Enterprise 2.0 by A. McAfee : my review

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The long awaited “Enterprise 2.0” by Andrew McAfee was issued a few weeks ago. There were lots of expectations towards  the book of the father of enterprise 2.0 which issuing was delayed earlier this year. Now that the book is available, it’s time to answer the traditional questions : does it meet people’s expectations, what does it bring, who should read it and…is it worth buying it.

1°) A course which ends comes at the right moment

Even if “enterprise 2.0” is not the first book that tackles the issue, it’s the first that is expected to become a reference, what supposes some maturity. This maturity is obviously there and is the result of two courses.

The first course is peculiar to enterprise 2.0 itself. Even if the subject has been discussed for years, we’re only beginning to get a sufficient number of reliable feedbacks and cases to demistify the E2.0 thing and take into account some issues that were often neglected at the beginning due to some kind of angelism that always come with new things.

The second course is the author’s. McAfee clearly explains how, before being the father of enterprise 2.0, he first was a sceptic who tackles the issue to demontraste of useless it was. And, then, how objectivity made him revise his prejudices. This is a part of the book that has its importance since it made us see things with a new and different angle and take the heat out of the topic.

2°) The right tone…

When one is a well known expert in a given field and writes a book, there are two possibilities that are both relevant. The first is to make a technical book to help those who are already mature and want to go further, the second is to make something educational in to order to make anyone understand what matters, what’s at stake and focus on the right issues to design a projec. McAfee chose this second option. People who are used to reading his blog will see the difference : if a blog is a space where experts gather, where the discussion is often technical because hot and emergent topics are discussed, a book must be understandable by all. McAfee brilliantly succeeded in the (difficult) exercice that consists of adapting one’s writing to a book.

So this book is very easy to read and understand. There’s no need to be an expert to read it.

3°)..to tell nice stories…

Deciding to be educational, McAfee chose to teach by the example and, more than cases, offers us nice stories. Rather than listing the benefits of enterprise 2.0 and illustrate with cases, he starts with a few real business issues and clears them in parallel, what helps the reader to understand, step by step, all the challenges. All the cases are different enough so that anyone can find something that is close to his own situation.

This also has another positive side : McAfee does not start from the solution to find problems but starts with the problem to demonstrate how the responses were built. As he said, none of the mentioned companies wanted to “do something 2.0” not implement social media but solve a real operational issue. Would they have started from the wrong end they would have surely fail.

4°) … to the right people…

The way the book is writen makes it accessible to any manager or decision maker facing such issues and to students who want to go into something that is not taught that much.

Does it mean that more advanced people won’t take any benefit from the reading ? Not at all. First, because everyone having his own approach, it’s a good way to re-evaluate one’s options and choices. Second because it formalized in a structured way things that are often scattered in our thougths and blogs. Last, because the way things are introduced makes it easy to build arguments to evangelize traditional businesses and decision-makers in a way they can accept.

That’s a consequence of the above : when such issued are tackled, one can choose to behave as a change integrist or as a change facilitator. McAfee chose the second option. Hardliners may be disappointed but the best way to make organizations change is to take the heat out of the debate , not by attacking them.

5°)…without looking the other way

What I liked in McAfee’s book is its objectivity and the fact no issue is evaded, even those that don’t please people, that’s to say things that say it’s going to be difficult, that it won’t work everywhere, that companies can choose not to go this way.

Some points I liked :

– varied cases that show many different scenaris demonstrating that there is not a single model.

– objections are dealt with in an objective and argued way.

– the “on the flow” vs “over the flow” comparison that is key to failure / success and is not discussed enough neither on the web nor in books.

– lot of attention paid to culture and management related issues

– not a passionate defence but the objective introduction to many tools and practices that perfectly add to the existing.