Transforming usages in enterprise 2.0

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Last week I was a part of a panel about “enterprise 2.0 : usages transformation”. Here are, in a few lines, what I retain from this event. Of course these are my own impression since when you’re on stage you tend to focus on people’s concerns rather than what the panelist said.

• How do companies see enterprise 2.0 ? Must have or nice to have ?

The question was to know if there was an enterprise 2.0 issue for companes. It’s interesting to compare my experience as player of this industry with the feedebacks of people who are rather on the client side. Obviously both visions tend to align, and that’s quite a good thing.

I pointed out that the question is not to know if there’s an enterprise 2.0 concern but to know if businesses understand than adopting new practices (a word I find much more relevant than usages in a corporate context…) may help making business in a more efficient way. If yes, implementing these practices will imply joint HR/management/organization/tools initiatives that will lead to enterprise 2.0 even if this was not called this way.

I mentioned the latest McKinsey report.

In order to close the “nice to have vs must have” debate, I’d rather say there are two possible approaches : starting from defined business issues and treat all their aspects (organization, HR, business practices, tools…) or have a tool-driven approach which means saying “we have to try those new tools and see what we can do with them”. The first leads to a “must have” situation, the second is a “must try” that leads to a “nice to have” and “time consuming to use” situation due to a lack of alignment.

I’ll end with my favorite advice : “instead of wondering how to make people adopt tools you’d better wonder why”. By the way it would also close the ROI debate.

• Techno or not techno ?

Maybe I had to made it clear once or twice but it seems to be clear for everybody that it’s not about tools or technology. That’s a great improvement compared to what the situatio was one year ago.

The purpose is not to make tools go into companies but to empower business practices with tools. Considering tools as a purpose and not as means irremediably make them become nice to have.

Whatever, thinking things that have no sense offline, that would not happen in real life, would happen online is illusory. If people don’t want to exchange, to help each other, to collaborate in real life, I cannot see any reason for them to do it online. Tools are here to break physical barriers which prevent people from doing what they’d want to do, not to make them do what is unmeaningful for them.

• How do we measure ?

The purpose of enterprise 2.0 being collective performance, measures have to be made at this level. In a manner of speaking, measurement take place outside of the tools. For example, if you purpose is to improve a sales team performance, the impact of your project has to be measured with traditional sales indicators. Online activity may help improving team efficiency but it has to be translated into business so it can only be a midway indicator. Content relevance indicators may be useful too in order to drive the flow from individual knowledge to value creation. But, and I repeat it, the final purpose is business and measuring everything except business my create an informal bubble without any business value.

Another panelist, Hervé Dumas from Valeo, had a very relevant experience to share. I fully agree with him when he says that talking about  employees that save 40 seconds avery hour and convert it into billions saved at the end of the year does not convince anyone anymore. Valeo set very “simple” and “material” indicators. On my side, of often advise people to use balanced scorecard indicators because they are are simple and very close to business reality.

• Did you say reward ?

The question of rewarding people was tackled and this show the management side of enterprise 2.0 is now perceived by all. It’s really something new, such a question would not have been a part of the discussion one year ago for example.

Did companies built a reward system based on participation on E 2.0 tools ? Frankly I think such initiatives are too “young” and on to small perimeters but I would be interested if someone had any example.

But a manager can rely on what happens on the plateform to assess his people. It’s easy to assess the “quantitative” part of one’s job, but web 2.0 tools can make it easier to evaluate the “qualitative” side, that’s to say the attitude. Do people  retain information, do they really collaborate, help their colleagues ? Perhaps it’s the only way to assess the attitude on scattered teams.

As somebody mentioned, companies have to be careful and choose relevant KPI in order to reward what matters. Volume of contributions ? Of course not except if you want people to make a lot of noise for a few business. So it’s important to visualize the link between participant and operative results in real life.

To end with this topic, I also said that rewards have not to be only financial. A promotion, a position improvement can make it. I mentioned the example of Bell Canada where people were able to explain their ideas to the board, which is seen as an important reward by many people.

• IT departments : I love you…me neither

Their role was discussed a lot. I even heard someone who said (I won’t tell the name of his employer which is world-class french company) : “in our company the IT dept is so tacky than youn people even prefer to work at the accountancy department.”

I really felt the need for collaboration between managers and IT in order to provide them when the tool they really need. Despite of the current views and promises we’re really far from this point and that’s a real issue.

But I’d also like to temper things. If enterprise 2.0 is a hot topic for managers, IT depts also have to make all the existing systems work and it’s far from being that simple. So we can understand that emerging things are not among their concerns even if they should take it more and more into account. IT and managers have to take the time to discuss, to exchange, in order to understand each other. Project can be made with or even without IT depts, but never against.

I advise you to read this survey about the role of IT depts in value creation.

• Crisis ?

I think I already tackled this point here. It’s true that we used to see enterprise 2.0 in a growth context but it also have many qualities in hard times when the mantra is “cohesion”, “do more with less”, “be smart”, “be agile”, “find ideas”. Tomorrow’s enterprise will be less fat with more oil in the wheels. Isn’t that what enterprise 2.0 is about ?

But once again it takes us to the reality of business, the need for concrete business needs. The need for being dressed has nothing to do with fashion after all…