Ten Tips From The Enterprise 2.0 Conference

This year’s Boston Enterprise 2.0 Conference highlighted good examples of how companies are tapping into social technologies to empower their employees. For example, Mitre Corporation showed how they have successfully developed a collaboration community using open source technology. The platform they developed enables them to deliver secure access to ideas, discussions and content for employees and guests. Meanwhile, CSC showed how they have driven greater collaboration across 49,000 of their employees in just 18 months, with a strategy focused on connect, communicate and collaborate. (Those of us in the audience even witnessed the in-field promotion of Claire Flanagan, CSC senior manager for knowledge management and enterprise social collaboration, to director – congratulations Claire!)

Among a number of great speakers, JP Rangaswami, CTO & chief scientist at BT Design, opened the conference with a powerful speech that was supported by an innovative approach to real-time animation of content – alas, while the speech was good, the visuals were distracting for many in the room. JP suggested that the age of the locked-down desktop is coming to an end, “enterprises must design for loss of control.” Re-iterating a refrain from George Colony, who suggests “bits want to be free,” JP advised, “if you don’t want it shared, don’t put it on a computer.”

Technology vendors highlighting how customers were adopting their technology to solve complex collaboration challenges dominated the conference. Cisco talked about Quad, which looks set to go head-to-head with Microsoft and their Unified Communications & 2010 Sharepoint/NewsGator push, while Jive’s new CEO, Tony Zingale, put Microsoft SharePoint squarely in his sights. IBM, meanwhile, did their best to stay above the fray while promoting Lotus Connections. Of course, there were many other great software solutions and some promising new entrants to the market – too many to go into here (see also Forrester Analyst TJ Keitt’s blog and event posts from Sameer Patel, Oliver Marks, Thomas Vander Wal, and Bertrand Duperrin).

Despite all the new technology, the shared wisdom from the deployment perspective seemed to distill down to learning how to manage the human side of Enterprise 2.0. Distilling down three days of insight isn’t easy, so I thought I’d share my top 10 tips from the conference no particular order:

  1. Do not underestimate the enormous value there is in developing a more open and collaborative culture – the organizations that are already moving down the E2.0 path cite tremendous intangible benefits – even if they cannot always show bottom-line benefits (though many can).
  2. We are at a tipping point in the design of social enterprises. As Enterprise 2.0 goes mainstream over the next few years, many CIOs will be challenged with delivering technology to empower employees but …
  3.  … Do not start with the technology – instead start with examining what you are looking to achieve from a business perspective and define a clear strategy for success.
  4. Changing the way people work is not easy. Unless the technology in use is easier than picking up the phone or shouting over the cubicle wall, we will not be successful in changing behaviors. Doing work in less time is key to success, but people have a limited capacity for change, so make small changes and give them time to adapt.
  5. CIOs will be pressed for showing quantifiable benefits as a gating mechanism to size the investment required. The reality is the benefits expected at the outset are going to be very different from the ones achieved. Start out with focus on how changes in collaboration impact areas like sales force productivity and the organization’s ability to attract and retain talent; examine the value of eliminating wasted time by knowing what has worked or failed before; look at the value of improved problem solving and idea generation.
  6. Opening up your collaboration environment to partners makes for richer conversations and fresh ideas/approaches. It is possible to be open and secure.
  7. Plan to market your successes. Bring evangelists on early, but don't look for evangelists based on the org chart – find them based on their passion. (Eeyore wouldn't make a good evangelist!) Dedicate resources to driving adoption and get senior management on the platform.
  8. Add “social” as a layer in enterprise architecture to avoid mushrooming application silos. (Do you need a Social Business Architect? Many companies will need this role.)
  9. Social collaboration and training platforms are a powerful tool to reduce onboarding time for new employees, increase sales force productivity, and harness the wisdom of recently retired employees – but only when deployed successfully and adopted widely.
  10. Start today to re-think how to re-engineer your business process around social collaboration. The real advantages will accrue to those companies that figure out how to tie social collaboration (and associated technologies) into the design of their business process and core supporting applications.

The most re-tweeted line from the conference is likely to be a quote from JP Rangaswami that highlights the speed of change in the technology industry:

“It took 40 years for IBM to become evil, 20 years for Microsoft to become evil, 10 for Google, 5 for Facebook and 2.5 for Twitter.”

What are your top tips for deploying E2.0 successfully? (If you attended, what are your top takeaways?)

Next post: What do business strategy and F1 have in common?

Previous post: How socially mature is your organization?


Disagree with item 3

This seems to be a popular item with consultants. The fact is, some goals can't be conceived because executives don't understand what's available in the market. Yes, some technologies drive goal setting and adoption.

No one was dreaming of building skyscrapers in the 19th century because the tools weren't available. Once the tools were available, building skyscrapers was an achievable goal.

Thanks for the feedback Mark.

Thanks for the feedback Mark.

I agree with you in that we sometimes need to understand the capabilities of technology in order to conceive new approaches, though I don't see the need to put technology ahead of understanding goals and objectives.

After all, JFK did not let technology limit him when he set the goal of reaching the moon - the goal drove the technology development. In the 19th Century, people were undoubtedly dreaming of building tall buildings (though I have no proof of this - perhaps someone else does), even though they lacked the technology to achieve the goal.

Don't get me wrong, I've always believed in "package-enabled-reengineering" - where we re-design business process to take advantage of new technology capabilities. Nevertheless, starting with technology, without first understanding the business goals and objectives, too often leads to solutions that fail to meet the needs of the business. In my opinion, it is one reason why so many “technology-led” projects fail.

Start first with understanding the objectives - what are we trying to achieve (e.g new product development through innovation, or increased customer satisfaction, etc.); then drill down into the business process needs to determine key technology requirements; then figure out what are the most appropriate technologies to support the specific business needs. This most-often allows the optimum technology to be deployed (and maintains the focus of what's important to the organization; the objectives and not the technology). There are good reasons why so many consultants favor this approach.

Develop Training Tools for the Community Managers and Users

Nigel - great summation. Adoption was a hot topic again this year - however - the E2.0 Adoption council found that adoption has decreased at companies integrating or rolling out E2.0 solutions.

Here are the stats:1 year ago 70% encountered resistance & 40% could not overcome it. As of a month ago – 80% encountered resistance and now 55% could not overcome it.

So to your points #4 & #9 an additional tip may be you can’t just roll out a platform and hope they will get engaged and adopt the platform. Adoption requires management, training and development.

Deeper levels of internal coaching and training of the community managers and users will be necessary to achieve a deeper level of adoption of the platforms and tools available.

I'm adding your post to my resources document I created from E2.0 event - Great stuff.

Develop Training Tools for the Community Managers and Users

Thanks for the great comment Mark. You are absolutely right. One of the most common refrains I hear these days is a play on the famous Field Of Dreams line "If you build it, they will come". For E2.0 it goes "if you build it, they won't come" - highlighting the fact that just putting the technology up will not drive adoption. Often we see too much focus on technology and not enough focus on change management.

Where did you get that

Where did you get that statistic from that 70% encountered resistance and now 80% are? Would love to look at that report


10 tips are scary good

I hope you are very influential in spreading these ten tips. I'll read them over several times. They are worth repeating. sorry i missed the show.


10 tips are scary good

Thanks for the feedback Joe. Glad to hear you'll be helping to spread the word.

Beware of Technology as the 'cure-all'...

Nigel - I am afraid the E2.0 will [or is] ballooning into something akin to the CRM craze from 5+ years ago [or any other enterprise software buy in the past 20+ years] when the 'fix' to all of your problems required purchasing these hugely expensive CRM solutions that barely anyone knew how to use, were never properly implemented into the work-stream, and the corporate communications never clearly defined what 'it' was to the broader enterprise [adoption]. It all sounds so familiar. What will make the adoption of E20 even more difficult is that it requires so much more than just buying a software solution - as you know, E20 platforms are quickly becoming a commodity and not differentiators in the increasingly crowded market place.Collaboration and openness requires an entire organization re-think.

Instead, I recommend the adoption of the concept of an 'agile enterprise' for those wishing to embark in to the E20 world. An Agile Enterprise [AgEnt] facilitates the emerging use and acceptance of E20 tools that are being built on the backbone of existing Social Media and Web 2.0 tools. These platforms facilitate the tenets of an Agile Enterprise by flattening the enterprise and making transformation, innovation, communication, collaboration, and increased productivity available to all levels of the organization – hence Agile Enterprise or "AgEnt" for change...

AgEnt strives to make change a routine part of organizational life to reduce or eliminate the trauma that paralyzes many businesses attempting to adapt to new markets and environments. Because change is perpetual, the agile enterprise is able to nimbly adjust to and take advantage of emerging opportunities. An agile enterprise views itself as an integral component of a larger system whose activities produce a ripple effect of change both within the enterprise itself and the broader ecosystem.

Although efforts around Agile Enterprise are typically sponsored and guided from within the C-level of an organization, no one person is in control of an agile enterprise. Individuals function autonomously, constantly interacting with each other to define the work that needs to be done. Roles and responsibilities are not predetermined but rather emerge from individuals’ self-organizing activities and are constantly in flux. Similarly, projects are generated everywhere in the enterprise, sometimes even from outside affiliates, partners, or customers. Decisions are made collaboratively, on the spot, and on the fly. Because of this, knowledge, power, and intelligence are spread through the enterprise, making it uniquely capable of quickly recovering and adapting to the loss of any key enterprise component.

Beware of Technology as the 'cure-all'...

Thanks for your comments Rob.

I think the most important thing to remember is that success in E2.0 (or the agile enterprise if that’s what you choose to call it) is more dependent upon changing people’s behaviors than on any specific technology.

As you say, “no one person is in control” and fundamentally we are seeing a shift to a world in which employees and customers are more empowered. In fact we are about to publish a book through Harvard Business press on this very subject. My colleague Ted Schadler wrote a recent blog post on this that you may find of interest (blogs.forrester.com/ted_schadler).


Enterprise 2.0 Conference

This is a really creative post, Nowadays, consumers know what they want and what they need so it’s in our best interest to give it to them in the simplest form possible.
Thanks and Regards/-
Jason Webb

Enterprise 2.0 Conference

Thanks for your feedback Jason - much appreciated.