Putting Enterprise 2.0 into Context

Three recent posts have done a great job of showing where we are in the spread of Enterprise 2.0 —  the use of emergent social software platforms by companies to get work done.

The first is Laurie Buczek’s “The Big Failure of Enterprise 2.0 Social Business.” I know Laurie, and know that she’s been working tirelessly in the trenches for several years to bring 2.0 tools, approaches, and philosophies to the very large company where she works (disclosures at end of post). She makes a brilliant point:

Culture will change as a result of the pervasive use of social tools.  Lack of cultural change is not social business’s biggest failure.  The biggest failure is the lack of workflow integration to drive culture change.

As Laurie, I, and many others have noted, E2.0 tools today are typically not integrated with the rest of a company’s applications. So the unstructured / emergent / social work happens in a totally different digital environment than the structured / pre-defined / formal work. Orders get filled using the ERP system, while conversations about why the order’s not getting filled happen in email, IM, a wiki, and so on.

For some purposes, this is OK. Narrating your work via blogs or microblogs so that others can find you and access your expertise is a great standalone use case, as is narrating your ignorance —   asking questions to the enterprise as a whole without guessing in advance who will know the answer.

But most informal collaboration, I bet, happens ‘close to’ the formal work of the enterprise. So the digital environments that support the formal and informal work should also be very close to each other, either within the same application or across tightly integrated ones. Data and decisions (“OK, go ahead and increase the customer’s credit limit so we can ship the order”) should be able to flow easily between the systems for formal and informal work. This is not a new point, but it bears repeating for exactly the reasons Laurie mentions. Unless and until this happens, E2.0 is much less than it could be.

Sameer Patel reports back from Salesforce’s recently-completed Dreamforce conference with some encouraging news: at least some major enterprise vendors are digging in on this integration in earnest, leading to what he calls “contextual collaboration.” He writes:

But in the spirit of contextual collaboration, the implications of some of the ISV announcements at Dreamforce are just huge and amount to this:

  • A social service layer now powers process centric collaboration for critical business processes in the enterprise.
  • The Enterprise partner announcements include cloud based leaders who have their sights on the large enterprise market…
  • HR: Workday will integrate core HR processes such as approval requests, payroll, budgeting and spend with Chatter.  See Larry Dignan’s post on this. I’ll post separately about Workdays Technology Summit.
  • Quote and Proposal, and Marketing Automation: Infor, the third largest ERP vendor after SAP and Oracle will offer a 360-degree view of key processes and data such as invoice, contacts, quotes, shipments, receivables, orders, and RMAs across the enterprise. Chatter will turn these into social objects to foster collaboration.
  • Travel and Expense Management: Concur Technologies will pipe both Concur and TripIt data into Chatter for both updates and collaboration/coordination between teams on the same trip. Brian Jackson at PC Advisor has the details.
  • Supply Chain: Kenandy, the new startup shepherd by Sandra Kurtzig and backed by Ray Lane, will build a collaborative supply chain on the force.com platform and use Chatter to inject collaboration. I’m really bigon this topic. Dean Takahashi at Venture Beat had more and Frank Scavo shares seasoned insight, here.

I’m with Sameer; these have the potential to be just huge, and hope they succeed unignorably so that others follow suit.

Succeeding ‘unignorably’ here means generating tangible business value for the enterprise: raising revenue or profit, cutting cost or time. It doesn’t just mean making the business more social, humane, people-centric, and so on. In the third post I want to highlight, Rob Preston nails this point in a July column for InformationWeek in which he noted that E2.0 evangelists too often sound more like Dr. Phil than Jack Welch, and advocated a little more Welch-speak:

Part of the reason social networking tools still aren’t mainstream at most organizations is because Enterprise 2.0 is still considered more of a “movement” than a business imperative. The movement’s evangelists employ the kumbaya language of community engagement rather than the more precise language of increasing sales, slashing costs, and reducing customer complaints. They yearn to empower employees, crowdsource ideas, facilitate storytelling, nurture advocacy, and unleash passion.

Preston highlights a different approach:

John Hagel, co-chairman of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, relates how a “bunch of old guys” in the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s maintenance department took to a microblogging tool to help them solve a nagging problem: locating hard-to-find parts for buses. “It completely transformed their view of social software,” Hagel said at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference. “They drilled down and saw they could use technology to affect operating performance.”

The old guys at the MTA weren’t and aren’t Enterprise 2.0 groupies. They just wanted a better way to get important work done. The future of this “movement” hinges on it attracting many more like them.

We E2.0 enthusiasts should be concentrating on convincing the old guys that there are better ways to get work done. Hagel’s Center for the Edge has done some great work in this area by publishing quantitative case studies, McKinsey has conducted an E2.0 survey for four years running, and I’m working with AIIM on a survey and set of case studies. So the evidence is starting to accumulate. Let’s make sure that this continues, and that it continues to use words and numbers that a clear-thinking, hard-headed, busy, pragmatic business executive (Like Welch) will find compelling.

(Disclosures: I’ve been a speaker at Dreamforce, and was invited by Laurie to speak at her company)