We’ve Come a Long Way — Summary of Enterprise 2.0 San Francisco 2009 Opening Keynotes

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It’s a sunny Fall morning in San Francisco, and Steve Wylie of TechWeb kicked off the first San Francisco version of the E2.0 event, talking about the changes he’s seen over the last few years. In particular, he pointed to the the rich case studies, larger vendors, and dedicated service providers that are present at today’s event as evidence of the industry’s increasing maturity.

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Tammy Erickson, President of nGenera Innovation, started her keynote with a prediction that this year will be seen as the “ah-ha” year, when organizations really started implementing Enterprise 2.0 technology. She explained that, as with every new technology, the early focus is on the technology itself, but it will ultimately lead to big changes in the the way organizations work. For example, the invention of the telephone enabled management at a distance, and the creation of head offices far from the plants and factories.

She went on to outline the changes she sees in the future:

Over the last 100 years, we’ve developed organizations perfectly adapted to prior challenges – but not the challenges of the future. The icons of the future will be those organizations that have harnessed the power of Enterprise 2.0 technology in organizations, bringing information together in powerful new ways.

The organizational structures of today’s organizations are not adapted to the new methods. We need more flexible team structures that have ability to effect change. And beyond the structures, there are a series of deeply-embedded assumptions that need to be surfaced and addressed.

For example, there’s assumed to be a tradeoff between loyalty, and protection and care. Most corporate policies – such as pension plans and promotions – are based on this. But we know as employees that we can no longer companies to protect us – but as yet, there’s no replacement pact yet to take its place. Another assumption has been about individual autonomy – the notion that “you do your job, I do mind”, and that peers don’t have any right or ability to comment on my work.

Today, almost all the unwritten rules in our organizations actually discourage collaborative behavior, and this has to change. The future will see a move to more of a “Plug and Pay” structure, where employees can come in for specific roles for which they are best qualified.

nGenera’s research shows there are ten behaviors that enable collaborative capacity:

  • Highly engaged, committed participants
  • Trust-based relationships
  • Networking opportunities
  • Selection, promotion and training practices based on collaboration
  • Organizational philosophy supporting a “community of adults”
  • Executives who create a “gift culture”
  • Leaders with both task- and relationship-management skills
  • Productive and efficient behaviors and processes
  • Clearly defined individual roles and responsibilities
  • Important, challenging tasks

Executive concerns about Enterprise 2.0 are clearly diminishing – fewer people consider it a luxury, or simply a sop to Gen-Y employees. Organizations are realizing that these are business tools that have substantial implications for the way we carry out activities.

But there’s still confusion – we lump together a very wide range of different activities and technologies under the “Enterprise 2.0” banner. The reality is that Enterprise 2.0 can take many forms – and it’s not always worth it.

So what do people mean? There are typically “ten collaborative intents”:

  1. Connect previously-unrelated ideas
  2. Access untapped people or expertise
  3. Distribute work or risk
  4. Co-create
  5. Detect emerging patterns or trends
  6. Pool judgments
  7. Determine group-wide preferences
  8. Air and debate multiple views
  9. Influence views or norms
  10. Coordinate in time and space

One of the biggest future challenges is engagement: you can’t make anyone collaborate. You don’t really know if I’m really putting forth my “best effort”. So the way we’ve learned to manage, by setting directions and controls, and monitoring success – has to change. The new management challenge will be engagement: the job of a manager is to help employees want to share, to collaborate. This requires a very “authentic” organization – one that is true to “what it means to work here”

Tammy outlined four common corporate positions today:

  • Technology-led
  • Culture-based
  • Executive-led
  • Skunk works

In each of these cases, the approach isn’t yet balanced – one of the elements dominates over the others (strategy, structure, culture, technology, or engagement) – or, in the skunkworks case, there’s only some development in each area..

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Microsoft’s presentation featured a mock “social speed date”  between Christian Finn, Director of SharePoint Product Management at Microsoft, and Alina Fu, SharePoint product manager.

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Andrew McAfee, first coined the term Enterprise 2.0 in an article in 2006, and literally wrote the book about the subject.

He agreed with Tammy that there’s been a sea-change in interest in Enterprise 2.0, and that executives have moved from skepticism to awareness, or resignation, or even some enthusiasm. But there are also some danger signs – hence the title of his presentation: “We have the opportunity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory""

First, the evidence that Enterprise 2.0 is thriving. Andrew’s favorite case study comes from the intelligence community: “if they can do it – with a strong “need to know” tradition of information sharing – then anybody can.” When he asked a member of that community what had
changed, they said:

“Philosophy used to be that if we shared information too much, people would die. But after 9/11, we realized that if we DON’T share information enough, people could die.”

Andrew pointed to the growth of case studies and organizations such as the Enterprise 2.0 adoption council as an example of the increasing maturity of the industry (plus, they have great swag!)

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Andrew quoted from various studies including one from McKinsey called “how companies are benefiting from Web 2.0”, which showed big increases in access to knowledge, to internal experts, employee satisfaction, increasing innovation, and customer satisfaction.

What are the dangers? What could we do to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Here are some common mistakes Andrew sees:

Declaring war on the enterprise. As Andrew points out, this is a really bad sales pitch – if the goal is to make the executives go away, they are unlikely to sign up for the plan. Plus, and more importantly, it’s flat-out empirically wrong – there’s still need for some hierarchy, there’s still need for management. To illustrate the point, Andrew pointed to a news story from the satirical journal, the Onion — “Marrxist’s apartment a microscosm of why Marxism doesn’t work”.

Allow walled gardens to flourish. Create mutually inaccessible silos of information. The web works because there’s “a” web, not lots of different webs. He illustrated this with a picture of walled fields from Normandy France.

Accentuate the negative. The risks are manageable, and shouldn’t be ignored, but shouldn’t stop things going forward. For example, one organization implemented a “flag” that could be set to show a potential problem – but so far it’s never been used.

Try to replace email. We’re not going to replace email any time soon. It works well for a lot of people, and in particular, senior decision-makers are happy with it, especially the “one stop shop” aspect of the inbox.

Fall in love with features. Users don’t want more bells and whistles. We have a tendency to cram in more features – but this doesn’t make it any easier to use. The phrase to retain is “what’s the simplest thing that could possibly work?”

Overuse the word “social”. The word is technically accurate, but “I’ve rarely come across a work that has so many negative associations for managers” – it sounds like “technology to organize social hour” (cue picture of Woodstock: chaos, despair, etc.)

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In the final keynote of the morning, Rob Tarkoff, VP and General Manager, Business Productivity Solutions for Adobe explained that enterprise software is failing because of the lack of attractive interfaces, and showed an example of healthcare workflow using Adobe’s solutions.