The twilight of enterprise 2.0 and the emergence of process socialization

The last Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston sounded the knell of many illusions. It won’t be a surprise for anyone, we’ve been talking about that for months and feeling it was coming. First, the beginning of a move of enterprise 2.0 toward the real enterprise, then a try to integrate the social phenomenon in the existing production models in order to give it the place it desserves instead of trying to justify its existence using tricks that won’t fool people for long. Recently,  Andrew McAfee,  Tom Davenport and Dion Hinchcliffe wrote about complementarity, articulation, reconciliation with the existing.

The vision of enterprise 2.0 as a a big fair between colleagues where everybody would embrace one another and sing in unison is gone. No, your company will never become an annex of Woodstock. Many understood that very quickly, some needed more time. Don’t worry, you don’t have to feel ashamed, it’s a little bit like Santa Claus. We all used to believe he really existed, and one day we understood he didn’t. But that doesn’t mean people stopped giving and receiving gifts. (Ok…if you are a 40+ manager and still believe in Santa Claus, there is possibly a problem).

So we have the choice between two solutions : keep on believing in Santa Claus or try to understand how companies like such as Booz Allen Hamilton , Lockheed Martin and many others to join Cisco in the club of those who successfully managed to deploy and adopt social software.  .

Note that in all these cases we are far away from the fair discourse. What do they talk about ? Innovation. Not a space where people propose things, hoping something may come from that. Workflows. In order to make thinks happen naturally, in correlation with everyone’s day to day job. Business Models. That have to be permanently reinvented, recreated. Engagement. Not a vague attachment or something sentimental. They talk about what ties people and companies in order to serve better, to anticipate client’s needs, future market trends.

With  hindsight, it’s clear that they socialized processes that are the heart of everyone’s activity inside a company. A internal socialization, but that can also be external as P&G did with Connect and develop.Here again it’s a traditional process that’s been socialized. And once you’ve socialized everything that can be, you ‘ve socialized the whole business. Easier to say than to do ? First, it settles everything that has to do with sense, appraisal, workload. It even settles the ROI question, since the only way to show any kind of ROI is not to focus on avoiding to apply these new way of doing things to what directly impacts value creation. Anyway, all those who succeeded did things that that way. Period. Of course, it’s possible to go further. But only once operational needs have been taken into account according to people’s assigned objectives.

I recently wrote about the need for articulation and reconciliation. This is exactly the point here.

Many people complain about companies who don’t understand enterprise 2.0, say that managers should by dictionnaries, that we may have to wait for an entire generation do retire (or die) to get to something. I don’t subscribe to this point of view. More, I think it traduces a total lack of humility : it’s enterprise 2.0 that has to learn to speak the enterprise language, because even if we change the way things are done, there are structuring realities that are unchanging.

This simple acknowledgement is one of the most important and fundamental things that emerged from this conference.

Enteprises have value chains. They run processes. You just have to prove you improve one or the other in order to convince CxOs. Talk about everything except what drives performance and measurable results and there is no chance to succeed, except is you want to maintain sham social networks, populated with stooges who play their role to make observers think that it’s actually working.

Of course, some may prefer the “believe in Santa Claus” attitude. Complain about being misunderstood. Repeat endlessly that ROI is not the point. Wonder if Sharepoint is an enterprise 2.0 platform or not. Say we have to believe. Tearing one’s hair out because nobody understands it’s about people and not about technology. Wonder what a community is. Wonder about what email is worth. Say it’s not a revolution but an evolution (or the contrary). Make it a religious case and burn heretics. But, in this case, we may go round in circles for many years without making any kind of progress.
Successful companies didn’t lose their time on this kind of questions. They wanted to create value and tackled the way value is actually created. They took into account the fact they had to adress people’s daily tasks and concerns, make sense regarding to collective and individual issues, position their 2.0 project on a strategic point so that they couldn’t afford failure. In short : they took enterprise 2.0 out of its traditional sanitized zone and applied it to what determines and structures the company’s activity.

Of course my title was very provocative. Enterprise 2.0 is not dead. It’s only the beginning. But its nature is changing and getting closer to real business : value chain, process, production. Maybe it was obvious for some people but it’s better to write it down :”value chain and processes socialization”. Sounds less attractive but it’s certainly more efficient.

What did Lokheed Martin’s people say ?  “Make sure that social media is grounded in the fundamentals of your business”. It echoes GE and its vision of communities : “We focused on community needs to deliver a process,”. You get it ? Still from Lockheed Martin : ” Promoting “social for social’s sake” just doesn’t work.  The SM tools need to address business challenges. ”

One last thing. There have been a long a thought about knowing if enterprise 2.0 was about KM, collaboration, communities, people, technology. Enterprise 2.0 is about business. Period. With people as key players. Of course, knowing “how to” is essential and needs to gather many expertises, some traditional ones, some new ones. But the needed articulation and reconciliation make us have to deal with another too often neglected question : “why and where”. Success needs to apply enterprise 2.0 at the right place of the value chain and to articulate it with the existing to happen. And it surely doesn’t need bubbles that are artificially inflated, hoping to find later what they’ve been useful to.

I bet than in less than a year we’ll see “socializing your value chain” sessions in major conferences.

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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