Enterprise 2.0 is making me cranky again

Enterprise 2.0 is one of those terms that’s been going around business circles for the past few years. I’m not sure it ever really meant anything sensible and I’m not sure it is a meaningful way to approach a very real problem in business.

The big problem we face in business is that of communication. We face challenges in communicating with each other, with our consumers, our staff and with other stakeholders such as boards, the general public and government.

If communication is the problem then I don’t really understand how enterprise 2.0 is the answer. Rarely has the answer to an actual business problem been to throw another layer of technology at it.

The people, like Dion Hinchcliffe, who are approaching this problem from the angle of social business design seem to have more relevance and more insight to offer.

But if one more person suggests that simply installing YASMT (Yet Another Social Media Tool) as the solution to the problems of internal or external communication in business I will probably throw something (possibly a crying tantrum on the floor).

If anyone seriously wants to tell me that installing something like Yammer or Jive (both tools of which I am a real fan) or the latest trendy thing will miraculously transform a company into a happy tribe singing kumbuya around a campfire I’ve got some reality to introduce them to.

Success in changing how people behave in organisations rarely happens from randomly throwing tools into the workplace without a plan. I’ve been re-visiting Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (inspired by the MEGA NSW program) and these remind me of some important things that are also useful to consider when creating change within organisations.

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First
  • Habit 4: Think Win-Win
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then to be understood
  • Habit 6: Synergize
  • Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

These are all good points to keep in mind when embarking on an effort to change the way people behave. And behavioural change is the intended outcome of most enterprise 2.0 efforts.

Typically I see enterprise 2.0 programs rolled out in a big bang way, with little appreciation for the need to start small and to use an iterative approach based on results and feedback to improve and extend the program.

Alternatively I see the approach where an executive within the organisation notes that they already own product ‘x’ and just install it and call enterprise 2.0 done.

Each of these approaches has the seeds of its own failure built-in. Take up rates can be low, user behaviour may not be that desired by management without effective rules of engagement spelled out, results might be hard to measure if metrics were not part of the design.

In an ideal world people would think about the end they seek to create and determine a path towards it. The tools would be among the last considerations in this instance.

Instead the key considerations are people, how they behave now and any barriers to changing their behaviour. Also key is understanding why people might agree to change. Then last of all comes the technology that might assist in delivering the desired change.

Knowledge, convenience and findability (thanks @KerrieAnne)

This amusing cat picture was suggested by my buddy @KerrieAnne as a Caturday candidate – it’s from a post by Nick Milton titled You wont use it if you can’t find it – findability in KM.

This struck me as:

(a) one very cute cat;
(b) one very important issue; and
(c) one of the age old problems of business.

On all counts, there is good reason for making this more than a cute picture to share on Caturday.

Findability is one of the biggest problems we suffer from regarding information, in particular digital information.

How often have we tried to find that thing we saw yesterday on the intranet but now cannot locate it for love nor money? How often have we tried to find that report on the shared drive that we know we wrote last year? How much enterprise disk space is wasted on storing data nobody ever uses because nobody knows what’s there?

None of these issues is new. To my knowledge we have been discussing them since the arrival of word processing and server based storage. Yet we seem no closer to an effective solution than ever. There are entire departments now devoted to knowledge management, yet our knowledge (let alone information) is still (for the most part) a semi-chaotic mess.

As Nick noted:

Your knowledge assets MUST be findable. They must be ambiently findable (which means that by their very nature, they pop up when you start looking). As knowledge managers, sometimes we spend far too much time creating usable knowledge assets, without thinking about creating findable knowledge assets (actually, we often spend too much time on capture, and ignore both usability and findability).

The interesting question is how can we make this happen? From past experience we know that asking people to add metadata to content is a hit and miss approach.

From my perspective, the most interesting candidate to help solve this problem at the moment is enterprise search technology. Sure this technology works on the findability issue and does not take care of the usability factor.

But I reckon findability is more useful at a business level. Realistically, if we could find stuff, we could improve its usability later. However, at the moment we can’t find stuff at all.

In the meantime, that’s one cute cat 😉