Enterprise 2.0 – so what are your next steps?

by Justin Souter on May 20, 2010


Part 4 in a series about the impact that Web 2.0 could make on the organisation / business.

In this post, I’ll attempt to synthesise some ideas about what is going on, and what it all means for you.

Ok, so here it goes re my thoughts

  1. I think there is an upcoming and disruptive challenge for organisations where the management style is top-down and hierarchical.
    1. This sounds clichéd, but if you are giving your frontline the power to interact with stakeholders in real-time, then that familiar sense of control is going to fade.
    2. Back in 2005, John Hagel and John Seely Brown published a paper called “From Push to Pull”. My recall of this article is that in future, organisations of all types will have less power to control stakeholder behaviour – instead of an advert in the local papers driving customers to your store, they are searching online and arrive briefed with details of your competitors’ offers, alternative products. The are pulling whereas before you were pushing…
    3. How can you shape stakeholder behaviour now that you can’t so easily influence it?
  2. Real-time interaction means that long-term strategic planning is more difficult.
    1. According to Henry Mintzberg (as reported by Wikipedia), he: “made a distinction between deliberate strategy and emergent strategy. Emergent strategy originates not in the mind of the strategist, but in the interaction of the organization with its environment”
    2. Surely that is more true today than it ever was?
    3. Web 2.0 tools can be disruptive, but they can also help manage the impact, viz this article from the New York Times regarding the BP oil spill.
  3. Consumer technologies have changed expectations of your workforce, and those of your stakeholders
    1. On the plus side, sharing information and knowledge is getting easier, because you can use collaborative tools to help bid teams, customer service, PR etc. to communicate.
    2. Also, your teams will probably already know how to use these tools, although there may be a digital divide in the workplace between generations – not just technological, but also in terms of mindset.
    3. If you’re not playing in this space, your stakeholders might begin to wonder why.
  4. That said, Enterprise 2.0 is not for everyone / every organisation
    1. Every technology goes through its own version of the Gartner hype cycle, and I expect Enterprise 2.0 to go through its own boom and bust
    2. Once the dust has settled from this process, then adoption will become more widespread
    3. Mainstream adoption will necessarily follow only after robust case studies of concrete business benefits are widely available and acknowledged.
    4. Some organisations will only use Web 2.0 technologies for corresponding with the outside world
    5. Others will only use it in particular business functions
    6. Some organisations / industries will still feel it appropriate to treat knowledge as power, so there will be tension to be managed where sharing meets not-sharing
    7. Even in organisations which have embraced  these new tools and mindsets, the take-up by individuals will understandably vary.
  5. Enterprise 2.0 meshes with a wider change in business, as described in the forthcoming book from Hagel, Seely Brown, and Lang Davison called “The Power of Pull”, echoes what I’ve recently read in The Economist’s survey “A special report on innovation in emerging markets

John Hagel and John Seely Brown, who run Deloitte’s Centre for Edge Innovation, argue that Western companies have spent the past century perfecting “push” models of production that allocate resources to areas of expected demand. But in emerging markets, particularly those where the Chinese have a strong influence, a very different “pull” model often prevails, designed to help companies mobilise resources when the need arises. Hong Kong’s Li & Fung or China’s Chingquing Lifan Group can use their huge supply chains to produce fashion items or motorcycles in response to demand. Taiwan’s Quanta and Compel can produce cheap computers and digital cameras for a fashion-conscious digital marketplace.

These pull models fundamentally change the nature of companies. Instead of fixed armies looking for opportunities, firms become loose networks that are forever reconfiguring themselves in response to a rapidly shifting landscape. Such models are not peculiar to emerging markets: Dell builds computers to its Western customers’ specifications, and Western management gurus have been advocating networks for decades. But according to Messrs Hagel and Seely Brown they are far more widespread in emerging countries.

What you might consider doing

  1. The mindset that is evolving could prove to be quite disruptive to those used to existing power structures and will take some getting used to.
    1. Perhaps get your managers to think about the implications at your next away-day
    2. Dip into some of the articles and books I suggested in my earlier post
    3. Ask those involved in your emerging social media effort how they think things will play out and what it could all mean
  2. Try not to ignore all this, as IMHO it’s here to stay.
    1. How about running some pilot / proof of concept efforts to prepare for things if it all takes off?
  3. Agility
    1. If push does indeed turn into pull, then your organisation is going to need to be quick on its feet.
    2. I’m not an expert on organisation forms, having studied on a limited amount on Organisational Design on my MBA, but this article on the agile enterprise pertains.
  4. Tech to support this
    1. Use what you’ve got: e.g. if you’re using Windows SharePoint Services, or Microsoft Office SharePoint Server there are tools like blogs, wikis, RSS feeds and MySite that you can capitalise on to share information.
    2. What about putting a Web Services wrapper on your existing applications so data in them can be more easily integrated with other internal, and external, applications and data sources?
    3. Instead of creating / writing applications, consider using a mashup tool like JackBe or Serena
    4. Open up your applications using tools like those from Mashery (e.g. The Guardian)
    5. Use Innovation management tools to help capture ideas and bring them to reality (the topic of a future post or two).
    6. Consider what benefits using Cloud computing can bring.
  5. Keep doing what you’re doing, and augment it with emerging technologies & mindsets
    1. I.e. existing corporate structures and cultures have evolved over a long period of time, and there are good reasons not to chuck the baby out with the bathwater, as it were.
    2. A big bang approach would be risky, and gradual change through widespread engagement is more likely to stick.
  6. Training and culture both for frontline & management
    1. Be proactive and prepare yourselves and your staff for this emerging world, and ready yourself to make the most of it. :-D

Wash up / feedback

This is clearly not the whole story, more a snapshot and a stab in an ongoing analysis of the Enterprise 2.0 situation.

Always happy to debate, amend, and add as appropriate. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Series NavigationEnteprise 2.0 – books

Previous post:

Next post: