Transition strategies for Enterprise 2.0 adoption #e2conf

Lee Bryant of Headshift looked at the adoption challenges for Enterprise 2.0 technologies in companies that have grown up around a centralized model of IT, particularly for the second wave adopters required to move Enterprise 2.0 into the mainstream within an organization. He points out that we can’t afford the high-friction, high-cost model of deploying technology and processes, but need to rebalance the role of people within the enterprise.

External tools are subject to evolutionary forces and either adapt or die quickly, whereas we are forced to put up with Paleolithic-era tools inside the enterprise because it’s a captive market. 21st century enterprises, however, aren’t putting up with that: they’re going outside and getting the best possible tools for their uses on demand, rather than waiting for IT to provide a second-rate solution, months or years later.

There is a shift from individual productivity to network productivity, that measures the improvements that occur because we’re doing things together and connected rather than as individuals. If everyone in the company has common goals, then there’s a big boost in productivity when people work together.

There’s a need to make hidden data visible and use it to drive collective intelligence – I see this all the time with the need for enterprise search and content management for static content, but also enterprise micro-blogging and other conversations that surface more transient ideas for consumption.

It’s all about improving processes and reducing the cost of doing business, although not necessarily in the structured BPM style of process improvement; instead, it’s about using social tools to change how people can collaborate and work together. This might include adding a social layer to existing tools, such as we see when collaboration is added to ECM and BPM but moving beyond that.

However, even though all of this is happening already, there’s the issue of bringing these tools, techniques and methods to the people who don’t normally use social networking for either business or pleasure. Do the revolutionary ideas that we hear bandied about at this conference really have a place in the cubicle farm? Interestingly, I’m seeing an arrogance exhibited at the conference that really puts me off; it manifested partly in the Microsoft-bashing at this morning’s panel, but comes down to a complete lack of respect for the structure of many existing enterprises. How do we respect what’s already there in those organizations while helping them to move into the 21st century?

Bryant showed some of the ways that they drive out behavioral use cases within organizations, match that to available social tools, then develop behavioral transition strategies that effectively “tricks” people into using these new tools in order to bridge the old methods and tools into the new. This is all about focusing on the tasks that people do and the things that they know, and providing some tweaks that get them doing things differently. For example:

  • For people who are addicted to email on their Blackberry, transition them to reading RSS feeds on the same platform (also within Outlook 2007): it looks similar, it provides a similar broadcast functionality, and lets them get away from filing and deleting the information.
  • Replace the phone book with a social network that provides the same information, and allows people to “friend” people who they contact frequently.
  • Get rid of the intranet, and create something that looks like your old intranet, but has edit buttons everywhere. In other words, turn your intranet into a wiki where anyone can update information if they have it. The information is more up-to-date and accurate, and gets people in the mode of being authors. It doesn’t mean that you have to allow every page to be editable by everyone, as Razorfish did, but can provide a more controlled environment that allows people to edit their team’s areas.
  • Create a place for employees to share and rate ideas, sort of like a suggestion box with voting.
  • Organize information in new and interesting ways, such as providing a social bookmarking tool to allow people to add tags to documents within their enterprise content management system in order to improve findability and indicate interest in documents. This can be used just to allow people to “organize their stuff”, or can be used in the case of an upcoming platform migration, where people can tag documents that should be migrated to a new ECM platform.

The thing to note about all of these ideas is that they are focused on things that people were already doing, and just tweaking the methods that they use to do them. That makes it a lot less threatening, and therefore much more likely to be adopted.

It also comes down to giving people choice, which is often not done inside large organizations: IT usually dictates which tools are used for which purpose, and which content goes into a wiki versus a content management system versus a blog. Unfortunately, years of having IT dictate tools and content location means that many enterprise users are somewhat sheep-like when it comes to choice: if you give them a choice, they’ll keep doing things the same old way since it’s the path of least resistance, and in today’s economy, they’re probably busy doing the work of more than one person. The reality is that although they could be more productive with the new tools, they have no time to learn how to use them and how to make them a part of their work environment.

Luis Suarez from IBM was in the audience, and talked about his own personal journey over the past year at moving himself – and the the people who he works with – off email and onto social media platforms such as blogs and wikis. When he would receive an email, he would show people how to use a different platform instead of email, such as SlideShare for sharing presentations.

There are still going to be barriers: salespeople may not want to share their information, even with their colleagues, because they are financially incented to not share; and middle management doesn’t want their teams to collaborate because they perceive that they’re losing control over what’s happening. As Bryant points out, the ultimate solution to these barriers is human mortality and natural selection.

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