FAST times with McAfee and Tapscott

Usually when I attend a vendor/product user conference, I know quite a lot about the product; this time, however, I’m flying a bit blind. I’m at FASTforward, which is ostensibly the user conference for FAST Search & Transfer, but is actually a lot more than that: billed as “the industry’s largest business & technology conference dedicated to search-driven innovation”, it piqued my Enterprise 2.0 interest when I saw a speaker lineup that includes Andrew McAfee, Don Tapscott and Tom Davenport.

For those of you reading this on my usual Column 2 blog, note that I’m also cross-posting to the FASTforward blog, where I’ve been invited to add my opinions on the conference. For my regular readers, you know that the first thing that I comment on at a conference is the wifi; I can report that there is (slightly flaky) wifi at the conference, although not throughout the hotel. As I always like to point out, tech conference organizers really have to start using open wifi as a serious criterion for selecting conference hotels.

Unlike the usual opening evening of registration and cocktail party, they’re kicking things off with a short address by John Markus Lervik, FAST’s CEO, then presentations by McAfee and Tapscott. The attendance at the conference is an impressive 1200, although I’m sure that they’re not all here yet, which has to be driven in part by the interest generated by Microsoft’s recent acquisition of FAST. Lervik welcomed Microsoft as a platinum sponsor of the conference, which elicited a good laugh from the audience.

McAfee talked about Enterprise 2.0 and what it will take to bring about a world of change. In the past year, he points out, we’ve moved beyond “what”, have some consideration of “why”, and lots of interest in “how” in our Enterprise 2.0 discussions. He went on to present a series of hypotheses about successful Enterprise 2.0 adoption: technologies, projects/initiatives, and corporate culture.

Looking at what the current tools and technologies bring to Enterprise 2.0 success:

  • Tools are intuitive and easy to use — a key to acceptance of the technology, but something that’s also difficult to achieve
  • Tools are egalitarian and freeform
  • Borders seem appropriate to users, so that it’s obvious how far specific information should be shared, and how easy it is to find other people and information
  • At least some of the tools are explicitly social, to allow people to express themselves and find others with similar interests
  • Toolset is quickly standardized

As for initiatives that foster success:

  • Incentives exist, and are soft: incentives for adopting Enterprise 2.0 are not monetary in nature, but are more about making people feel warm and fuzzy about the initiatives; this tends to be difficult in organizations that have had very different incentives and employee reward programs in the past
  • Excellent gardeners exist to accelerate the emergence of structure, whether or not they contribute content
  • Patient and dedicated evangelists exist: those spending their time popularizing the tools and techniques because they believe that they can make a difference
  • Energy and activity are primarily bottom-up
  • Effort has official and unofficial support from the top: both funding and blessings from senior levels to allow evangelists and others to work their magic, but also a mindset that that enterprise is serious about being engaged in the initiatives, such as executive-level blogging
  • Goals are clear and explained: companies have to know why they’re taking on Enterprise 2.0 (e.g., better collaboration), not just because it’s the cool new stuff

Moving on to culture, the key success factors are:

  • People are trusted; as McAfee put it, if the people in an organization wanted to distribute hate literature or pornography, they wouldn’t have waited for Enterprise 2.0 to do it, so don’t assume that providing these tools is going to cause people to change their basic nature
  • Slack exists in the workweek; recognizing this gives people the latitude to blog or create wiki content within the organization rather than appear to be busy when they’re not; organizations that measure employees only on their number of billable hours obviously won’t be aligned with this
  • Helpfulness has been the norm
  • Top management accepts lateralization, which facilitates public content being created by any level within an organization as well as its customers and partners, not just through a sanitized corporate communications process
  • There are lots of young people
  • There is pent-up demand for better sharing, and a good deal of frustration with what the current technologies don’t allow them to do

His conclusions:

  • Enterprise 2.0 is going to increase differences between companies, more clearly separating winners from losers: the winners have greater willingness to embark on innovative strategies, more sincerity of effort and greater ability to execute. Personally, I think that this is a bit of a chicken-and-egg argument: are the companies more successful because they adopt Enterprise 2.0, or do they adopt Enterprise 2.0 because they recognize innovative application of technology as a key to success?
  • These differences will be important, making companies more responsive to market and other changes, do a better job of knowledge capture and sharing, and harnessing the collective intelligence.

We then heard from Don Tapscott. I’ve heard him speak several times, including at last year’s Enterprise 2.0 conference and in a webinar last month, and there was some amount of repetition here as he discussed the new enterprise. The four drivers for change as he describes it are:

  • Web 2.0, including such underlying innovations as broadband penetration, geo-spatiality of pretty much any device that’s networked, true multimedia blurring the line between live action and animation, standards-based web services and the integration that they enable.
  • The net generation, representing a demographic revolution of kids who grew up digital without fear of technology; they spend more time on their computer than watching TV, and much less time watching TV than their baby boomer parents. Tapscott feels that they’re developing amazing mad skillz in technology, although some recent studies have shown that this just isn’t true (except maybe from the standpoint of someone who struggles with technology). What is revolutionary is how they interact with the technology, creating new social ways of doing things that we old-timers just never thought of doing.
  • The social revolution and the rise of collaborative communities like Flickr, YouTube and Facebook to beat out the old-style competition. This is a direct outcome of what I mentioned in the previous point, namely, that the net generation is creating new ways of social interaction on the web.
  • The economic revolution, full of completely new and disruptive business models, like Google and eBay: digital conglomerates building on the economics of collaboration. Business models have changed from traditional, vertically-integrated industrial-age corporations to extended enterprises to business webs to mass collaboration amongst loosely-coupled entities.

He discussed the Goldcorp case study from his WIkinomics book: Goldcorp published their secret geological survey data and offered a prize for whoever could analyze it in a way that would help them to find more gold; they had submissions from all over the world, awarded a few hundred thousand dollars in prize money, and made over $3B in new gold finds. Now that’s mass collaboration.

Tapscott listed seven different business models that harness mass collaboration, also from Wikinomics:

  • Peer pioneers (e.g., Spikesource and other open-source based enterprises)
  • Ideagoras (open idea markets, e.g., Proctor & Gamble, who have half of their innovations come from outside of the corporation)
  • Prosumers (where customers become producers, e.g., Second Life; the music industry with third-party remixes)
  • The new Alexandrians (the sharing of science, e.g., human genome project)
  • Open platforms (e.g., Amazon APIs to allow developers to create new applications on top of their platform, which now generates 1/3 of their revenue)
  • The global plant floor (e.g., Boeing creating the 787 as a peer-produced aircraft with their suppliers)
  • The wiki workplace (transforming the way that an enterprise works through the application of Enterprise 2.0 tools such as wikis for collaboration, e.g. Geek Squad product management within Best Buy)

He closed with the thought that this is a time of paradigm shift, which in turn creates a crisis of leadership: new paradigms are nearly always received with coolness, even mockery or hostility, as those with vested interests fight the change. Paradigm shifts involve dislocation, conflict, confusion and uncertainty, and demands such a different view of things that established leaders are often last to be won over, if at all. Instead, this is calling forth a new generation of leaders from the collective enterprise, with different attitudes and different skills.

My coverage of FASTforward will continue tomorrow, flaky wifi permitting; I’m off to schmooze with the other FASTforward bloggers.

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