Which part of existing organisations dislikes E2.0 the most?

I attended a mashup* Event on Enterprise 2.0 in July at BT’s spectacularly plush little auditorium in London (you can watch the whole event on video at that link). It was a pleasant evening, characterised by hearing JP Rangaswami speak (the man is a walking recruitment advertisement for BT: “This could be your boss. Why work elsewhere?”) — and finally getting to meet him, briefly, in the flesh — as well as by my friend Simon Wardley’s purported swan song of an Enterprise 2.0 talk (and if you know Simon’s love of ducks, you’ll understand why that was a crack most worthy of a wince).

But the most interesting thing for me about the evening was the audience. This was not a tech heavy audience: most of the folks attending were business, with a smattering of vendors hoping to sell to them. And of the business types, the majority tribe was marketing and communications people. They seemed to be there to try and understand how they could use these new tools to enhance their role and control the impact of them (which, if done properly, ought to be a win for everybody: consider the meme of the “Authentic Enterprise”). That was an interesting coincidence for me, as I had, just that week, been engaged in a bruising battle within my own organisation over the idea of opening up the floodgates and allowing the outside world to see (via blogs) some of our talented people actually thinking and working. My primary antagonist in that debate (still ongoing) is marketing (supported by their stormtroopers, the lawyers). So I couldn’t resist the temptation to generate some heat, and, as the panel opened up for questions, the one I posed was this:

“There’s a common refrain heard in the echo chamber of Enterprise 2.0 bloviation that ‘IT is the enemy’: that these tools empower business people to work around a lumbering and prohibitive IT, yada, yada. But are IT people really E2.0’s greatest foe? Or is it marketing / communications? Is it the people in charge of ‘the message’, who are now confronted with (some) loss of control over it?”

That generated some mild uproar, as expected, and a number of “That’s nonsense” responses from the crowd. But to be honest, none of the answers we heard that night from the panel really took a strong stance on the issue. So, to my mind, the question is still an open one.

What do you think?

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Mark Masterson


  1. Barthox says:

    it depends who is working in your MarCom department … or in your IT dep’t … ;o)

    I believe that it is a question of personality.

    I’m Marketing, and at my former employer I had to convince IT that it wouldn’t require too much work for them to install a wiki …


  2. Barthox says:

    it depends who is working in your MarCom department … or in your IT dep’t … ;o)

    I believe that it is a question of personality.

    I’m Marketing, and at my former employer I had to convince IT that it wouldn’t require too much work for them to install a wiki …


  3. mastermark says:

    Ah, a friend of mine used to say, “Mark, the answer to all questions is: ‘it depends'”. And then he would scribble a mathematical proof, demonstrating that the English words “It depends” were code for the number “42”.

    So, yes. Agreed.

    The wiki you’re referring to was presumably internal? I’m thinking of things where E2.0 gets used to engage in conversations outside of (and through) the corporate firewall. Examples would be allowing employee’s to blog (and speak the truth) as, say, Sun or IBM do.

    Do you find MarCom to be in favour of that?


  4. mastermark says:

    Ah, a friend of mine used to say, “Mark, the answer to all questions is: ‘it depends'”. And then he would scribble a mathematical proof, demonstrating that the English words “It depends” were code for the number “42”.

    So, yes. Agreed.

    The wiki you’re referring to was presumably internal? I’m thinking of things where E2.0 gets used to engage in conversations outside of (and through) the corporate firewall. Examples would be allowing employee’s to blog (and speak the truth) as, say, Sun or IBM do.

    Do you find MarCom to be in favour of that?


  5. mastermark says:

    Let me put it another way: to the extent that MarCom sees its role as being the “controller” of share prices (and it most certainly does) — what happens if you start letting the outside world be privy to the thoughts and ideas of workers, without MarCom serving its traditional role as gatekeeper and filter?

  6. mastermark says:

    Let me put it another way: to the extent that MarCom sees its role as being the “controller” of share prices (and it most certainly does) — what happens if you start letting the outside world be privy to the thoughts and ideas of workers, without MarCom serving its traditional role as gatekeeper and filter?

  7. Barthox says:

    As i wrote my comment this morning I realized that you would come back to me with this remark.

    You’re right, the wiki was internal, and you’re right I can see MarCom getting real antsy about ‘non professionnals’ communicating with the outside.

    I would add that the PR people must be those who must be thinking ‘what’s going to happen with us …’

    Now, I’m not in MarCom, nor PR, so I don’t really mind! ;o)

    Now, back to your point, of course it won’t be IT saying that we shouldn’t open the gates.

    And, as far as I’m concerned, I would keep my ‘it depends’ regarding the fact that it would be a good idea or not.

    I believe that it depends on who you’re letting communicating openly, based both on their job (I don’t see the point in giving an accountant an open tribune), ,and their personality and capability (you do have a brand image to maintain, and it wouldn’t do it any good to have someone from the backoffice ranting against the folks from logistics) … so all in all yes to open the gate, but with a clear strategy in mind …


  8. Barthox says:

    As i wrote my comment this morning I realized that you would come back to me with this remark.

    You’re right, the wiki was internal, and you’re right I can see MarCom getting real antsy about ‘non professionnals’ communicating with the outside.

    I would add that the PR people must be those who must be thinking ‘what’s going to happen with us …’

    Now, I’m not in MarCom, nor PR, so I don’t really mind! ;o)

    Now, back to your point, of course it won’t be IT saying that we shouldn’t open the gates.

    And, as far as I’m concerned, I would keep my ‘it depends’ regarding the fact that it would be a good idea or not.

    I believe that it depends on who you’re letting communicating openly, based both on their job (I don’t see the point in giving an accountant an open tribune), ,and their personality and capability (you do have a brand image to maintain, and it wouldn’t do it any good to have someone from the backoffice ranting against the folks from logistics) … so all in all yes to open the gate, but with a clear strategy in mind …


  9. mastermark says:

    Hmmm. OK. And how do you determine who is “fit” to be part of the public voice? Do you make everybody take some sort of test? That they have to pass before they’ll be allowed to talk to the outside world? Apart from the chilling effect such an approach would have (and the degree of mistrust it shows), my instant, snarky response would be: “Do the MarComPr people have to take it too? What happens if *they* don’t pass it?” LOL.

    Seriously. Why not give the accountant an open platform? What makes the accountant’s insights *inherently* less valuable than the CEO? Why assume the converse, for that matter? 😉

    Yes, you do have a brand image to maintain. If, however, that brand image can’t be maintained by opening the doors on your people, by trusting them, then I would have to pose the following question: is your brand the truth? Or is it a lie?

    And: is the “brand” that might *emerge* from a free and open exchange inherently *less* valuable? How can we determine that, a priori?


  10. mastermark says:

    Hmmm. OK. And how do you determine who is “fit” to be part of the public voice? Do you make everybody take some sort of test? That they have to pass before they’ll be allowed to talk to the outside world? Apart from the chilling effect such an approach would have (and the degree of mistrust it shows), my instant, snarky response would be: “Do the MarComPr people have to take it too? What happens if *they* don’t pass it?” LOL.

    Seriously. Why not give the accountant an open platform? What makes the accountant’s insights *inherently* less valuable than the CEO? Why assume the converse, for that matter? 😉

    Yes, you do have a brand image to maintain. If, however, that brand image can’t be maintained by opening the doors on your people, by trusting them, then I would have to pose the following question: is your brand the truth? Or is it a lie?

    And: is the “brand” that might *emerge* from a free and open exchange inherently *less* valuable? How can we determine that, a priori?


  11. Barthox says:

    Don’t take me wrong, I’m mostly with you on this, but I can’t refrain from playing Devil’s Advocate! ;o)

    When saying that one could / should pick the people allowed to communicate outside, I’m more oriented in openly asking who would be willing to do it, then have a sort of interview to discuss the motivation and check the capabilities (not everyone has good writing skills).

    As for the accountant case, it was just an example, it was nothing directed against accountants in general. This being said, I don’t really see what they could be saying that would be so interesting to the customers. Also, most of the stuff they work with everyday is potentially confidential stuff anyway. Also, from the accountants I’ve known so far, they were so entrenched in their world of accounts and figures, that they often had a distorded view of the business or the market.

    On the idea of letting the whole company an open access to the outside communication; what if you have someone that was disgruntled by something, and he then goes on the corporate blog or wiki, posting confidential information …? I know he could do it elsewhere, but chances are that your corporate means of communication are better monitored by your competition than Facebook and Co …

    Anyway, as in many situations there are many pros and many contras

    Personally, I would prefer to see the workforce of my company interacting more directly with the customers (and suppliers) but I can understand the reluctance of some people …


  12. Barthox says:

    Don’t take me wrong, I’m mostly with you on this, but I can’t refrain from playing Devil’s Advocate! ;o)

    When saying that one could / should pick the people allowed to communicate outside, I’m more oriented in openly asking who would be willing to do it, then have a sort of interview to discuss the motivation and check the capabilities (not everyone has good writing skills).

    As for the accountant case, it was just an example, it was nothing directed against accountants in general. This being said, I don’t really see what they could be saying that would be so interesting to the customers. Also, most of the stuff they work with everyday is potentially confidential stuff anyway. Also, from the accountants I’ve known so far, they were so entrenched in their world of accounts and figures, that they often had a distorded view of the business or the market.

    On the idea of letting the whole company an open access to the outside communication; what if you have someone that was disgruntled by something, and he then goes on the corporate blog or wiki, posting confidential information …? I know he could do it elsewhere, but chances are that your corporate means of communication are better monitored by your competition than Facebook and Co …

    Anyway, as in many situations there are many pros and many contras

    Personally, I would prefer to see the workforce of my company interacting more directly with the customers (and suppliers) but I can understand the reluctance of some people …


  13. mastermark says:

    Great response, great conversation — thanks very much for taking the time to respond.

    I agree completely with your remark about asking for people who are interested and willing. The point about writing skills is also good, but again, I would respond with a snarky remark about all the MarComPr people that could use some help with this as well…. 😉

    I think the key point here is this: “I know he could do it elsewhere, but chances are that your corporate means of communication are better monitored by your competition than Facebook and Co …”

    That’s probably the most important insight: this genie is already out of the bottle. There’s no way to put it back in. Given that reality, my argument would be (and is) that a company is better off engaging in “the conversation”, rather than playing see-no-evil, hear-no-evil and pretending it’s not happening.

    And note: while I am all for allowing anybody to say anything they want to, there’s no reason why a company channel would (or should) be unmoderated. Moderation is easy to justify, on the grounds of preventing profanity, confidentiality and other legal breaches, and just all around insanity. Nothing wrong with moderation.

    But I am arguing that everyone in the company — the CEO, the accountants, the people working in the stockroom — ought to have the option of participating. On whatever basis suits them (maybe that accountant has a brilliant post in her, but only once a year or so).

    I understand the reluctance too, but in my experience, it’s rarely well thought out.


  14. mastermark says:

    Great response, great conversation — thanks very much for taking the time to respond.

    I agree completely with your remark about asking for people who are interested and willing. The point about writing skills is also good, but again, I would respond with a snarky remark about all the MarComPr people that could use some help with this as well…. 😉

    I think the key point here is this: “I know he could do it elsewhere, but chances are that your corporate means of communication are better monitored by your competition than Facebook and Co …”

    That’s probably the most important insight: this genie is already out of the bottle. There’s no way to put it back in. Given that reality, my argument would be (and is) that a company is better off engaging in “the conversation”, rather than playing see-no-evil, hear-no-evil and pretending it’s not happening.

    And note: while I am all for allowing anybody to say anything they want to, there’s no reason why a company channel would (or should) be unmoderated. Moderation is easy to justify, on the grounds of preventing profanity, confidentiality and other legal breaches, and just all around insanity. Nothing wrong with moderation.

    But I am arguing that everyone in the company — the CEO, the accountants, the people working in the stockroom — ought to have the option of participating. On whatever basis suits them (maybe that accountant has a brilliant post in her, but only once a year or so).

    I understand the reluctance too, but in my experience, it’s rarely well thought out.


  15. Barthox says:

    We’re on the same wavelength then! ;o)

    As for the time spent here, I’ve got quite a bit of it for the moment as I’m at home looking for a new job!

    And, thanks for the invitation on LinkedIn!


  16. Barthox says:

    We’re on the same wavelength then! ;o)

    As for the time spent here, I’ve got quite a bit of it for the moment as I’m at home looking for a new job!

    And, thanks for the invitation on LinkedIn!