Enterprise 2.0: The case for starting small

If you're asking, "Is Enterprise 2.0 right for my firm?," you're asking the wrong question.

Inmagic –

Enterprise 2.0 holds immense potential for organizations looking to foster sharing and collaboration, improve knowledge transfer and retention, increase productivity, and drive organizational effectiveness. Enterprise 2.0 encompasses the social technologies, strategies, and processes that provide agile collaboration and information sharing across an organization. And it is a market that's still in its infancy.

[ Enterprise 2.0 changing the way we work ]

As such, business leaders are taking a hard look at Enterprise 2.0's promised benefits to determine whether it's appropriate for their organization. But if you're among these professionals asking yourself, "Is Enterprise 2.0 right for my firm?," you're asking the wrong question.

A better question to ask is, "Is Enterprise 2.0 the right solution for a problem or objective my firm has?" If you can answer that, you are well-positioned to identify whether, and how, Enterprise 2.0 can help. This is because Enterprise 2.0 is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It must take into account business culture, regulations, policies, and procedures.

More importantly, it must focus on the business problem at hand. And this varies across enterprise departments and teams. For instance, the challenges facing a consumer goods sales team are not shared by those facing the firm's product development team. While salespeople are tasked with growing their lead pipelines and closing business, product developers are focused on bringing their products to market.

An Enterprise 2.0 solution must be tailored to address these varying challenges. So rather than propose Enterprise 2.0 as a solution to general, corporate-wide problems regarding collaboration, knowledge management, productivity, and efficiency, focus on a specific use case. Here's the case for starting small.

Addressing a pain point drives adoption. Individual departments and teams have a deep understanding of their business problems and goals. Team members have an intimate history of trying to solve the problem, and know what approaches have helped and hurt their cause. Because of this, they can more readily identify how Enterprise 2.0 can address their pain points, and determine a strategy to achieve their business objective. When a generic solution is thrust upon a team, and its members have myriad tools at their disposal, there is often confusion about what tool to use, and how and why to use it. Benefits are not readily apparent, and adoption is less likely and will take longer.

Enterprise 2.0 is intrinsically a grassroots initiative. A popular school of thought says that an organization's executive leadership must share a common strategic vision to effect E2.0 change enterprise-wide. Their support will drive Enterprise 2.0 across the organization. This thinking can be flawed. While executive support is important, the groundswell is crucial. This is the crux of Enterprise 2.0. It's designed to be "by users, for users," those with the boots on the ground who are creating, using, and sharing knowledge. Many successful Enterprise 2.0 projects are beginning as grassroots efforts that bubble up throughout the organization, and become formally adopted later. They're started by employees who have a commitment to and passion for Enterprise 2.0, and champion it throughout their organization.

Enterprise 2.0 needs "confined freedom." Similar thinking states that management should formalize Enterprise 2.0 responsibilities, and assign specific roles to key employees who will drive adoption. But this can calcify the system. Encumbering a new Enterprise 2.0 initiative with formal policy and procedure tends to crush creativity and innovation. Dually noted, however, that too much freedom can diminish focus and derail the Enterprise 2.0 initiative. But organizations can foster support by allowing freedom within a small box, that is, applying it to a specific problem. Freedom to act within a tight-use case brings out creativity and energizes a team to create early success. This serves as a launching pad for other teams in the organization to learn and grow from.

Social Security. As it relates to all of the above, it would be naïve to think that most organizations won't want some control over Enterprise 2.0 strategy - there are just too many restrictions, regulations, and constraints within most organizations to allow a social free-for-all where anyone can deem themselves an expert and update content. But with a designated administrator to provide control over who, when, what, and how an Enterprise 2.0 solution is managed, content and information retains its veracity and value, and the grassroots adoption can continue to thrive.

Theoretically, once an organization has one success, the next one comes faster and easier. That's why organizations should hit for singles, because runs will come. Swing for the fences, and you're more likely to fall on your face. The fact of the matter is, Enterprise 2.0 might not be right for your entire firm. But it might be right for a particular problem your firm has.

Phil Green is CTO of Inmagic.

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