Making Enterprise 2.0 work – literally

A lot of companies are still in their phase for experimenting with what is called enterprise 2.0 or social business. For some this means to establish web 2.0 inspired tools such as blogs, wikis or unified communication solutions. For the others the approach leads to the roll-out of social software solutions that mimick popular internet services such as Twitter and Facebook. In this guest blog for Intranetizen, Philipp Rosenthal argues organisations that ignore the eminent change in business IT frequently face the reality that employees start “outsourcing” their work environment to public cloud services – simply following the basic principle of “if there’s a will, there will be a way”.

For most of the time the question of ROI and value creation was only stated by the ones “that just don’t get that the connected enterprise is the key to the future!!”. It’s not about quantitative results – it’s about cultural change. It’s not a matter of Excel sheets – it’s about managing the digital generation the right way.

There just was no way around it – and if there was no better reason to find “death to e-mail” was always a good reason to “go for social”.

Reality starts hitting the hype curve

If one listens carefully to the expert society around enterprise 2.0 and has a look at the latest analyst reports there seems to be a slight change in the winds that filled the sails of first movers and enthusiasts. “Why are we actually doing this?” and “What’s in for me?” is asked more and more frequently from than within than from the top.

And do we really need just another conversation on top of all the meetings, e-mails, conference calls, instant messages and coffee corner chats?

So eventually social business has to answer the question of where it will contribute on a day to day basis and where it will relieve people from actual operational challenges. That conversations now become transparent and that knowledge sharing is now as easy as tweeting “good morning” isn’t good enough anymore.

Arguing with (work) cultural change is like swallowing an elephant in one go

Firstly, let’s agree on the fact that almost all companies are in desperate need for cultural change. Organisational kingdoms, corporate politics, presence = productivity and silo thinking are outdated. Formal structures have to be filled with networks of expertise, experience and individual commitment.

However, to argue that the social enterprise can only exist if a company changes everything that has been carefully established of the past 30 years is the guarantee for three things:

  • slow progress for change
  • severe change management requirements
  • a lot resistance from “immobile” forces in the organisation

The enterprise 2.0 ideology has to become part of the business itself. It has to literally sneak its way into the every day life of an employee.

The proof of concept is basically what has happened in the web over the past decade. After the burst of the internet bubble commercial offerings had to make sure that they were able to attract users (and eventually buyers) with ease, trust and add value. If online business would have waited for cultural change, economic growth and speed of evolution of the online space would have been significantly less steep if not rather flat.

The key to change: a digital workspace that you simply don’t want to miss anymore

Turn off the intranet: how many people will be bothered? Turn off most of today’s corporate Wiki- and Blogospheres: will it be a substantial threat to business operations? Turn off the corporate social stream: how long will it take until the last moans finally fade away?

Turn off Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Ebay, Google, Yahoo! and iTunes and the world as we know it will come to a screaming stop. The majority of smartphone users would rather drive back 50 miles to pick up the forgotten precious device than to spend a day cut off from the humming of the personal network and the access to global wisdom.

That is exactly what business IT has to strive for: users have to expereince relief from daily challenges and ease of work. Business applications have to evolve into business services that address all the obstacles that prevent people from being excellent (at least the ones that want to be).

A vision is a less powerful motivation than the honest commitment to what has to go away

The first step on the endeavor to the future digital workplace is open acceptance. Companies have to accept the shortfalls in individual and team productivity due to a lack of supporting services (not tools!!). These shortfalls have to become the benchmark for improvements and the way forward. They have to become the motivation for change and the briefing for concepts and services that are so desperately wished for by employees.

It’s a huge challenge for most people to formulate what they need to work better but it’s piece of cake to fill 3 sheets of a flip chart with all the things that prevent excellent results.

To start with the hurdles and obstacles on the way to excellence creates

  • commitment to everything that promises relief
  • a benchmark to measure success (if it’s not getting better the cure didn’t work)
  • trust into management and leadership because they seem to honestly care and listen(!)

Look at things as if each employee were a potential (paying) customer

How many users would pay to use your intranet? How many employees would spend a Euro (or pound or dollar, etc) per team room or a monthly fee for their mySite?

If a service cannot offer the quality that a user would be happily pay for it will need a lot of change management and convincing (or begging…or at the end of the day: work orders) to drive adoption.

Making enterprise 2.0 WORK is the key

The intranet has to evolve into an integrated digital workspace that will support future work concepts, BYOD (bring your own device), employee mobility as well as individual and collaborative value creation. Social mechanics will help to substantially improve information and communication logistics as well as help to “put things into context”.

All this is way beyond the concept of social software and the approach of open conversation and yet another dialogue. It’s the promise to employees: we make it easy for you to get your job done and have fun at the same time.

That is the best motivator and driver for adoption and change.

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