Putting Enterprise 2.0 into Context

by Andrew McAfee on September 6, 2011

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)

  • http://ourfounder.typepad.com Jim Benson

    Is it just me … or is problem here that we’re focusing on tools without purpose?

    I have never found any resistance in any organization I have worked with to Enterprise 2.0 technologies. None. The “Old Guys” are often at the front of the line.

    I have found considerable resistance to change without context.

    So the answer to your conundrum is simple. Stop focusing on Enterprise 2.0 and start focusing on actual business needs. People will eat all the wikis, yammers, and other tools you can feed them – as long as they are part of a coherent meal plan.

    The future of work will certainly rely on these new technologies – no one disputes that. It also relies on changing ideas of teamwork, collaboration, and leadership. 

    One of my big concerns here is that Enterprise 2.0 becomes a movement with baggage and rhetoric which turns it in to a buzz word and then truly does make it hard to get it accepted.

  • http://www.itsinsider.com itsinsider

    On an editorial comment, I might ask, where have the clear-thinking, hard-headed, busy, pragmatic business execs got us in the past decade?   GE may be the exception, but I understand they’ve been working socially for a long time. Like the language or not, a social revolution will *inspire* us… it will unleash the innovation, intrapreneurship (as @elsua:disqus  says), passion, and enthusiasm that intelligent, creative people have always needed to ignite growth.

    The massive team worldwide (everyone you’ve cited here, including yourself) will figure out how to package, explain, sell, and deliver the business cases to the “old guys” to bring #e20 to fruition.  Like I told Sameer on G+, you’re smart; you’ll figure it out.  In the meantime, don’t discount the soft side of this sell.  I don’t recall any evangelistic alter calls for BPR or ERP.  But the innovation that was unleashed at the end of the 90s due to the commercialization of the Internet, began the sweeping world changes that we are all enjoying today.  

    Drink the Koolaid.  There’s no poison in it, and it tastes good.  Not sure I could say the same for other home brews cooked up by management cult leaders of yesteryear. 

  • http://twitter.com/robcaldera Rob Caldera

    I agree that workflow integration of social tools will be pivotal for organizations to reap the full benefits of Enterprise 2.0, as pointed out in Laurie Buczek’s excellent piece you referenced. However, I’m not convinced that E2.0 enthusiasts should focus on just the “Jack Welch approach” when trying to convince execs and employees (especially those old guys) that there are better ways to get work done.

    The old approach of selling a new system internally was to use the FAB model (sell the features, advantages, benefits), which were always tied to business outcomes. While some of this will always be needed, execs and employees have tired of hearing about the next great benefit of the next big system. These messages typically fall on deaf ears these days. To win the hearts and minds of employees when it comes to Enterprise 2.0 you need to wrap elements of FAB in a larger, inspiring story. And if there’s one business approach that’s perfectly suited for inspiring a dejected workforce (of which there’s many these days), it’s Enterprise 2.0.

    As @itsinsider:disqus noted, there weren’t many clarion calls of inspiration that followed the introduction of BPR or ERP, or other business fads for that matter. Sure, one could get excited over the potential of BPR or CRM when they were first introduced (I did), but none of that had the passion, zeal, and inspiration I see the Enterprise 2.0 crowd bring. We need to tap into this and tell stories about changing the world of work, especially with Gen Y becoming a larger part of the workforce every year (business as usual is not what they want to hear). The benefits, and the increased sales numbers will be there in the message, and we need to communicate that along with a clear roadmap of how to get there, but if we don’t appeal to our emotional sides Enterprise 2.0 will just become another business buzz word. This might sound like rhetoric from another Koolaid drinker, but hey if it’s healthy for the organization then it certainly ain’t Koolaid!

  • http://twitter.com/RichardRashty Richard Rashty

    Getting work done using a social construct will not drive change at a macro level without clearly defining at the micro level how each employee will benefit from this new way of working, unless the individual accepts and understands the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) angle, leveraging or integration of a social platform could become another tool, which leads to confusion…and in some cases rejection of the socially-driven culture.

  • http://www.alchemyofchange.net/ Gideon Rosenblatt

    Nice post, Andrew. I interpret this problem a little differently. 

    The systems we use to manage our relationships eventually transform into the systems we use to collaborate with those relationships. 

    I’m not talking about the systems the company uses to track employees; I’m talking about the systems that employees use to manage their relationships. Most of these have some form of directory or other type of database of contact names at their center. Microsoft Exchange is one example, and our unstructured email collaborations clustered around that. Now much of that unstructured conversation is happening through another form of contact databases, the social graphs of services like Twitter, Facebook and now Google+. 

    I think that all the momentum we’re seeing around the Salesforce platform is a direct result of this same phenomenon. Salesforce has built an extremely useful platform for hanging business process off of a database of relationships. Sure, in the beginning most of those names were customers, but companies are increasingly seeing that it makes sense to keep *all * of the firm’s relationships in one place – and that includes employees. 

    Salesforce allows firms to track and restrict access to ‘social objects’ in a fine-grained manner based on the firm’s relationships with individual people – something that is missing from Google Docs and Microsoft Office. They’re missing critical organizational context such as my reporting structure, the projects I’m working on, the customers assigned to me and other information that affects what I should – and shouldn’t – have access to and with whom I should – and shouldn’t – share it. That’s all information contained in the CRM, and it’s that organizational context – connected to a system that helps employees manage their own relationships that is most interesting here. Chatter is interesting because it hangs unstructured communications off of that structured database of relationships. That’s what accounts for the real value of Chatter, and why all these vendors are integrating with it.  

    I think that what we are seeing is the hollowing out of E 2.0 tools, as more and more of their functions migrate to the CRM. We will eventually drop the “C” and just refer to it as “RM” and we will connecte more and more of our business processes to that system over time because … the systems we use to manage our relationships eventually transform into the systems we use to collaborate with those relationships. 

    Also, for what it’s worth, I agree with you about being more rigorous when we talk about collaboration, but understanding those soft, kumbaya aspects of the system are the deal breaker. Get that wrong, and the tools simply get no uptake. Thanks for all the good material you’ve been writing, by the way.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the mention of my work and continuing the conversation!  I really like your thoughts around the proximity of the digital environments.  “So the unstructured / emergent / social work happens in a totally different digital environment than the structured / pre-defined / formal work” – exactly!  Once again, your thought leadership is spot on.

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    http://www.entreprise-numerique-creative.eu

    Best regards

    Tru Dô-Khac

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