Will 2.0 learn the enterprise ?

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As I wrote in a previous post, all the required conditions are gathered for serious things to begin. Most of times, when a new phenomenon emerges, it goes through the following steps : ecstasy and disorganised intiatives even if brings no benefits, rejection because nothing good has been done at the previous step and then wise and efficient use.

Knowing that one of the economic downturn positive effect, in an enterprise 2.0 perspective, is that it means the end of the first step and will dramatically reduce the length of the second one. As a matter of mact, as I wrote here, companies will have to focus on efficiency and business and do what’s needed regardless to how it’s called.

Maybe some people will found it disappointing but I’ve always noticed that the more interesting contributions on enterprise 2.0 were not from the 2.0 world but from business, organization, management or HR professionals, although there are some excpetions. Nothing but logic because, by definition, the ones are trying to find a room for tools where the others try to improve the way organizations work and, one day, consider some tools may be useful to support their approach. Happily, both always meet at the end.

Now, where is all the stuff bringing us ?

Last year I wrote that the big difference between large businesses and the web is that the second was able to create its own goals and rules where the first already had his own ones that could be changed in no way. Of course there will be a change in practices but the ultimate goal, which is to produce and sell, will always be the same even if it’s too often neglected by many tenants of the web 2.0 theories applied to businesses. All the great and fantastic stuff that can be done with web 2.0 tools inside a company is valueless if it has no impact on production and value creation.

Of course some things may change, enterprise 2.O being above all about management and organization transformation and current structures not being as efficient as they were to create value because of a new economic context. But me must be careful and not be mistaken about the point we should start with : companies don’t have to adapt in order to make some room for new tools but tools have to support new practices. In one case we’ll get value and ROI and in the other a vague and unproductive project. 2.0 has to power the business, business doesn’t have to give 2.0 a reason to live.

So tools are only worth inside an adapted framework which may look like  wirearchy or SOO. The increased pressure on efficiency due to economy downturn is what may make companies shift to this kind of organisation. Then 2.à players will have to understand enterprise’s concerns instead of asking companies to change in order to use their tools.

I’ll end with the very interesting conclusion of this post by Sigurd Rinde who wisely points out the cultural gap between the web and the enterprise. Answering  Dennis Howlett who had just wrote a post wondering about the very reality of the web 2.0 phenomenon, Tim O’Reilly wrote “this post demonstrates a shocking ignorance of what Web 2.0 is really all about. It’s the move to the internet as platform...”. Of course I can understand what he meant and there’s a part of truth inside. Whoever moved whole or parts of his activities online can understand. But it’s a discours companies can’t understand at this time, it doesn’t make any sens for them. What may make sense for “power users” like us in our private life may don’t once we’re at our offices if the very nature of the organization makes us all work in a way that leaves no room for any social and free form thing.

So Sigurd wrote :

In my reality Dennis understands very well what it’s about – an ignorance for what enterprise is about; a social group with a purpose that requires sequential tasks. An environment that is fully dependent on a process framework – the context and process he calls for – and the Web 2.0 does not deliver that. At best it is a set of nice and useful single-task tools and the “internet as platform” is pretty much a non-core issue and beside the point.

This is what I think being the base of 2.0 applied to companies : tools integrated in a coheren suite, dedicated to makes people more efficient in their day to day tasks. Web 2.0 tools are not “process tools” in the common meaning but have a role to play on interactions around processes.