Positioning with other IT systems: the liquid nature of Enterprise 2.0
February 25, 2010
Emergent Social Software Platforms (ESSP) are now at the doorstep of the enterprise. The question one may ask is : how does it fit alongside the already existing Enterprise IT systems.
Companies have spent a fortune during the last 10 years implementing business critical Enterprise wide systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Supply Chain Management (SCM) or Product Lifecycle Management (PLM). Yet another system could be seen as a risk for the balance of the whole company IT strategy.
In his enlightening book on PLM (Product Lifecycle Management, Driving the Next Generation of Lean Thinking) Michael Grieves proposes a map to illustrate the positioning of PLM together with the main business critical IT systems.
This blog post extends this map and propose a perspective on Enterprise 2.0 platforms positioning.
Enterprise 1.0 systems
On Michael Grieve’s book map, the Y axis identifies the different functions and activities of the company while the X axis identifies the different domains of knowledge.
I like this diagram because it is simple yet powerful and illustrates the orthogonal positioning of ERP against PLM, SCM or CRM. It shows where and how these different systems interconnects. (Comment from a me as a PLM professional : PLM/ERP integration looks simple here but I tell you, you don’t want to see the gory details of the real life software integration, that’s not pretty).
(Click to enlarge)
It is revisited because there is a key area that these systems do not cover : tacit knowledge. So to make it more representative I’ve slimmed their width down to explicitly show that, in real life, they don’t fully fill their column (PLM, SCM, CRM) or lines (ERP) as in the original Grieves diagram. The missing portions are the uncaptured tacit knowledge units.
Enterprise 2.0 systems
As Andrew McAfee notices in his Enterprise 2.0 book, most of these systems are focussed on controlling and monitoring closely the activities of knowledge workers. They have very clear boundaries and a strict scope of responsibilities.
ESSPs are completely different animal. While ERP, PLM, SCM or CRM have strict boundaries, ESSP are open systems whose usage may evolve as per user needs. In other words, rather than forcing user to adapt to them, ESSP adapt themselves to the usages of the knowledge workers.
This provides a liquid nature to ESSPs that helps them to seep in and fill up any gaps left by other systems. ESSP don’t have a predefined shape, they just take the shape of their container. Here the container is the scope of business activity and knowledge of the enterprise. More precisely, the scope that IT systems have captured and manage.
The gaps ESSP are filling have a name : tacit knowledge. Michael Grieves book explains so clearly how tacit uncaptured knowledge can hurt the implementation project of such system as a PLM. Hypertextual already wrote on the great ability of Enterprise 2.0 systems to capture tacit knowledge.
The second ESSP core feature that contributes to this liquid nature is communities. ESSP make it easy to build communities which, in the enterprise context, are built around common areas of knowledge, business expertise, and professional know-how. These communities juxtapose different types of experts (technical, marketing, sale, integration) on a specific domain. This allows to build multi-dimensional expertise in very confined and otherwise unreachable locations in the company activity and knowledge map.
The different communities of expertise are illustrated in the diagram below as contiguous boxes.
(Click to enlarge)
Obviously, at ESSP launch time, the whole map will not be filled but it will eventually overtime, as valid data and information is fed into the system and the liquid spread into the whole enterprise knowledge frame.
So what is the positioning of ESSP alongside other enterprise systems ? Knowledge gap filler to offer a conductor environment for ideas and information to propagate on an enterprise-wide scale.
How would you position ESSPs alongside enterprise systems ?