June 11, 2010

Review: Enterprise 2.0

A little while ago, I was able to get my hands on a signed copy of Andrew Mcafee's Enterprise 2.0.

The book starts off talking about the key idea behind the 2.0 tag, introducing the power of "emergence" in social networking. It then goes on to introduce 2.0 technologies, illustrating their impact on businesses through four case studies. A couple of quick frameworks to think about social networking technologies are introduced next, along with the key benefits of the Enterprise 2.0 space.

Part two of the book takes a more pragmatic look, cautioning that most of the benefits will be available over a long haul. The book also covers some key failure scenarios, ending with a road map for businesses in the 2.0 world. The last chapter deals with the question of organizational behavior and its relationship to tools and technologies offered by Web 2.0

The book was an illuminating, sometimes thought-provoking and relatively light read, even though it felt like some of the pit falls were pooh poohed quite easily. Also, while the framework of tie-strength bull's eye was a useful way of articulating the need for 2.0 technologies, it didn't feel as involved with the actual plan for taking a business down the path to Enterprise 2.0. A couple things I felt strongly about:

Legal discovery risk - One of the precepts of the book is that moving from a channel of communication (e.g. email) to a platform (e.g. wiki) doesn't necessarily increase discovery risk related to litigation. The support? Andrew did not see any in the large number of businesses that have thus far implemented 2.0 technologies. Put this way, I am sure the argument seems shallow. Emails has been around for the good part of three decades, and only now have they really started to become the target of discovery requests and increasingly part of legal proceedings. Flippant emails form great news headlines, and even if the legal risk was zero, reputation damage would not be inconsequential. There is no reason to think a platform would fare any better.

Uncertainty - 2.0 emergence takes time. Social media presumes a flat user base, that is largely unconcerned with direction, that seemingly generates something awesome from thin air. There is too much uncertainty in that vision, uncertainty businesses do not like. Uncertainty of deliverable, time, order, ownership may work well when the stakes are lower. But when having a job is critical to taking care of the kids at home, it is too much to hope jobs stick around long enough for something awesome that may emerge out of uncoordinated actions. Again, I am sure that sounds extreme, but it does illustrate the oxymoron Enterprise 2.0.

At the end, the approach that the author lays out for a company to implement 2.0 technologies is tellingly similar to that of a pre-2.0 IT implementation. Identify problem and vision > don't expect dramatic wins > communicate > redesign processes > and measure. I believe, 2.0 technologies are answers to specific questions, as opposed to revolutionary tools just waiting to deliver multi-pronged increases in productivity. It seems more to be a case of 2.0 enabled Enterprise, than Enterprise 2.0.

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