Enterprise 2.0 - Identify problem. Determine solution. Then tools. | acidlabs
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Enterprise 2.0 – Identify problem. Determine solution. Then tools.

Enterprise 2.0 – Identify problem. Determine solution. Then tools.

Mostly… Let me explain.

There’s been some really interesting and sometime passionate discussion on the matter of Enterprise 2.0 implementation in the real world that’s taken place in the Australian blogosphere in the past few days.iStock_000002547111Small.jpg

First, my friend and colleague, Matthew Hodgson raised something of a chicken-egg question, asking the classic question from the great baseball film, Field of Dreams, “if you build it, will they come?” He followed up that post with another, very academically focussed piece on group dynamics.

Matthew adopts an approach critical of the position of well-recognised Enterprise 2.0 experts, Professor Andrew McAfee of Harvard Business School, and my colleague, Dion Hinchcliffe of Hinchcliffe and Co., that the tools themselves, inserted into the business equation at the right place and time can in and of themselves be the catalyst for organisational change – empowering employees, encouraging innovation, driving organisational change, diversifying opinion, opening channels of collaboration and freeing up knowledge all the way to the edge of the network.

He argues that essentially, due to culture and group dynamics, it is less that the tools are the catalyst and more that the organisation was already ready for a change.

Matthew’s position, argued in his posts and with me on Twitter, is that deep research into the organisational culture and group dynamic of the organisation is necessary before being able to address needs in enterprises with social computing tools. I certainly don’t disagree with Matthew. I do however, think he’s being a little prescriptive in his position.

I’ve seen, and am aware of many more cases where introducing the right tool or right twist on work practice at the right time created a flow-on effect of change for the better. It can look a little like magic when it happens and is a beautiful thing.

That’s not to say you do no research. That would be foolish. But weeks and months of research can be reduced significantly if a little willingness to experiment and engage in some safe failure and intrapreneurship are possible.

Second, Stuart French, blogging at Delta Knowledge looks at change in organisational culture as an effect of Enterprise 2.0 adoption. Stuart takes an interesting position that looks critically at Matthew’s position as well as the more encouraging position adopted by Andrew McAfee and others. I very much like what he has to say – concluding that the culture and the tools are essentially symbiotic – tools affect culture but equally, culture can influence tool choice and adoption. If the people and organisation culture and the tools are in the right place at the right time, very great things are possible.

Last, James Robertson from Step Two has a lash at real world approaches to Enterprise 2.0. James’ position is a lot closer to mine than Matthew’s. There’s a balance of have a go, business pragmatism, good preliminary and in-project research and willingness to try and fail early and cheaply.

My position in all of this, which I will present at Edge of the Web later this week is this:

  1. Enterprise 2.0 is about the tools least of all – it’s principally about people and organisations, the cultures within and among them, and introducing manageable change to those people, organisations and cultures in support of solving real problems.
  2. Done right, introducing Enterprise 2.0 to your organisation can be a massive positive step – but it must be done right. Successful implementations are seeing dramatic shifts in ability to locate expertise and information, collaborate, innovate and introduce leadership and management change. The McKinsey Global Survey released in July 2008 is a great resource on statistical data around this issue.
  3. You must do research to understand the organisation and issues, but it’s also okay to do some experimentation – drop a wiki, a blog, some collaboration tools into a team or work unit or department and see how things go. Try it with a willing group of participants. And be trying to solve a problem and not just introducing tools. Test it for a few weeks and keep going if it works.
  4. If it doesn’t work, fail early, often and cheaply – with all this experimentation, there’s some attendant risk. Be prepared to pull the plug as soon as your tests prove not to work. And make sure the client or business understands this.
  5. Do your homework – look at smilar organisations who have solved similar issues. See what they did. Track down the people involved and talk to them! Read as much research as you can to see if your problems, people and organisation “feel” like some of the research. Try something they did and go back to Step 2 (yes, this is a little humorous, but not entirely frivolous).
  6. Focus on success – consulting on Enterprise 2.0 or delivering to your own organisation isn’t about having a playground to mess with the latest toys. It’s about delivering real value and improvements to the organisation.
Stephen Collins
No Comments
  • Ari Herzog
    Posted at 10:34h, 04 November Reply

    If you are correct (which I agree) that Enterprise 2.0 is less about tools than organizations, people, culture, and mindset, then why use the term, “Enterprise 2.0,” for doesn’t the term alone symbolize a tool?

    Don’t talk to the CEO with words like “Enterprise 2.0” but with words like “business” and “culture” to achieve a more significant ROI.

  • Stephen Collins
    Posted at 11:20h, 04 November Reply

    Ari, you’re absolutely right. I don’t think I’ve ever used the term Enterprise 2.0 with a client – collaboration, innovation, learning, culture, etc. are far more useful.

    I actually spoke about this language gap at BarCamp earlier this year.

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  • Matthew Hodgson
    Posted at 08:50h, 05 November Reply

    An excellent piece Stephen 🙂

    I would reframe “is necessary” to “will yield greater business intelligence on the direction of change strategies needed that, in turn, will increase the likelihood of success for the introduction of social computing tools in organisations”.

    As you elloquently put it, “you must do research” and “do [your] homework” in order to deliver as good a ROI as strategically possible.


  • James Robertson
    Posted at 17:32h, 05 November Reply

    We’re obviously of one mind on this topic! 🙂

    It’s great to see more pragmatic discussions regarding enterprise 2.0. So many opportunities, but most will be squandered if we can’t get beyond idealism and hype…

    Cheers, James

  • Scott Gavin
    Posted at 19:49h, 06 November Reply

    You are on the money there Stephen. The people out there trying to complicate things by insisting on scientific approaches and in depth research are of the old school and the ones who didn’t implement KM the first time around. …..that sounded like a mini rant, but it wasn’t meant to be! 🙂

  • Craig Thomler
    Posted at 17:59h, 08 November Reply

    Hi Stephen,

    I’m seeing a lot of ‘push’ emerging within organisations towards collaboration tools, that wasn’t there to the same extent a few years ago.

    Within my agency, eight groups have approached me over the last two months seeking tools to allow them to collaborate within the agency or with external parties more effectively. Notable, none of these groups were aware of the others – therefore there was no aggregate need (or business case or ROI) visible at senior levels.

    All of these approaches are needs based – people are seeking better and more cost-effective ways to work together to achieve organisational objectives than via shared drives, emails, telephones and cross-country trips.

    I can picture other organisations being in a same position – a number of groups in different areas are asking for ‘Enterprise 2.0’ tools, however without a central group able to capture and aggregate these needs, each is too small to provide the ROI needed for an organisational investment.

    I recall a story I once heard regarding a large bank back in the early days of personal computing. They brought in someone to audit the use of computing technologies across middle management and discovered that hundreds of line managers had bought Mac personal computers because the Supercalc (spreadsheet) was so compellingly useful for them in their jobs.

    These purchases were not authorised by the central mainframe computing department, rather were made out of petty cash as each manager could not demonstrate sufficient need individually to have the central department take notice.

    Equally organisations now need to take a close look at their staff’s needs, begin experimenting with ‘Enterprise 2.0’ and formulate strategy, policies and business cases, using a centralised approach to provide ROI.

    Otherwise staff will find what they need elsewhere.

  • Stuart French
    Posted at 22:38h, 10 November Reply

    Hi Stephen,

    Great post. I am in the process of integrating this discussion of culture interacting with tools in my thesis (since it first came out of thinking about what I was seeing in the data).

    I have appreciated the back and forth over the last few weeks, especially with Matt, both on twitter and our blogs and I agree with most of his premises, especially that implementation of Enterprise 2.0 tools and methodologies in the wrong culture is doomed to failure…at the corporate level at least. It’s the over-riding view of culture as a single entity held or representative of the entire organisation that I tend to have a problem with because it leads to strategic decisions at an organisational level that don’t account for cultural anomalies within particular divisions or between the boundaries of the business and it’s supply chain partners.

    Where those tools are used locally to determine which tools will best suit the preferences of the team in order to meet their business needs, then I am right behind them.

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