I wanted to come back on this interesting discussion that took place a few weeks ago on Andrew McAfee’s blog. It’s the answer to a pertinent article writen byÂ . Even if, at the start, the conversation started on a misunderstanding, it’sÂ the reflection of a more and more actual questionning. It’s to know if the impact of web 2.0 technologies is proportional to the enterprise’s size, if its rather a lever for large businesses or if it can also provide SMBs with the means to improve their competitiveness.
If we consider the key principes of enterprise 2.0 we can put forward without any risk of error that the potential pool of value is more important in large businesses than in SMBs, if only because the sum of individual benefits due to increased and more intense interactions is proportional to the number of employees. Nothing new since Metcalfe who taught us years ago that that value a of network was proportional to the number of users.
This does not mean that smaller business won’t find any benefit there. They will be able to find a benefit which is proportional to their size, what means the same as larger ones according to the scale. We can also put forward that it may help them to gain a competitive advantage toward larger businesses who don’t pay attention to the phenomenon.
But all this only makes sense if we consider that the scope of use of theses technologies is restricted to its the companie’s own borders.
Large businesses consider they have enough staff to have within their walls the answer to all their questions and issues. In some ways its true, their internal waste being so large that spectacular improvements can be made by only addressing this issue. But, by living in a walled garden, companies don’t renew their ideas, experiences. They focus on themselves without taking into account the way the outside world evolves. In one word, the risk of intelectual and managerial consanguinity is very high with the dangerous consequences you can imagine.
SMBs, as for them, know there are more ideas, expertises, solution to their problem outside thin inside. It’s also true for large businesses but it’s easier and faster to realize your limits in this field when you’re 50 than when your’re 50 000. It’s aslo intelectually easier to open to the rest of the world in SMBs where, by definition, the average distance between employees and ground is less important. SMBs can, in order to empower alliancesÂ or crowdsourcing policies, try to use technologies to give an operational infrastructure to the concept of extended company.
If Metcalfe’s law, strictly applied, promises a significant gain to large businesses, subtler points remain. Size doesn’t depend on the number of employees that can be potentially involved but also on the ability of the company to involve people beyond its walls and open itself to its ecosystem.