E2.0 Conference Panel: Is Enterprise 2.0 a Crock?

At the Enterprise 2.0 conference in San Francisco today, David Berlind hosted a session called “is Enterprise 2.0 a Crock”, drawing inspiration from Dennis Howlett’s Enterprise 2.0 – What a Crock post, and Andrew McAfee’s riposte: Enterprise 2.0 is a Crock: Discuss.


The panelists were all members of the 2.0 Adoption Council (from left to right in the photo above) Greg Lowe of Alcatel-Lucent, Megan Murray of Booz Allen Hamilton, Bryce Williams of Eli-Lilley, Jamie Pappas of EMC, Bruce Galinsky of MetLife, and Claire Flanagan of CSC.

Here’s a resume of the panel’s responses to David’s questions (captured on the fly, so typically not verbatim quotes)

David: How has Enterprise 2.0 been transforming your organizations?

Greg: We’re in the process of changing from a waterfall organization to something more agile. But right now, we don’t have the processes and tools in place to support that. Our work in the enterprise 2.0 space is to break down the silos and let people come up with new ways of working, and reducing duplicate efforts.

David: But shouldn’t you have done this before anyway? What’s different?

Greg: It’s true that change agency is nothing new – but now we have tools and technologies to support these people. We’re a 70,000 person organization, and it’s now easier to find and work with other change agents.

Claire: These tools are making it easier to solve the business problems.

Bruce: At Met-Life, it’s an enabling set of technologies. It allows people to allow new things and work in different areas. We couldn’t do that before, we were pigeon-holed, and we couldn’t share what we were doing.

Claire: It’s not an incremental technology. I came from knowledge management, and you used to have to go to those tools. These new technologies are letting people do something directly in their workstream, which I think is much more important.

David: How does the technology transform the workforce? What does that even mean?


Megan: The workforce is already being transformed. We expect more as employees: more input, and more recognition, and we want to collaborate. That’s already happening — these technologies are just allowing us to do these things better, faster. As organizations, we’re trying to be as open and agile as possible about what these technologies can do.

David: Doesn’t a big cultural shift have to take place to use these tools?

Bryce: At Eli Lilley, we were interested in working more closely with our customers, using Web 2.0 technology, but there was a lot of trepidation and regulatory concerns. So we’re building our social competencies internally, using Enterprise 2.0 to lead to web 2.0 and more engagement with our customers.

David: Should it be top-down, or bottom-up?

Jamie: At EMC, we started bottom-up, with folks that wanted to start evangelism. But we also needed to find executive sponsors. One of the fallacies we see is that it’s a cure-all, fix-all type of transformation. It’s just an enabler, but you need advocates across the organization.

Bruce: It’s a tool like any other. We need to do our jobs quicker, and we can’t do that unless we’re collaborating more quickly.

David: How does it relate to business process?

Claire: I think it’s about business process and the changing nature of our workforce. We have lots of people who are working in home offices and client offices across the globe. It’s hard for them to get the answers they need. These tools are like a virtual office for them. The technology is an enabler for collapsing time-zone and distance problems.

David: How does it relate to people?

Megan: Regardless of the technology, there’s always people involved. The wide variety of tools we have can be used smartly – surveys instead of somebody hosting a forum, etc.

David: Does E2.0 bring anything other than community? Have we hit the wall?

Megan: I think it’s baby steps. Compared to 2006, it’s leaps and bounds. Many more opportunities now.

David: What about governance and compliance?

Bryce: We can’t not do it – we’re such a group of ambitious knowledge workers. There are some employees who say “I can do this in the external world, and I’m creative, so I’m going to find a way to do it”. The danger is that company data goes outside the fire wall. We need to herd the cats and help provide people with the right tools.

David: It’s about opening things up, but that works against governance, lots of information has to remain private – how do you handle that?

Megan: We’re working on participatory governance. We have all the basic stuff in place. But in addition to that, we’re talking about getting participation from the groups that have skin in the game. So if we have an HR problem, there’s an HR community that can handle it.


Jamie: I think organizations have to stop not trusting their employees. You can take two approaches – you can lock everything down, or we can say “your responsible people, here are the policies”, and approach things as they happen.

Bruce: If people are malicious, they will do something no matter what. We should watch and look.

David: But there’s a real material risk!

Bruce and Jamie: But there is that same risk right now…

David: But the tools make it easier, harder to lock down…

Jamie: People have common sense, they really do.

Megan: It’s about accountability and visibility. “I can’t stop you from being stupid, but I can highlight it when you are stupid.’” There’s a lot of power in empowering people.

David: What about technology “religious wars?”

Jamie: It’s not about the technology, it’s about the people. We use the 80/20 rule – is it intuitive and easy to use? If so, we can springboard off of that.

Greg: The European view very different from the US view. They’re ahead in open source. That kind of creates a different market.

David: But this isn’t new?

Greg: No, but the conversations are a lot more open now.

Megan: There’s a generational bias. Some people are naturally “revolutionary”, and scare the people in charge – and we get caught in the crossfire.

Bruce: We have some areas that use Microsoft, some that use IBM, and some areas that are going to do their own thing no matter what. If there happen to be two tools, oh well – there are certain things you can fight, and other things you can’t.

David: What about ROI?

Greg: How do you tie better collaboration to the bottom line? We can save time finding answers, etc. and you can do some correlation, and that’s your cost savings or productivity increase.

Megan: We use one story: we had many huge email threads, with everybody on copy. Somebody took the longest thread, put in some values for how long it would take to pay attention to each email compared to a wiki, etc. and worked out that it “cost” up to $250,000… And if something as small and insignificant as a “reply all” can have a big dollar amount, what about the big stuff?

Audience question: I think one of the opportunities is “better decisions”. They can be made in lots of different ways — through consensus, etc. and this technology can help do it better – any thoughts?

Jamie: We’ve been doing some cost-cutting at EMC, and that’s always very painful if it’s top-down. So our management asked “what would you do?”. We had lots of suggestions: sensors in conference rooms, changes to cell phone policies, etc. And when these things come from employee suggestions, people are a lot more vested. And we’ve had other changes that weren’t popular, but now there’s at least a forum for people to communicate their reactions. In some cases, the executives have said “yes, that was a bad move, next time we’re going to do it differently” – and that’s very empowering.

David: Within TechWeb, we had a public conversation about how to improve our virtual events. We have tons of groups running their own events. We’ve been able to prevent the wrong decisions – repeating the mistakes that others have already made.

Audience question – You’re clearly not IT people — you’re too enlightened! I think Enterprise 2.0 has its roots in the new interfaces of Web 2.0. I know lots of “real” IT people would say the interface is not the important part, it’s the underlying systems. How important is user interface, do you think?

Bryce: The power comes from the critical mass of participation, and if what we’re trying to do is in lots of different locations, or hard to use, people just go back to their overflowing inbox. So yes, the user interface is very important.

Claire: I think you hit on something very important. If you don’t select the right tool, something that’s easy to get started with, the users are going to vote with their feet and do something else. Our job, when we look at these tools, is to keep this in mind. There are lots of factors: technical, compliance, cost factors, but usability is very important. One of the things we wanted to try in our pilot was whether or not the technology was “addictive”

David: So should the users help choose?

Megan: We’re using a scrum methodology, and we’re actively involving the users, so yes!

Bruce: We have an innovation center, and the employees help us make the deployments better. We started with the IT department, in fact.

Greg: It’s a little like having an internet startup. You need to engage people, make it “sticky”

Claire: We started with a wiki a few years ago. It was a great first step, but people had to use wiki notation, etc – so this actually became a barrier to full-scale collaboration. So we wanted something that made this easier. We could only get so far with the previous tool, because it was too hard to use.

Jamie: It’s not about “IT push”. It has to have the users invested in it.

Question from audience: You said managers have to trust employees more – any practical suggestions on how to do this?

Jamie: We deliberately didn’t “over engineer” – we opened things up internally, and nothing bad has happened, no users or content had needed to be removed. We tend to assume that you have to lock it down before bad things happen. But you can educate instead of prohibit.

Bruce: And you get more trust if you show trust

Bryce: There was lots of talk about different approaches to this at the beginning. One person ended up setting up his own microblogging platform on a server under his desk, and had thousands of users. It made it’s own business case, and he’s been able to show that there was no problem with content.

David: Web 2.0  is also about machine interfaces, mash-ups etc. Are you seeing that?


Megan: In our environment, not a lot, yet. All the information we use coming from our systems.

Question from the audience: Referring to the original article that generated this discussion, I think the author wasn’t impressed with the soft process improvements. His point was that at a macro business level, they’re just incremental. Can I take up his question: Is anyone able to share any real hard business process changes? product development, innovation, etc?

Claire: As a consulting organization, we’ve been able to document how our proposal processes have changed, to find experts and close deals much faster.

Jamie: Our competitive group has adopted our tool as the one place that they communicate everything, so that has transformed how our sales force gets information – that’s the first place they go now. Also, we have an annual innovation conference, and we’ve been able to open up submissions to the whole organization, which has been a huge win, both for content and engagement.

Bruce: We have to create an IT factbook on a regular basis, and it was a painful manual process. Now we have a wiki and letting the relevant people fill it out.

Claire: We have a group set up for excel tips and tricks – and this was very successful, an incredible network of people, and that translates into an everyday process. When you think about hard dollars, they’re there.

Megan: It’s speed to resolution. We’re expanding, and we want to become a more dispersed company, and we need the tools to support that.

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  3. Hi Timo,

    I made a very serious attempt to bridge the perspectives in my blog post entitled “Is Enterprise 2.0 a Savior or a Charlatan? How Strategy-Driven Execution can pave the path to proving legitimate business performance” located here: http://bit.ly/3n325o

    I would certainly welcome your feedback and look forward to a continued dialogue around the topic.

    Best Regards,


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