Entrerprise 2.0 Boston 2011 : Performance, Passion and People


The 2011 edition of Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston is now over. Three and a half days of workshops, keynotes, panels and presentations in the gigantic Hynes Convention Center. A great opportunity to see how Social Software is doing in the business regardless of the industry and the type of organisations.

Sessions addressed most of the issues of the social business : the how with the workshops, the what with the keynotes (all very inspiring bar some vendor’s) and offered some lively exchanges with the panels.

It has also been a fantastic opportunity to meet the smart, lovely and passionate people of the #socbiz mob : Luis, Emanuele, Rachel, Bill, Claire, Sameer, Susan, Jim, Mary, Rawn, Jacob and Trent who was great in the role of the ingenu.

Click to read what #hypertextual 10 main themes of the conference are …

1. Mainstream

According to Andrew McAfee, the Social business is now mainstream and should reach the $US 1 Billion market size in 2012. Major vendors such as Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, Oracle or Adobe have made enterprise social software platforms a strategic offer in their products. Besides, many Fortune 500 companies have started internal projects to integrate these technologies. In a couple of years, Social Business will just be Business as everyone will have embraced social technologies by then (Paul Greenberg).

This still does not prevent organisations from having old bosses types. The amazing power of IBM supercomputer Watson could even make them dream of new forms of cubicle nation : in the wrong hands such tool could contribute even more to siloisation. McAfee warns that with the advent of these technologies, workers need to make sure they’re good at what technology can not replace them at (innovation, creativity …)

2. Solving business problem

The only justification to start a social software implementation is to fix a business problem. John Hagel, Jamie Pappas, Oliver Marks all come down to this point. What Business Problem are your trying to fix (Jamie Pappas) If it’s strategy driven it is risky. if it’s as an execution tactic to make things happen it’s easier (Oliver Marks). Using social s/w to fix clearly identified business problems is the best way to remove the barriers of entry in the organisation (J. Hagel).

You will need to convince the official cynical who have seen many such initiatives fail so the question you need to answer from this person perspective is what’s in it for me ? (O. Marks)

3. Business Performance

Despite hitting mainstream, Social Business still is looking to expand its business credibility with executives. As a result we have seen many speakers focussing on performance when talking about social business.

John Hagel probably made the best case on the topic. To start with why should we increase performance ? Because it has plummeted in the US public enterprise for the last 40 years (ROA down – 65%) mostly due to performance pressure. Amy Wilson made an interesting presentation on how to build high performance culture. Lee Bryant insisted that the only justification of social software was, eventually, to increase organisations performance.

4. Talk about the passion

So how to bring performance back in the enterprise ? John Hagel suggests that we need to bring back the passion. Social Software can serve as a catalyst for passion as it bridges the missing link between work and goal thanks to reputation and ongoing feedback (Amy Wilson). A proof : passionate people are twice more connected than non passionate people (Hagel).

Amy Wilson reminds us that while companies want to have motivated people, all they get are resources frustrated by compliance, documentation, performance evaluation, or reports.

Sarah Roberts and Marcia Conner used a pretty similar analogy in their keynote and the Business leadership Roundtable respectively. According to them, people are asked to let their brains and real selves at the entry door of the company. This is a terrible waste as we let great resources left unused.

5. The large part of the revolution has already happened

Ross Mayfield came with this rather bold statement. Considering his background, we can give him some credit. That probably is why many people I spoke with thought the conference seemed slightly unimpressed. No spectacular new concepts to get carried away, no buzz word to get us excited (gamification pronounced once, enterprise consumerisation or Big Data twice). That probably is the proof that the solution and the evangelists have matured.

Yet there still are some areas where the great laboratory of the web can produce ideas we can import behind the firewall. Whatever the idea, Ross insists that the main issue is to make sure we make it in the flow of work. Knowledge management failed because it was a side activity. This is the strength of social software : KM is a by-product of it. People get discovered through content and content through people : this is a powerful pattern.

6. Creating Value from Social Data

This is one of the point mentioned by McAfee during Lotusphere : there is a social goldmine in the amount of social data that is getting built in Enterprises 2.0. Lee Bryant made a one of the most inspiring keynote of the conference on the topic, saying that social data analytics is about specific insights if you do it well.

It does not matter how Big the data is, the important thing is to immerse in the data rather than studying microcosm activities via reports. In addition this data analysis culture has to be spread throughout the whole organisation as opposed to stay in Marketing. Lastly analytics without action are just rear view. We need to align them with goals and strategies to achieve business performance.

7. It’s not (not) about the technology

Most speakers keep on pretending this is not about the technology. Kevin D. Jones made a great presentation related to Social Business implementation failures. As a standard enterprise system implementation, the usual figure of 70% of project failure has hit social business projects. Two of his top 10 reason of failure are to think either that It Is Not about technology and It’s all about the technology.

This has inspired a provocative question by Dr McAfee to Marcia Conner during one of the panels : if the technology has made the social advent possible how can it not be about technology. Jamie Pappas reported that EMC has made their social software platform business critical which would tend to emphasizes that point. My conclusion : it’s not NOT about the technology.

8. Community at the core of the process

Communities are the cornerstone of the social business strategy. tools aren’t what drive adoption. Communities drive usage. Provide growth opportunity in those communities to drive retention (Luis Suarez).

Relationships and culture are the only sustainable advantage (Rachel Happe). The same Relationship whose R has disappeared from Customer Relationship Management, as reported in the great keynote by Sameer Patel. The great advantage of communities is they provide human scalability in a time where we are overwhelmed by the quantity of information. Communities goe beyond social media engagement as they provide relationship based engagement (Rachel Happe in one of the best presentation of the conference).

It’s important not to go on the cheap with Communities as this is a risk of failure (Kevin D. Jones). Community Management requires dedicated planification from UI definition all the way to launch planning. As Trishia Liu said For Community Management  you need to plan hard and then manage easy.

9. It’s not only knowledge workers : it’s all of them

This is a quote from Lee Bryant Tweet stream and he’s absolutely right. I used to define enterprise 2.0 as the empowerment of knowledge worker. During the Workshop Black Belt practitioner moderated by the irreplaceable Susan Scrupski, Andy Carusone made en incredibly engaging presentation (which had the #e2conf stream burning) on how they embraced Social Software at Lowe’s.

The reason why Lowe’s jumped into the Social Business is that Amazon ranks now #3 in the DIY business and the market is completely changing. All employees of the DIY giant are involved and are using the tool for great benefits including multi-million dollar stories generated by the initiative of front line people.

10. Power to the people and credit to the girls

Sandy Carter was disappointed with the limited number of female keynotes speakers (only 2 out of 12). I would tend to agree : from my perspective, most inspiring quotes have come from female speakers. Sarah Roberts, Rachel Happe, Jamie Pappas, Marcia Conner, Amy Wilson, Ming Kwan, Debra Lavoy or Claire Flanagan they all made excellent appearances.

In the flat world, processes, compliance, transactions and structured data no longer suffice. In order to get competitive advantage and achieve business performance, organisation need innovation, collaboration, empowerment, passion, relationships : all these key elements can’t be forced and can hardly be systemized.

The social business is a subtle science that is more about soft skills than about tech skills (Jamie Pappas). This is the reason why the girls are thriving in Enterprise 2.0 and are able to tell when a social project implementation will succeed on one criteria : the sense of purpose (Debra Lavoy).


  1. Thanks for the great synthesis Cecil. I wasn’t there and find this quite helpful.

    #8 is an important point that many people are only now starting to realize. This is a great case study showing how E2.0 and social intranets aren’t just for knowledge workers: http://bit.ly/l5UCcD

    I think when social tools give every single employee a voice and a face, we start to realize that virtually all workers are knowledge workers of some sort – any employee can have critical information or ideas.

  2. Hi Ephraim, thanks for the comment. Hey I’ve fixed the numbering so the number you’re mentioning is number 9. Atually it didn’t struck me until this conference and you’re right on your last point.

  3. Great coverage of the conference, Cecil! Thanks for the mention, and for covering sessions I wasn’t able to attend! Wonderful to see your take on the presenters and sessions! Hope to see you again next year!

  4. Hi Jamie,

    Thanks for your comment and for your presentations at the conference. It was nice meeting you all guys. Hope I can make it next year as well.


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