ask for transparency, trust, proximity, above all when they have the impression of having been tricked. Future will belong to those who’ll the courage not to curl themselves up but to open themselves. I even believe more of the impact of networks in bad times than in a growth context : they are times when people need more than ever not being alone, humanly speaking but also in order to be successful in business.

• Face the generation Y challenge : it’s still hard for companies to find enough talented people for junior positions.

• decrease latency time: involve recently hired people as possible in order they’ll be effective as soon as possible. It takes 6 months to anybody to know his company and start creating value ? What’s about a mentoring and expertise sharing system that makes it possible to win one month are business critical.

• Expand external networks. In order to make money go in, nothing’s more efficient that being smart and some elbow grease. Sales managers begin to digg into their adress book in order to help their teams, to find opportunities. In brief a crisis is the time when one need to know how to use his network. Globally speaking, contacts will be gold if, and only if, they could be used. Businesses will also have to learn to work very closely to their partners, identify opportunities faster and respond together faster. More than being good, businesses will need to be agile and smart. There again it’s more about network than process.

• Get ready for the end of the crisis : imagine, and that will be the case in many businesses, that a “no initiative and no investment”, “hold on”, “people should thank us for hiring them” policy is adopted. One day, business will restart. What will happen this day ? People marked by a “frugal” and curled up company will feel like going elsewhere and take the most of an active job market. More, while some businesses will be able to rely on motivated people, some will ran out out “fuel”. It’s a pity to survive winter and be unable to tak off when spring comes just because your people are disheartened and your innovation pipe is empty.

In brief, there are many things to explore in order to spend winter in a warm and safe place. Each of them implies an organizational model and specific tools. The way you call it doesn’t matter at all but it oddly looks like what was called enterprise 2.0. Due to such vital needs the need for answers is not about to decrease.

By the way, please notice that if enterprise 2.0 have been showned as an organization designed for growth, it now show special capabilities for strenghtening organization in difficult times. Who said “social security” ?.

Gary Hamel and McKinsey said that change was not in corporate DNA and that a major crisis will be needed in order companies understand in which way they have to change. Here we are. Let’s hope lessons will be learnt.

Let me also add that I wouldn’t have said all that one year ago, when enterprise 2.0 was a big holdall, seldom focused on value creation. Last reports and what I can see every day confirm that businesses begin to understand that such dynamics have to be used in order to improve their business. And that’s more important than ever.

Now it’s time to focus on business improvement. With courage 1.0.

Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

Recent Posts