Enterprise 2.0: Chance or Fool’s Paradise for Business Transformation in Economic Crisis

During the last week I was pushing the finalization of the first draft of the programm for the Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT (still waiting for some feedback from my advisory board!). We are still far away of having a complete speaker’s list but we have thoroughly discussed the topics for the conference (you might want to have a sneak preview at looking at this Google Doc!) – as this is the foundation to select the right cases and speakers. While researching a little for this matter I came along an older post of Susan Scrupski from the ITINSIDER blog: “Reality Check 2.0” – that she wrote in Nov last year as the on-going economic downturn had not yet reached the sentiments of the E2.0 evangelists in the US. It’s a very good analysis of the situation esp. the comparison towards former IT development like the emergence of BPM, Outsourcing or ERP during the economic crisis of the late 80s and early 90s:

Now, no disrespect to my late GenX and GenY readers and friends, but Boomers have some experience here that may prove helpful. Those of us who were engaged in the technology workforce in the late 80s and early 90s had to move fast to help our customers cut costs and work smarter. For me, that meant the birth of Business Process Reengineering and Outsourcing. For others, it meant the birth of Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP. Now, you could argue whether any or all of these initiatives actually delivered the results intended, but the fact remains: lots of software developers and consultants made a huge market in downtime adversity.

From there she argues by citation of some other E2.0 thought leaders as Mike Gotta and Stowe Boyd that E2.0 could be a chance to lead towards “business transformation” (as mentioned by Mike Gotta) or to “reinvent the Enterprise IT” (phrased by Stowe Boyd) if focused on the bottom line. Mike Gotta answered to this in a later post that it’ll be “time for ‘pragmatic due diligence’ when it comes to social software”.

As from my observations for Europe and esp. Germany I can firmly support the line that some E2.0 enthusiast need to get more realistic on what can be achieved with Enterprise 2.0. A lately discussion (unfortunately only in German) in our XING Enterprise 2.0 group shows how theoretical and therefore “soft” the discussion is about the outcome of Enterprise 2.0. But then I also have to adjust that as Europe and esp. Germany is always lagging behind the adoption of new web-based business ideas and esp. Germans are more critical about innovation the hype about new approaches never reaches that far as in the US – therefore we are probably already closer to the bottom line. But still the discussions about the potentials regarding Enterprise 2.0 are not anymore concrete than in the US. And a lot of people are looking for the savior when it comes towards Enterprise 2.0.

The last two Enterprise 2.0 FORUMs have shown that there are some reoccuring characteristics of sucessful perceived E2.0 projects that – from a qualitative perspective – might turn out to be the critical success factors. In regards to our on-going discussions about the topics of the Enterprise 2.0 programm I would therefore like to make some summing-up on these aspects:

  • Competitive ways towards Adoption: Mike Gotta brings it towards a nice point: “IT organizations usually follow a Plan-Build-Run framework that often means Plan-Build-Runaway after the system is deployed. But since many social applications are not transactional or process-specific in a traditional sense [..] it means we need to establish methods around adoption practices to gauge how people really get work done and how work models change as a result of social applications.”  IMHO social applications always rely on the momentum of the interaction of a critical mass therefore the good old P-B-R will tend to be less successful than more hands-on approaches like “think big and start small”. For this I always like to refer towards a conversation with JP Rangaswami at reboot last year (that I have unfortunately not have registered!). He explained to me that he is quite fine with people installing and trying out new applications. Choosing the right technology is a competitive approach – the winner is the solution that has the biggest impact and critical mass.
  • Leveraging the power of feedback: At the last Enterprise 2.0 FORUM Frank Schönefeld brought up a nice systematization for the feedback mechanisms of social applications. It structures the benefits of feedback on five levels (from the more concrete to less concrete) :  “social creation” (benefits from the collective intelligence and actions in creating information, cross-links etc), direct feedback (benefits from cross-linking people and information by trackbacks, comments, bookmarks and feed subscriptions), systemic feedback (benefits from new relations/interconnections between people and information) and social feedback (benefits from gaining positive feedback, authority and acknowledgement). So IMHO the success of projects tends to relate to the realized level of these feedback mechanisms.
  • Changing organizational patterns: At CeBIT there has been a nice panel discussion on the “Future Workplace” including the above mentioned Frank Schönefeld as well as Dion Hinchcliffe, Willms Buhse and Philip Vanhoutte. Moderated by Sascha Alexander (Computerwoche.de) they talked about the changes that are deriving to companies as Enterprise 2.0 and GenX/GenY are entering the workspace. The focal point of the discussion led to new organizational patterns (more remote, open and collaborative, project-based, interdisciplinary working) that have to be created within the enterprises to lever the potentials of Enterprise 2.0.
  • Being Complementary and Integrative: This is probably common sense for all IT-based activities but from the critics regarding the E2.0 hype paroles this need to be said: No one can run a business only with social applications – social applications are a supplement and enhancement for existing information technology. Therefore it needs to be integrate at some point with business applications to be business-critical in the long run.

Well – these are my 2 cents on “Enterprise 2.0” and the economic crisis. BTW – I guess I will choose the title of this post as the title of the introduction panel for the Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT. As this discussion might be a good start for the conference.