Being done with the enterprise 2.0 value discussion

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Summary : many still wonder what new tools will bring to their organization and still have trouble visualizing the benefits. The reason is simple ; they imagine these tools in their current organization while it’s difficult to see their contribution out of a new way of working. Organizations built rules to accomodate to the constraints of existing tools. If these constraints are removed by new tools, organizations have to built new rules that will replace the current ones.

I recently found this post on the value (or lack of) of a new technology. It applies to new technologies in a general way, applying it to social software is very instructive.

First, let’s try to answer a few simple questions.

1°) What’s the main power of this technology

It makes information sharing easier and more efficient as well as enterprise-wide discussions related to business issues, the whole taking place out of organization and application silos. It allows anybody to identify, mobilize, put together all the information, data, expertises and people on a scale that was impossible before because of the above mentioned silos. So it allows, in fine, to provide employees with what they need to be efficient in what is called the “knowledge economy”.

2°) What are the limitations this technology is removing

The difficulty sharing unstructured data, identify information and people out of a silo.

3°) What rules were built to accomodate these limitations ?

In the context of a given business process, organizations started with the assumption the information needed for delivery and decision making was not findable. So they built operation models that rely on preset rules aiming at minimizing exceptions even it it meant to deliver an acceptable result in any situation but never something adapted to a very specific need. Assuming this, knowing that people will never have to look out of the process, the time allocated to informal-out-of-process-and-silos-collaboration was considered as wasted time…what impacted the way people were measured.

List to be continued…

4°) What rules should be implemented now  ?

I won’t elaborate that much on this point because it’s specific to any situation and many contextual elements are needed to give an answer that applies to a specific business, industry, business process. But it may look like “service oriented organizations“, social routines,articulating structured and unstructured work activities, rethinking quality

Taht’s only the starting point of a deeper investigation that has to be conducted within a given organization. Anyway, conclusions are the same than those I made about the ROI of enterprise 2.0.

– technology has no value by itslelf

– technology should allow to to things that couldn’t be done before

– rules were set to accomote the limits of previous technogies. The new technology has no value is old rules are not replaced with new ones adapted to the new potential that can now be harnessed.

In one sentence : rules have been set to accomodate constraints. If any technology removes constraints, rules have to be changed or the technology will be useless.

To end, when organization wonder “how to think” their social network or any social media project, they should wonder what rules have to be removed and what should replace them. Designing such projects without thinking a new way of working is removing all the value of the project from its beginning. It’s also the evidence that, to convince an IT dept,  a value co-construction process has to be implemented with business people because it’s simply not their role to care about how business is done.