What is your name?

Sebastian Schäfer

Who are you and what are you doing?

With a background in computer science I work as consultant for Business Information Management at Capgemini in Munich. In addition, driven by personal interest and belief, I am doing research on Enterprise 2.0 with the Cooperation Systems Center Munich (CSCM) and I regularly write about related topics on my blog (http://schaeferblick.wordpress.com/, mainly in German).

How did you get to the E2.0 topic?

Back in 2004 I worked for the German Air Force on Networked Centric Warfare (NCW, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_Centric_Warfare):

"A concept that seeks to translate information advantage into a competitive advantage through the robust networking of well informed geographically dispersed forces." The main ideas are outlined in a book named  "Power to the Edge" (published 2003) and it is interesting to see that a lot can be transferred to Enterprise 2.0 today. Since 2007 I am not in the military anymore but I kept my interest for networked platforms and their application for business purposes.

What is your understanding of the core concept of the Enterprise 2.0 idea?

Enterprise 2.0 is about completely new ways of working together within an organisation enabled by social software like wikis, (micro-)blogs, social networks etc. In a successful Enterprise 2.0 implementation communication and information sharing has to a large extent shifted from closed channels like email to (more or less) open platforms, leading to the well known effects like connecting people with people, spontaneous group forming, more transparency, leveraging weak ties, ambient awareness, serendipity and emergence. These platforms give the individual user more freedom to to find and select (or subscribe to) the information he really needs to reach his objectives. Moreover, users are more motivated to share and to contribute since they do get direct and (most times immediate) feedback and can improve their visibility and reputation.

What are the main potentials of the Enterprise 2.0 idea?

I see the main potentials in three fields:

  • Cognition, finding answers to specific questions: Social platforms facilitate the findability of information, the location of experts and can harness the dispersed knowledge within an organisation (and if appropriate beyond).
  • Coordination, organizing the effort of the workforce: Social platforms support the dynamic and spontaneous forming of groups or teams (driven by expertise and interest) and quickly surface ineffective double work.
  • Collaboration, working together for a specific outcome: With social platforms employees can work together regardless of location, time and status, taking into account input from various sources and aggregate it in an appropriate manner.

In sum these potentials increase the overall agility of the organisation and particularly the efficiency in handling non-standardized work processes (which have become more the norm than the exception in today's working environment). Since people are more networked this will also increase company binding. A quantifiable ROI, however, is often requested but generally hard to measure due to rather indirect business benefits of communication tools. A promising approach seems to analyse the impact on established KPIs, e.g. the average effort to answer a customer request or time needed to form a team and come up with a new project proposal.

What are the main challenges, threads and issues of the Enterprise 2.0 idea?

I concur that the successful implementation of Enterprise 2.0 is more than just a question of technology, since those tools are quite open in their usage ("Nutzungsoffenheit") and do also need a rather "open attitude" for sharing information. However, basic technical requirements like availability, security, integration and most of all usability are key issues to address before pushing people to change their habits or attempting to change a company's culture.

Participation is key and if the tool is not as easy to use as email people simply won't use it. In the recent years we have seen a tremendous development in "social tools for the enterprise" and in my point of view a lot of the success stories would not have been possible without these improvements. In addition, of course, more and more organisations succeed in putting social tools in the actual flow of work, which might require a complete rethinking and redesign of established processes.

Even though Enterprise 2.0 initiatives may start bottom up they won't succeed (respectively scale) without top management support.

Enthusiast should keep in mind that unlike "regular employees" top managers (normally) have a great personal network and can simply delegate information work to their assistants, hence, they might not see the need for any social tools. Moreover, they might fear the propagated risks like loss of control, transparent feedback, giving too much insight into their work and distraction of their workforce.

It will take some time to understand that Enterprise 2.0 will neither dissolve the hierarchies nor will it make designated responsibility obsolete, but it will certainly require a different set of leadership skills and style. Last but not least, since Enterprise 2.0 is a rather long term process with still a lot of doubt whether it will eventually pay off there are always more urgent topics on the top management agenda...

Please give us three tags that describe your person and work best?

Enterprise 2.0 - Evangelist - Research

Please give us three names of colleagues that you would refer to as brother-in-spirit?