04 Nov Enterprise 2.0 – Identify problem. Determine solution. Then tools.
Mostly… Let me explain.
There’s been some really interesting and sometime passionate discussion on the matter of Enterprise 2.0 implementation in the real world that’s taken place in the Australian blogosphere in the past few days.
First, my friend and colleague, Matthew Hodgson raised something of a chicken-egg question, asking the classic question from the great baseball film, Field of Dreams, “if you build it, will they come?” He followed up that post with another, very academically focussed piece on group dynamics.
Matthew adopts an approach critical of the position of well-recognised Enterprise 2.0 experts, Professor Andrew McAfee of Harvard Business School, and my colleague, Dion Hinchcliffe of Hinchcliffe and Co., that the tools themselves, inserted into the business equation at the right place and time can in and of themselves be the catalyst for organisational change – empowering employees, encouraging innovation, driving organisational change, diversifying opinion, opening channels of collaboration and freeing up knowledge all the way to the edge of the network.
He argues that essentially, due to culture and group dynamics, it is less that the tools are the catalyst and more that the organisation was already ready for a change.
Matthew’s position, argued in his posts and with me on Twitter, is that deep research into the organisational culture and group dynamic of the organisation is necessary before being able to address needs in enterprises with social computing tools. I certainly don’t disagree with Matthew. I do however, think he’s being a little prescriptive in his position.
I’ve seen, and am aware of many more cases where introducing the right tool or right twist on work practice at the right time created a flow-on effect of change for the better. It can look a little like magic when it happens and is a beautiful thing.
That’s not to say you do no research. That would be foolish. But weeks and months of research can be reduced significantly if a little willingness to experiment and engage in some safe failure and intrapreneurship are possible.
Second, Stuart French, blogging at Delta Knowledge looks at change in organisational culture as an effect of Enterprise 2.0 adoption. Stuart takes an interesting position that looks critically at Matthew’s position as well as the more encouraging position adopted by Andrew McAfee and others. I very much like what he has to say – concluding that the culture and the tools are essentially symbiotic – tools affect culture but equally, culture can influence tool choice and adoption. If the people and organisation culture and the tools are in the right place at the right time, very great things are possible.
Last, James Robertson from Step Two has a lash at real world approaches to Enterprise 2.0. James’ position is a lot closer to mine than Matthew’s. There’s a balance of have a go, business pragmatism, good preliminary and in-project research and willingness to try and fail early and cheaply.
My position in all of this, which I will present at Edge of the Web later this week is this:
- Enterprise 2.0 is about the tools least of all – it’s principally about people and organisations, the cultures within and among them, and introducing manageable change to those people, organisations and cultures in support of solving real problems.
- Done right, introducing Enterprise 2.0 to your organisation can be a massive positive step – but it must be done right. Successful implementations are seeing dramatic shifts in ability to locate expertise and information, collaborate, innovate and introduce leadership and management change. The McKinsey Global Survey released in July 2008 is a great resource on statistical data around this issue.
- You must do research to understand the organisation and issues, but it’s also okay to do some experimentation – drop a wiki, a blog, some collaboration tools into a team or work unit or department and see how things go. Try it with a willing group of participants. And be trying to solve a problem and not just introducing tools. Test it for a few weeks and keep going if it works.
- If it doesn’t work, fail early, often and cheaply – with all this experimentation, there’s some attendant risk. Be prepared to pull the plug as soon as your tests prove not to work. And make sure the client or business understands this.
- Do your homework – look at smilar organisations who have solved similar issues. See what they did. Track down the people involved and talk to them! Read as much research as you can to see if your problems, people and organisation “feel” like some of the research. Try something they did and go back to Step 2 (yes, this is a little humorous, but not entirely frivolous).
- Focus on success – consulting on Enterprise 2.0 or delivering to your own organisation isn’t about having a playground to mess with the latest toys. It’s about delivering real value and improvements to the organisation.