Enterprise 2.0 integration : 12 questions to challenge existing processes

The Enterprise 2.0 conference was held in Boston in mid-June.

There are many interesting feedbacks on the topic. Most importantly it seems to emerge some kind of convergence : Enterprise 2.0 is mature enough now so we need to talk about “getting real” i.e implementing it successfully in the company.

That was the good news.

The bad news is that the best way brought forward for implementation is to integrate Enterprise Social Networks (ESN) with existing process to make the implementation successful. Oh dear.

I can understand the consultant position, tired of having the enterprise door slapped under their nose unless they are able to prove the business benefit of social networks in the enterprise. However, one can ask how relevant that is to plug ESN onto existing processes. This sounds paradoxical to me and it brings back the question of evolution Vs revolution.

In the Enterprise 2.0 book , when talking about ESN, Andrew McAfee talks about disruptive technologies, a new way to run businesses. And now we talk about plugging these disruptive technologies onto existing processes ?

My take : prior to engage in such integration, the first thing is to take the opportunity to benchmark the existing processes and see how compatible they are with ESN.

Would the Enterprise 2.0 become enterprisey ? Are we going the right path here ?

Processes definition

In the Product Lifecycle Management excellent book, Michael Grieves distinguishes Art, Practice and Processes :

Art : fuzzy inputs, develop many possible outputs without being sure how well they match the goal of the system. Organisations try to minimize Art as it is not well understood and inefficient.

Practices : Inputs are pretty well defined, so are the outputs. There is a substantial amount of judgement of past actions that go into selecting and transforming inputs into outputs.

Processes : Clear inputs / outputs. The environment in which inputs are transformed into outputs is a controlled environment. Practice’s environment is not.Why is the difference important ? Because it explains some of the reasons why we have inconsistent performance when we think we have processes.

So a definition could be : A Business Process is a set of coordinated actions to achieve a business goal and generate business value. It takes clearly defined inputs and transform them into clearly defined outputs in a controlled environment.

Are your processes 1.0 ?

Don’t get me wrong : I have nothing against processes. When they provide business value and they don’t add unnecessaryoverhead/ complexity to the daily work they’re great. Unfortunately, I have been working for more than 20 years as a knowledge worker and the vast majority of the processes I’ve been inflicted do not fall into that category.

With a tech lead perspective I am at the wrong end of the process stick : i.e the one where we use them and making sure they are applied.

What upset me the most of the time, is that people “up there” (read top management and consultants) quite often mistake these processes with the actual business value creation. My concern is getting things done well, on budget and in a great team atmosphere. It is not to get frustrated by bloated software imposed by the CTO strategy.

So here are some questions to benchmark existing processes and see how much they align with Enterprise 2.0 principles :

  1. Do they encourage cross-organisational interactions ?
  2. How aligned are they with your business objectives ?
  3. How much noise/complexity do the software tools bring to these processes ?
  4. What was the main motive behind the solution choice ? IT Strategy or usability / productivity ?
  5. How were they define ? Were they imposed in a top-bottom way ? Or did they emerge as healthy practices from the bottom up ?
  6. How can we measure their efficiency ? Is it actually measured and monitored ?
  7. Are they immutable ? Are they updated/modified/improved with user Feedback ?
  8. Do they make any sense ? Are employees/users able to explain how their contribution through these processes align with the company strategy ?
  9. Are they agile ? Do they strive for simplicity rather than creating systems that manage complexity ?
  10. Do people take ownership over these processes ? Are they glad to show them to newcomers ? Do they propose improvements ? Do they engage ?
  11. Do they provide employees with visibility on their work ? Can they contribute and get reward for it, can they build internal reputation on their contribution ?
  12. Are they built around pre-defined structure ? Do they leave room for unstructured data ?

The wrong thing faster ?

In Université du SI conference in Paris in 2008, I was lucky enough to see Eliyahu Goldratt. And he had this great statement :

“With ERP and standard processes, most companies are still doing the wrong thing, they just do it faster”.

I have a similar concern with the approach of Enterprise Social Networks integration into existing processes : are we going towards Enterprise 2.0 or doing make-up on Enterprise 1.0 to make it look cool and slightly more efficient ? i.e doing the wrong thing faster ?

Joing the social bandwagon

I have a friend who is a CTO. And he told me : “As a CTO, I’d rather be wrong together with my peers than right on my own”. CTO has already proven in the past that they would implement systems and or solutions (think the amazing cost of Java Enterprise projects failure in the early millenium) not because they bring value but because everybody does and they want to join the band wagon.

My take : they will eventually join the social network bandwagon.

Besides, in a time where Facebook makes more traffic than Google on the web, how much more proof do we need on Social Networks ability to leverage value in interconnected world ? Did we make all the ROI investigations when we installed e-mail systems into the company ? Have we measured the ROI since the inception ?

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