Enterprise 2.0 Reality Check panel #e2conf

I’m watching the panel entitled “Enterprise 2.0 Reality Check: What’s Working, What’s Not, What’s Next”, moderated by Matthew Fraser, and featuring Christian Finn of Microsoft, Nate Nash of BearingPoint, Neil Callahan of mktg and Ross Mayfield of Socialtext. Amazingly, I’ve found the optimal way to do this is to go back to my room and watch it streaming over the web, since the wifi is completely overloaded in the conference area and the seating is cramped.

It’s always difficult to blog a panel since the topics tend to vary widely (and quickly), so just a few thoughts:

  • The Enterprise 2.0 technology is mostly an evolution of what has come before, although the cultural changes are more revolutionary.
  • Finn talking about how collaboration spread throughout Microsoft, both through official and unofficial channels, which allowed SharePoint to gain a foothold internally. Small projects get it started, then people see the value and get executive sponsorship. Mayfield followed up by stating that revolutions happen when people don’t have a choice, and pondering how choice is changed by the very large footprint that SharePoint has.
  • Fraser asked the panel if there was an ROI for Enterprise 2.0; Finn responded by comparing the ROI of a document management system to that of a wiki; as Mayfield pointed out, there’s not a lot of “I” in the ROI of Enterprise 2.0. Callahan talked about the shift from “technology is scary” to “technology is fun”, bringing out the old chestnut about how our kids are all more tech-savvy than our CIOs (which I believe to be both incorrect and irrelevant); his point was that IT is no longer bringing the technology to business, but that line of business managers are having to make their own decisions about purchasing technology, shifting the ROI case from the boardroom to the LOB managers. This is a pretty interesting point, since it shows not just that LOB managers can make their own technology purchasing decisions, but that LOB managers must make their own technology decisions. Stowe Boyd popped up from the audience with a comment that we no longer look at the ROI of putting a telephone on someone’s desk (Finn had made the same point earlier about how we’re not giving up email any time soon), and that ROI may not be relevant in this case.

There was quite a good discussion about the ROI of Enterprise 2.0 that followed; check out the on-demand stream of the video. The large number of vendors/researchers/analysts asking questions (as opposed to actual end-user organizations) is noticeable.

You can also check the Twitter stream for this conference session here or for the entire conference here. I’m not a Microsoft supporter, but I have to say that the Twitterati was a bit hard on Finn (lots of “Mac versus PC” cheap shots): yes, he was talking a lot about SharePoint, which is not always used as a shining example of Enterprise 2.0, but the reality is that SharePoint is installed in a lot of “old economy” organizations; even if it’s not the best collaboration tool out there, it’s the only one that a lot of companies have, and it’s how they’re going to learn about some Enterprise 2.0 functionality. With one of my financial services clients, SharePoint is the only thing that remotely resembles collaboration that they have inside the firewall (and therefore approved for corporate information): several people there have actually laughed at me when I suggested using a wiki, and I’ve had to drag some of them kicking and screaming onto SharePoint just for document collaboration. Another client uses wikis, but only within IT, and is unwilling to open up wiki-based information collaboration to non-technical people. The game is changing, but it’s changing very, very slowly in some market segments.

Good panel, covering a lot of issues about both technology and people.

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