All comments posted on this blog do not reflect the opinions of any organization that I am affiliated with. These are my personal perspectives only.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Four Enterprise 2.0 Success Drivers: Opportunity (Part 3 of 4)

This is part 3 of a 4 part blog on the Success Drivers for Enterprise 2.0.

So far I've discussed the importance of individual desire to participate and the need to ensure those that participate have the capabilities to effectively collaborate. The third pre-requisite for Enterprise 2.0 success is opportunity.

You may have the skills, technology and even the want to collaborate in the exciting enterprise 2.0 world but you also need the opportunity. Opportunity is a lot more than simply having managers saying "Go and collaborate". To provide opportunity, organizations need to be specific about the objectives for each individual so they can collaborate and organizations need to adopt governance models that don't restrict collaboration but filters out collaboration killers.

Individual Objectives
A key concept of Enterprise 2.0 is the self-organizing communities. In most organizations, this organic model is not possible because we try to clearly identify all tasks and objectives upfront with clear measures of success. The problem is that it constrains the individual to be inflexible. If it's not in their objectives will they do it?
To overcome this I would suggest you need an objective that allows people the opportunity to self-organize. For example, Google's infamous 20% self-direct time for it's developers accounts for virtually all of it's innovations. Google isn't the first to implement such a thing. 3M has also had success with this model way before Google.

Even if a firm doesn't adopt the 20% concept, they can still achieve value by the simple act of asking. Asking their people for help and providing them the time to do so. I've had experiences where senior executives pulled front-line workers off the job for several days to allow them to collaborate on resolving challenges in process. That simple act opened up the door for future employee engagement and started un-doing the damage caused by years of top-down order given jobs. In an Enterprise 2.0 world we also need to provide people the time to contribute.

Corporate Governance
An extremely conservative organization will impose heavy governance on all enterprise 2.0 type technologies. Their belief is that enterprise 2.0 is not worth the risk. They see wasted time and unprecedented unproductive time. Fears of a hostile workplace, anti-management rhetoric with the potential for cyber-bullying dominate their concerns. Blogs in this environment will be limited to the few, and each comment will be carefully reviewed and only select comments posted. Social forums would be seen as even more risky and further governed. The only reason this type of firm would even adopt these technologies is more for optics than in the belief in it's value. The Collaborative Thinking blog has a good article on this.

There should be no surprise that the over-governance will lead to the lack of opportunity to participate. Ultimately it will restrict that value of enterprise 2.0 technologies. The classic example of this is Nupedia, the predecessor to Wikipedia. Although there are many arguments as to why Nupedia failed, the common argument is the bottle-neck authoritarian governance model which didn't provide the opportunity for mass collaboration was to blame.

In some organizations there is a huge fear that others will perceive the company as "weak" because it embraces the informal. Some managers believe that only structured interaction can lead to innovation. Heaven forbid, that people find out that the innovation came by "fluke" and wasn't planned. The reality is, informal interaction leads to innovation. Rather than cover that up, embrace that and create environments for that to happen.

The extent to which you create these informal interactions will vary. It can by physical real-estate decisions, traffic analysis (ie placement of the water cooler) and to the other extreme it may be through social forums such as Facebook or virtual worlds like SecondLife.

I am not proposing that a firm buys social software and says "ok everyone go and be informal". The difference between web 2.0 and enterprise 2.0 is that the firm is the driving force with specific objectives. This reinforces the need for governance/management to an extent.

Where as the first 3 parts of this blog have focused on the individual (desire, capability, opportunity). The next and final blog in this 4 part series will discuss the fourth aspect which is about Connectivity. After all, by definition, collaboration requires more than one person.

Read Part 1: Desire
Read Part 2: Capability
Read Part 3: Opportunity
Read Part 4: Connectivity

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