How to evangelise Enterprise 2.0 without being called BS at

I’ve been thinking about this Scott Berkun article for a while : Calling Bullshit on social media.

This is a question I’ve always asked myself whenever preparing a blog post or a presentation on Enterprise 2.0.

Sameer Patel defines Enterprise 2.0 as the enterprise state once it has implemented social media inside the organisation. So we’re spot on the topic, and the question is how to make sure we don’t get carried away and start BSing while evangelizing enterprise 2.0 ?

Ten questions to ask yourself while preparing your homework to make sure you don’t get caught by the @berkun and the @dahowlett of this 2.0 world … And Hypertextual ten answers to convince myself I am not that BullshitCallable.

1. What is the problem ?

Organisation will not get interested in Social Media unless they understand the problem that these tools fix. So whenever evangelising social networks in the enterprise, always start with problems.

Peter Drucker taught us that knowledge and innovation are the main sources of wealth of western world economies. Managing knowledge and innovation is therefore critical to our business sustainability.

Problem #1 : 46% of the employees find what they are looking for on the intranet while twice as often they find what they are looking for on the internet ?  Is that the way we manage knowledge ? What do we do to improve it ?

Problem #2 : 65% of the CEOs admit they are disappointed with their company ability to innovate ? What do we do to improve innovation ? What are the companies we can use as examples ? What are the main principles they have in common ?

Ever since I started focussing on the topic with the Enterprise 2.0 presentation, I made sure I started with the problem enterprises were facing today. This problem issue also is the core of other Hypertextual articles such as the Elevator Pitches or the 10 questions for organisations in the interconnected world.

2. How does Enterprise Social Networks address these problems ?

While focussing on knowledge management, the first thing we have to do is to focus on knowledge capture. And Enterprise 2.0 happens to be good when it comes to capture knowledge. Wiki, blogs forums make it easy to capture knowledge. And collaborative platforms offer a single entry point to find this knowledge afterwards, regardless of the format.

Just about any studies related to innovation bring the same keys as facilitator : questions, collaboration, networking of different skills/culture/background/people, experimentation, association. Insead/Harvard Business School 5 keys of innovation study (3500 executives, 6 year study) is just an example.

While fostering enhanced collaboration, removing corporation silos and leveraging weak links, Enterprise Social Networks are innovation facilitator.

3. How do I know they do ?

I have been working in IT for 22 years. Different positions, different industries, different countries, different missions : this allow to step back on key issues such as knowledge management or how easy to implement new ideas.

The most telling example has been when I was responsible for a R&D Support team of a PLM solution in the fashion industry. PLM are complex solutions from both technical and functional perspectives. You need information, fast. You need to share it with the project team that is located thousand miles away. You need to understand your customers context and constraints to take the best decision.

In a MS Office organisation, it just didn’t work out.  So we’ve implemented a Sharepoint solution (we’re a MS house) with dedicated customer project sites to share knowledge with remote teams.

Besides, all ideas and solutions that emerged in one project could easily be shared with other project teams.

4. How can it live with the existing world ?

Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) are not the silver bullet that will help you solve all your problems while getting rid of previous generation enterprise systems (even though Swiss-re get some Enterprise 2.0 project money shutting other systems down).

Actually, the question on how to position ESN alongside other enterprise systems is a key question. Hypertextual has asked it to its interviewees.

We still need structuring systems such as ERP to run our business. People pretending the opposite are BSing you. The question is how you make control & command types of systems with E2.0 co-exist ? It all depends on the company context, culture and processes, there is no general rule apart that this is the core issue to be addressed during project implementation.

5. Where do I speak from ?

This is Pierre Bourdieu favorite question to find about the owner of any strong statement/principles. Where do you speak from ? Actually this also is an excellent question to identify politics orientated positions in the enterprise, but that will be the subject of another post.

If you’re a consultant making money selling how to implement Enterprise 2.0 systems into organisation, you have to be twice more careful. Scott’s article example is quite embarrassing for the evangelists corporation.

I personally speaks from a first level IT manager position. I want my teams to be more efficient, more innovative, more engaged, more collaborative. For me it’s a no brainer. I have SEEN the effect of using social media in the team activity. (Even though I must confess : Sharepoint didn’t really helped for the engagement bit. But I know that with the proper tool, Enterprise 2.0 fosters engagement).

7. What are the drawbacks ?

Andrew McAfee Enterprise 2.0 book does a great job describing how the risks identified up-front by Enterprise 2.0 opponents didn’t materialised.

No horror story due to too much information being shared, no security main issue, no critical information leak. To be honest we don’t know yet. There certainly are drawbacks but we don’t know.

The reason : we’re still too early in the lifetime of these tools. However, we still need to be transparent about it : there probably are drawbacks but we haven’t identified them yet.

8. Is there any failure on the topic I have learnt from ?

If Enterprise 2.0 is quite easy to envision, there is still a massive percentage of Enterprise 2.0 implementation projects that go wrong. You have to be transparent and share it with your audience. Being transparent is an excellent way to prevent being called BS at. That was the bad news.

The first good news is that Dion Hinchliffe explained why projects fail and Sameer Patel wrote about the Five Ways to avoid Enterprise 2.0 failure.

The second good news is that this is not higher than the average IT project failure rate : ZDNet reports that the latter is 68%.

7. Am I focussing on technologies, on buzzwords or on business value ?

I personally believe that selling Enterprise Social Networks on the ground that everybody has one or that there are million of Facebook/Twitter/Wordpress users is not the way to go.

Bury your readers/audience/prospects under hip acronyms, fancy technologies or shiny buzzwords probably is the best way to scare them out of the whole thing.

Back to point 1 : start with the problem, how Enterprise Social Networks fix them and, subsequently, how it will help you creating more business value.

9. What’s new about them ? How were we doing before ?

Enterprise 2.0 is not revolutionary. Just like ERP rationalize Enterprise Resources Planning by providing computerized solution, Enterprise 2.0 offers a computerized embodiment of Chris Argyris Model 2 organisational theory in used as Andrew Mc Afee remarkably identified.

Enterprise 2.0 provides an electronic framework to turn Management into Douglas McGregor Theory Y types. It helps setting up a management environment which is the one WL Gore put in place in the sixties or Cisco in the 90s.

This is no revolution : this is the implementation of alternative theories of management which go against Command & Control principles and which has an excellent and abundant track record.

10. How does it make simple and obvious sense to the company ?

Eliyahu Goldratt stated that the 3 main objectives of enterprises are to a) create value, b) make the customer happy and c) engage the employees.

Enterprise Social Networks are the Management Toolkit for the 21st century. They have proved on the web to be the most appropriate tools to leverage a continuous flow of information in order to create value.

With Social Networks and Social CRM, Enterprise 2.0 helps to establish the conversation back with the customer.

Lastly, helping making sense and making the contribution visible, Enterprise 2.0 fosters employees engagement.

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8 Comments

  1. Great great post!!
    Just asking myself, when you say “the first thing we have to do is to focus on knowledge capture”, … i’d say it’s on knowledge emergence. If people don’t share their expertize, it’s difficult to capture it of course. In E2.0 projects I know, it’s often a main issue to stimulate people to share. What do you think about this?
    tx for your post

  2. Enterprise 2.0 provides an electronic framework to turn Management into Douglas McGregor Theory Y types. It helps setting up a management environment which is the one WL Gore put in place in the sixties or Cisco in the 90s.

    This is no revolution : this is the implementation of alternative theories of management which go against Command & Control principles and which has an excellent and abundant track record.

    Thank You !! .. for stating clearly and succinctly a core issue. It needs to be said again and again.

    Hyperlinks and the Web are not going away. The social tools of which collaboration platforms consist make it easier for people to do what they always have done .. exchange information towards some objective / purpose or other.

    Theory Y etc. cultures have always tended towards more openness. Most of the resistance to change related to E 2.0 is rooted in the reluctance of execs and senior managers to opening the org’n’s culture and treating knowledge workers like adults.

    Most of what is needed to help E 2.0 thrive is readily found in the fields of OD and socio-technical systems (STS).

    Yes .. very good post.

  3. Frédéric many thanks for your comment. Man, that was fast.

    My takes : people don’t share because it has never been told to them how much important it is for the company that people share their knowledge.

    But again if you have simple and quick and informal ways to share information (Blogs, Wiki, Forums …) and to capture expertise (profesionnal profiles, enterprise social tagging, real time web à la Twitter), people will be encouraged to share (and capture) information.

    But you’re definitely are right : if you want to capture anything you have to make sure people are encouraged to share.

  4. Hi Jon,

    Thanks you so much. I am really proud that Hypertextual get such a great comment from you.

    I guess I can’t do any better than this Most of the resistance to change related to E 2.0 is rooted in the reluctance of execs and senior managers to opening the org’n’s culture and treating knowledge workers like adults.

    This is the key issue. This is why we are evangelising. To make your work, Gary Hamel’s or Isaac Getz’s known to a broader executives and manager audience.

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