Enterprise 2.0 Versus Reality


I was reading a post from James on implementing some Social Networking tools within a large Enterprise, Even more untold perspectives on social networking within large enterprises. It was an interesting post as it reflected, from a different angle, an issue that I have had to deal with recently.

My basic challenge is simple. A company decided that they needed to consolidate their knowledge (their word) and implement ways to both expand and re-purpose their information. I’m thinking Enterprise 2.0=Knowledge Management. I’m thinking cool new technologies. I’m getting all excited.

Then during a requirements session I hear, What is a Wiki?

Generations X and Y

James focuses on the fact that those in the Web 2.0 mindset are more fluid and dynamic. They think laterally and not necessarily hierarchically. As James puts it, the Web is a bottom-up approach while BPM and existing solutions are more top-down. He then spins it as a Generation Y versus the established mentalities around process.

I think James has defined the paradigm problem. Changes like this aren’t instantaneous. The lines around the problem are not just Gen Y based.

Let’s take Generation Y. For the most part, they get it. They live it in their daily lives. How will that translate at work? Gordon over at Infovark pointed out a little reality:

[T]hese people will join the workplace as wide-eyed and impressionable new starters, and they’ll do their best to work within the framework that they are given with the tools that are allocated to them. Then, slowly, their own ideas will become part of the way people work, including their favorite tools and technologies.

The Millenials, as Gordon calls the Gen Y crowd, are not going to have the power or the authority to do much, at first. Oh, they will find some companies that will let them work with those tools. They can also form startups, but a majority of them will have to learn the old ways before they can change them.

Next comes Generation X, my generation. We were a bunch of disgruntled, disrespecting people with no focus or direction. That isn’t true anymore. Oh, there are holdouts, but the ones that have adapted are the ones leading. As a whole, the technical GenXers “get” the whole 2.0 thing. We may not use the tools to the degree that the Millenials do, but we see them as valuable tools and can use them.

Last is the group of non-technical GenXers and those that pre-date Generation X. While there are exceptions, they are more married to the “tried and true” methods for getting things done. They rely more on the methods and processes that they have helped develop over the years. The methods are comfortable and they “work”.

One Step at a Time

You can’t force change. Okay, in a company you can, but it breeds resentment and attrition. Some think that the Millenials should be given more control to change things. My basic question is, Into what? They don’t always understand the business or know the best way to apply what they know to the business.

Experience provides that knowledge. A good collaboration system can allow that knowledge to be shared, but what if those with the knowledge aren’t ready to dive in?

Chuck Hollis has been guiding EMC through this internally. After nine months, the system hasn’t had the adoption that he had hoped for at this point, though it is successful. They are making progress and it is growing, but it hasn’t been a revolution. His blog’s title on the subject says it all, A Journey In Social Media. His biggest tip, the initiative has to be driven top down. But if it isn’t supported bottoms-up, you’ll get nowhere.

You have to have that grassroots support to provide the foundation. It needs to grow until you have critical mass and the success that comes with it.

Getting to 2.0

Back to the company. How do you push-out a system that is very 2.0 when the organization is at 0.0? Simple, you don’t. You find something, like SharePoint, that will be inexpensive and start building the proper behaviors and attitudes. Teach them how to share information. Preach the value of emailing links and not document drafts. Show a little process can provide control without limiting creativity.

EMC was at 1.0 when they started their journey, and it is taking time to move to a 2.0 mindset. They have a solid foundation and it is growing. They have an evangelist helping. I think that is key. Repeatedly exposing users to the proper concepts will help users see the benefits in a more advanced Collaboration solution.

As users at the company in question start to learn about proper 1.0 collaborative behavior, they can slowly start thinking about the benefits of even more dynamic collaboration offered by social media.

Let the people grow, adapt, and realize that there is more. They will become hungry for the next step. It just takes time and a gentle touch.

2 thoughts on “Enterprise 2.0 Versus Reality

  1. Chris Campbell says:

    The “generation gap” has always existed in modern business. It used to be that there was only two generations in the work field, but as people’s life spans have increased, we have three generations. It just so happens to be the Baby Boomers, Gen X and the Millillenials. It’s the classic battle of experience versus creativity.

    It’s good to be in the middle generation at this time. Gen X (of which I also happen to be a part of) has a bit of experience behind us and there’s still a bit of the ol’ creative juices flowing. Perfect for bridging the gap.

    Getting to 2.0 is all about baby steps. The youngest generation, bless their naive little hearts, has a high focus on changing the world… NOW. Patience seems to be in want. Gen X already went through this with the Dot Com bust. I imagine many of the Gen Y group is going to have the same thing happen with many of their social networking ideas.

    One thing I’ve learned is getting buy-in from all generations, and that’s by using tried-and-true principles that everyone agrees on. There’s nothing wrong with bold ideas, but there’s also nothing wrong in taking the time to do it right. Get feedback, and accept criticism. Teamwork and not heroism is called for. Leadership comes from all levels. You need leaders at the top supporting the project, but you also need commitment at the lowest levels.

    That aside, for any collaborative project to really work, it has to be used. I’ve seen too many wikis, databases, Sharepoint sites and forums end up like home excercise equipment. It’s fun for a bit, but then next thing you know it becomes more of a place to hang your clothes on.

    To build off of your article, there are plenty of collabortive applications that are easy to start with and build from there. A site for listing standard operating procedures or work instructions. Starting a simple Human Resource site. (Great because *everyone* eventually needs something from HR.) Workflow some simple processes that require forms. Make a employee directory or a developer wiki.

    Make sure that whatever you create is quick and produces constant measureable results. I’d stay away from initial projects that have the potential of being used, but being forgotten once the novelty wears off. A good example would be a company or department “Facebook” page. That happens to be one of those things that generates a lot of excitement, but doesn’t really produce a lot of anything. Sure you might get the developer or two who posts great links or has really good blogs like Word of Pie. The reality is that most of it ends up being a giant vortex of suck. Look at how many blogs exist in the world, but how many people have that much to say? Again, create something with measureable results. It’s easier to show the VP of your department that your workflow for submitting form based health insurance re-inrollment saved on average 3 hours processing per person and the wiki created 2 more hours of productivity since workers didn’t have to waste time looking up information.

    Those are winning projects. Start small. Get buy-in from all generations. Pick projects that are sure winners and lock people into the concept. From there, expansion is a piece of cake. Oh, and remember me when that bonus comes. I accept gift cards from just about anywhere.

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