We can’t be everyone’s friend. Dennis Howlett has written another anti-Enterprise 2.0 whopper calling the subject vague and wrapped up in marketing spin. And he’s right. He surfaces a lot of great points that we in the industry need to take note.
Although we’d all like to treat him as the enemy I suggest we look to him as the industry’s Devils Advocate. Not the Al Pacino version in the movie with the same title, but guy who argues for the sake of arguing. You know who I am talking about.
So let’s remove our collective hands from around his neck and dissect his arguments. Howlett writes:
“I’ve argued for years that the notion of anything that has ’social’ attached to its moniker is about as welcome as breaking wind in a spacesuit. I’ve also argued that I’ve never heard anyone ask for some Enterprise 2.0 though I’ve heard plenty ask for ERP, CRM etc. Most recently, the new buzz phrase ’social business design’ has hit the streets.”
I happen to agree with Howlett on these two points. First, using Social and business in the same sentence scares decision makers in the corporate world today especially with a lackluster economy. We can use social to describe aspects of Enterprise 2.0, but not lead with it. In my experience as a senior executive in large and small companies and with my discussions with executive peers, social does not resonate with board members or decision makers with large budgets.
Second, I don’t see many companies buying Enterprise 2.0 solutions. Sure they are purchasing solutions from vendors in the Enterprise 2.0 space, but there is not a collective push for an Enterprise 2.0 solution in the corporate world today. Companies do buy ERP, MRP and CRM because they are succinct mission critical solutions with proven ROI models and case studies.
We need more groups like the Adoption 2.0 Council and industry analysts like Gartner, Forrester, CMS Watch, Gilbane etc. to create ROI models and to start categorizing Enterprise 2.0 solutions into recognizable buckets. For example (and I am not an expert on naming conventions) I bet if there is an Enterprise Business Collaboration (EBC) category with well defined boundaries, case studies and ROI models, companies will start to budget for it.
Like Web 2.0 is broken into many slices and categories, Enterprise 2.0 must take the next step and do the same. Enterprise 2.0 vendors need to collectively work together to agree on terminology and start using them in similar fashion.
People can convince themselves of a lot of things and Dennis is no exception. His 1.0 thinking is itself a good case study in what the industry is facing these days in the executive ranks. What Dennis fails to mention is how he’d measure enterprise 2.0 success. Instead he rips apart the panelists without suggesting a single metric on how the industry should measure itself in order to be viewed a credible industry.
Dennis follows up with another assault:
The only conclusion I can reach is that none of these people has done any significant work inside organizations or if they have then they haven’t a clue about how business is organized, how the moving parts operate, how business cultures develop or what motivates people to work. If true then they are either charlatans or dim witted.
His use of the ad hominem aside, the view he espouses above is from an outsider’s perspective – accurate. The Enterprise 2.0 marketing and hype is all about the technology and not about how our solutions are solving specific business pain. We can and will change that.
Let me offer some real world examples of enterprise pain that Enterprise 2.0 solves in organizations today.
Work Management and Transparency
Today’s corporations only have transparency of work and projects at superficial levels. Sure executives can see Gannt charts with detailed milestones and project timelines, but they can’t easily drill down into the underlying work to see what’s happening. Worse, they can’t quickly collaborate with their teams to rectify major issues without finding the content (usually on 20 different laptops or stacks of paper on someone’s desk in India) and calling a meeting. This process can take weeks just to organize.
How is it done today without Enterprise 2.0 solutions? Through email, conference calls and lengthy meetings. Compounded by the problem of global corporate teams spread across multiple time zones, the situation becomes untenable. This occurs multiple times in every company every day. How then Dennis do you quantify the value of an Enterprise 2.0 solution that solves this issue? We’d appreciate your input.
Duplication of work
I’ve seen multiple cases in multiple industries of employee duplication of work. I’m not referencing simple, repeatable work like data entry; but different teams of people that are replicating research or project work that was created by another team in the past. Even more frustrating are the numerous times I’ve re-created elements of work previously created by others that I could have used to expedite my current projects. But I didn’t know and didn’t have any way of knowing that the work existed in the first place.
Had I a way of finding the content or experts that created the work, I would have saved the company thousands of dollars in wasted hours. In aggregate across the enterprise, this dollar figure becomes very large. Again, how do you accurately account for that?
If they are lucky, executives and managers today have real time access to department level data. Rarely do they have access to data from multiple sources that give them complete pictures of the enterprise. Using ERP systems like SAP, I can view reports in SAP (although it’s still a challenge). I can’t however view a mash-up of data from SAP, my demand management system and Salesforce.com So why is this important?
I’ll give you one example (although there are myriad). As a senior executive I want to know in real time why sales are down for a specific product in a specific region. Is it a supplier issue? Is it a marketing issue? Is there a lack of demand? Do our retailers not have the product on the shelf? Is our sales team even aware of the issue? Moreover, I’d like to get each of the team members to review the data and recommend solutions in a single location so that everyone can see and respond to them. Then if the issue occurs again, other employees can search for the resolved solution.
Today, this problem is nearly impossible to solve without either an expensive custom solution or a much more affordable Enterprise 2.0 solution that pulls information from each of the systems into one location and allows for teams to collaborate on the data.
Lack of Innovation
Countless Global 3000 companies have seen sales decline because a young innovative upstart has quickly captured market share. In large organizations it can take months before senior management discovers and recognizes it as an issue. That issue aside, companies must do a better job of getting input from their customers and employees on innovative ideas for new products and solutions.
Without Enterprise 2.0 solutions, people are emailing their boss to tell them of a great idea they have for the next widget, but those tend to end up in her trash folder because she doesn’t have time to study the issue. Maybe the employee was on to something? Who besides their boss will ever know? Why not expose the idea to the rest of the organization and see what happens?
Maybe the crowd improves the idea and the R&D department quickly assembles a project page to study it. R&D invites manufacturing and manufacturing invites their suppliers to the project page to solicit feedback on the cost and viability of the idea. Best case they expedited an otherwise lengthy and arduous process and bring the product to market. Worst case they quickly kill the idea and stop spending wasteful cycles on it. Either way the company wins. Wins big.
Polaroid is a good example of a company slow to react to business change. I can’t say for certain that an Enterprise 2.0 solution would have saved the company, but I do know that their employees at the time were screaming for management to build digital cameras. Alas, no one listened and no one took action. Line managers were filtering information to Directors. Directors were filtering information to VP’s. VP’s were filtering information to the Executives and Executives were presenting a unrealistic picture of the business to the Board.
Each layer of management created a rosier and rosier picture of the business until the Board thought it all a well manicured garden. Lack of transparency will do that to a company.
Crowd sourcing your customer service and technical documentation
Much has been written of crowd-sourcing and long tail economics. Study after study have proved these concepts have legs. Today, companies waste countless hours and money creating FAQ’s, technical manuals and online answers to customer service questions. They write them with a singular use case in mind and/or for a single profile of people.
To illustrate, let’s assume you want to find best practices for filming outdoors in low light, in a cold climate at a soccer game for the new camcorder you were given as a gift. The manual and manufacturer’s website do not account for this use case and because you are figuratively working in the dark your film turns out poorly.
In contrast, let’s assume the manufacturer had an external knowledge base which the company seeded with original content. Then the company opens it up to the crowd to add long tail use cases and to improve the manufacturer’s own content. So to extend the scenario above, a passionate camcorder expert has decided to write about his experience in low light, cold conditions. Why? Because he wants to be seen as a video expert.
The real ROI benefits are obvious. First, the crowd has created SEO content that users searching for camcorders that work in low light, cold climates will find. Second, customer satisfaction increases because the knowledge base has answered a long tail use case (unexpected pleasant surprise). Third, the customer may continue to come back to the site to have other use cases answered or share his experience with the camcorder (community building). Then, the manufacturer has many opportunities to market additional products to the customer for purchase.
The best law enforcement central command center I’ve seen is Chicago. They have large screens showing maps of the city, live news coverage, and live image feeds from major crime areas. They even have remote devices all over the city that monitor gun shots. When shots are fired, a camera next to the device instantly feeds a live image to a large screen in the middle of the room. Police units are dispatched and the scene is secured.
Despite this state of the art multi-million dollar system, homeland security, law enforcement, the fire department etc. do not have real time access to each others data. There is also not any citizen participation. How much more effective would the system be if the general public were able to participate online? Imagine a neighbor watch program integrated with law enforcement in order to proactively monitor crime activity and collaborate on solutions to crime. These socially valuable enhancements can be delivered with Enterprise 2.0 solutions.
There is of course a lot more enterprise pain that can be solved with Enterprise 2.0 solutions. Howlett hasn’t yet acknowledged the pain exists, but is quick to point out Enterprise 2.0 shortcomings. If Howlett really believes these solutions aren’t providing value then it’s he who needs a corporate refresher course. Disparate teams can’t continue to rely on email and Microsoft Office to solve today’s business challenges. Especially when an IDC report predicts during the next 5 years digital content will grow at a ten-fold rate.
Fortunately Dennis doesn’t run a Venture Capital firm or his quest for hard proof of new business models would preclude any new investments in innovative areas. Worse he hasn’t provide a framework to gauge the success or failure of new business models.
Still, in an odd way Howlett is forcing us to better define ourselves and the value we provide. We actually need more people like Howlett to push us to create measurable value in the enterprise.
Yet with criticism there is also an obligation to propose solutions. Even better, collaborate with us to find the answers. Set up a discussion wiki and let’s figure this out together.
- Is Enterprise 2.0 a Savior or a Charlatan? How Strategy-Driven Execution can pave the path to proving legitimate business value
(Cross-posted @ Seek Omega)