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Is Enterprise 2.0 a Crock?
Enterprise 2.0 '09: The concept may be mainstream enough to warrant having a conference in its name, but "enterprise 2.0" still faces criticism from industry skeptics who want to see results before they believe the hype.
Posted Nov 13, 2009
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SAN FRANCISCO — Earlier this summer, ZDNet blogger Dennis Howlett wrote a piece entitled, "Enterprise 2.0: What a Crock," going so far as to call it a "big lie" that enterprises can "upend hierarchies for the benefit of all." At a panel at the recent Enterprise 2.0 conference here, six speakers -- five of whom had the word "social" or "community" in their titles -- gathered on stage to defend the honor of what may arguably be just another industry buzzword.

David Berlind, chief content officer of TechWeb, led the keynote discussion and introduced the panel as one that will not only "embrace the principles [of enterprise 2.0] in the organization...but defy the question of whether enterprise 2.0 is a crock."

The conversation sought to address five overarching issues of a 2.0 enterprise:

  • workforce transformation;
  • business process and operations;
  • intellectual property, privacy, and governance;
  • religious wars (technology/generational/bias); and
  • bottom-line business benefits.

"Right now enterprise 2.0 is creating a collaborative environment to break down organizational silos, come up with new ways of doing things, and reducing duplication of effort," said Greg Lowe, social media architect and program manager at Alcatel-Lucent. The goal, he said, was to create a more agile company, but he admitted that it's still a work in progress. Lowe's statement early in the panel, however, may have been the ammunition enterprise 2.0 skeptics needed to hear: "How do you tie to the bottom line? ...When someone figures that out, they'll make millions," Lowe said. Where companies are seeing the benefit, he said, is in time savings and increased productivity. Alcatel-Lucent has more than 70,000 employees and 2.0 technologies are enabling people to find each other more easily and connect based on similar interests and goals.

"It's easy to label technology with trendy words," said Claire Flanagan, who received the Enterprise 2.0 Internal Evangelist of the Year Award on Monday and is senior manager of knowledge managemt and enterprise social collaboration at consultancy Computer Sciences Corporation. "But in reality, [enterprise 2.0] is making it easier to solve business problems."

Jamie Pappas, manager of technology firm EMC's social media strategy, said that her company has significantly changed the way it empowers employees to make suggestions that impact the company. Changes like power-saving measures have been implemented at the request of employees, which has, in turn, helped employees feel more vested in the company. Now, instead of simply sending out a mass email, EMC opens up a company wide discussion that allows for a feedback mechanism.

Other panelists agreed, calling the technology an enabler for information sharing, all while stressing that it's not a "cure-all, fix-all." Enterprise 2.0 is making it easier for employees to learn about the business and collaborate on projects. Flanagan, who comes from the knowledge management (KM) world, recalled how KM has always been about going into a central repository to store knowledge. With enterprise 2.0, knowledge is being captured as employees work and share information. As a result, Megan Murray, community manager and project coordinator at consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, actually sees the way people work fundamentally changing as people are encouraged to increase their voice and input. In turn, she said, the company has created "a workforce that trusts the organization." As companies become more mobile and more global, enterprise 2.0 technology is helping to connect those who work remotely with colleagues and information sources. 

To put a hard dollar on the benefit of enterprise 2.0, Murray shared a particular case an individual at Booz Allen Hamilton had derived by applying an analysis to a 30,000-people "reply-all" email chain. Based on factors such as the number of replies, the time it takes to reply, hit the delete button, the number of requests for removal, the result ended up amounting to roughly $250,000. "That's a little tiny thing in my inbox...an indicator," she said, that if such a seemingly insignificant item could have that much money attached to it, how much would it be for the larger items?

Working at a consulting firm, Flanagan says that the company has been able to streamline its proposal process. Experts across the globe are more easily identified and contacted, reducing the time it takes to close millions of dollars worth of deals from months to days or even 30 minutes.

The key to getting adoption, however, isn't with just any tool. "When we piloted," Flanagan recalled, "we wanted a tool that was addictive." Galinsky emphasized the importance of getting those who will be using involved in determining what features they actually want.

For Bryce Williams, a social media consultant at pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, ignoring the shift toward a 2.0 enterprise is out of the question. "There's a culture shift happening whether you provide it or not," he said. Therefore, companies have to either provide the tools and stay ahead or, he warned, "it can get away from you." Privacy and compliance issues are always a concern but there are ways to open up the company without putting it at risk, and that typically begins by simply educating your employees.

Pappas put it more bluntly: Companies need to "stop not trusting their employees." Attempting to mitigate risk by going on lockdown is likely to be far more detrimental than just taking the time to educate employees on potential scenarios. "People who are malicious will find a way to be so regardless," added Bruce Galinsky, director of information technology at MetLife. "Show trust and trust will be returned."

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