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The 5 Potholes on the Road to Enterprise 2.0
Enterprise 2.0: Andrew McAfee, the man who coined the term "Enterprise 2.0," says the key to the transition involves sharing, not scaring.
Posted Nov 13, 2009
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SAN FRANCISCO — Famously known as the man who coined the term "Enterprise 2.0" — and the author of a book by that title being published this month — Andrew McAfee is also principal research scientist at the Center for Digital Business at MIT Sloan School of Management. At the Enterprise 2.0 Conference here last week, McAfee's keynote presentation — "What E2.0 Champions Are Doing Right...and Wrong" — discussed the advantages of creating a 2.0 environment, but warned of the risk of being overzealous.

Recalling on stage an event he also chronicles in his blog, McAfee described a dramatic reversal by the United States Intelligence Community (IC) following the events of September 11, 2001. One of the IC's new objectives, according to McAfee, was to "improve information integration and sharing." In other words, he writes, "the IC has officially shifted its policy from the ‘need to know' to the ‘responsibility to share' information." The commitment to sharing information, he adds, is "a necessary condition for real change."

According to a global survey by consulting firm McKinsey & Co., companies are already seeing both internal and external benefits of Enterprise 2.0 technology. McAfee warned the audience, however, that McKinsey's survey specifically queried the 2.0 champions within the companies — a pool of respondents that may share a decidedly biased view. Despite what some may have seen as a methodological flaw, McAfee argued that McKinsey's results are nonetheless substantial, with the responding companies citing the following internal and external areas of improvement:

Internal

  • access to knowledge (30 percent median improvement);
  • access to internal experts (35 percent median improvement);
  • employee satisfaction (20 percent median improvement); and
  • increasing innovation (20 percent median improvement).

External

  • increasing customer satisfaction (20 percent median improvement); and
  • increasing innovation (20 percent median improvement).

These numbers are encouraging, McAfee said, adding that the positive outcomes appear to be a worldwide phenomenon with surprisingly little difference between regions. "If we haven't already achieved victory," he said, "then we're on our way to that."

Even if McAfee's right, and we really are on the right path, there are some significant potholes in the road — a fact McAfee is all too quick to point out on his own: There are five pursuits in particular, he said, that — despite their apparent support of Enterprise 2.0 adoption — are actually great hindrances:

Declaring war on Enterprise 1.0: No organizations want to be told they've got to scrap everything they've built, McAfee said, so this approach is not only a faulty sales strategy, but it's "dead-flat empirically wrong." There's no justifiable argument for throwing out the structure, hierarchies, and policies of Enterprise 1.0. And McAfee's not alone in this view: In an afternoon breakout session, Dan Keldsen, cofounder and principal at consultancy Information Architected, warned against "bashing the 1.0 world." Knowledge management works, Keldsen said, but, as with any technology, has to evolve. "Don't reinvent things you don't need to," he said. Instead, identify the elements that no longer fit with emerging business objectives and specifically target those elements for improvement or replacement.

Allowing walled gardens to flourish: The Internet allows people to transcend silos and access information more easily, McAfee said -- so don't isolate or restrict that intelligence within corporate silos.

Accentuating the negative: Talking too much about the the negative repercussions of going 2.0, McAfee said, is not the best strategy to encourage adoption. Instead, prove success with success -- talk about the benefits and share positive outcomes. (To that end, the Enterprise 2.0 Conference presented its Internal Evangelist of the Year Award to Claire Flanagan, senior manager of knowledge management at Computer Sciences Corp., a provider of enterprise social software strategy -- the first time the award has gone to an individual. Meanwhile, at the conference's East Coast event this past June, Booz Allen Hamilton won the Open Enterprise Innovation Award for its hello.bah.com social enterprise platform.)

[Editors' Note: A video of Walton Smith, information sharing program manager at Booz Allen Hamilton, describing the origins of hello.bah.com, from the Social Media for Government Conference and uploaded to YouTube in March 2009, can be found here.]

Trying to replace email: The fact that the 2.0 enterprise is expanding what people share in a public space doesn't mean email needs to be done away with, McAfee told the crowd — so stop trying! People are accustomed to email now — in fact, McAfee said, they prefer it. As evidence, he displayed a picture of smartphone addicts fervently checking email on their BlackBerrys.

Falling in love with features: McAfee scoffed at the notion that the world might truly want more bells and whistles. What users really want, he said, is the simplest thing that works.

Overusing the word "social": For line managers and corporate executives, McAfee said, the word "social" has acquired a negative connotation. They're wary of what will be unleashed once work and play come together. McAfee said that line managers opposed to the idea of adopting a social solution will often express a similar sentiment: "I'm not running a social club," these change-averse managers will say. "I'm running a business."

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