Last week the annual Enterprise 2.0 conference was once again held in my home town, Boston.
Like thousands of my colleagues
I came, I saw, I commented.
So, why has it taken me so long to blog about it? Well, in addition to the usual – “I have been busy” excuses (truthful as they are), I also am learning how to balance microblogging and blogging. My more prolific than usual use of Twitter while at the conference kept the burning need to post an entire blog entry at bay. I am beginning to learn the complementary nature between microblogging and blogging. But more on that later.
Let me start by stating that some excellent commentary and insights have already been posted via Twitter. If you missed them you can retrieve them via the tag #e2conf. Additionally, there have been some very insightful blog posts form friends and colleagues such as Larry Hawes, Doug Cornelius, Oliver Marks, Stowe Boyd, Ron Miller and Bill Ives.
So the purpose of this post is not to rehash the comments I made in Twitter, or to restate (most) of what has already been documented in the blogs I listed above. Here, I share a very high level summation of the event. I have pondered in retrospect what it all came down to, and for me it can be expressed in the acronym – CIT.
The “C”, could have stood for collaborate – but I have bundled that into the “I” – see below. No the “C” in this case stands for, Culture. Why, if I heard it once, I heard it a million times during the show “Enterprise 2.0 is not about technology, it’s about culture.” Organizational and individual culture matters the most, supported by strategy and leadership. OK sure, no argument there. But I have to be honest, listening to many of these talks I could not help but think of Nelson Riddle and Linda Ronstadt’s successful collaboration on “What’s New”, and how that lyric goes on to state “probably I’m boring you.”
Don’t get me wrong, I am not labeling the show boring. There was a real energy there that could be felt (more on that later). But from a what’s new in practice insights and lessons learned, there was not much new being shared. Yes, we know that culture matters – a lot. Indeed Dan Keldsen and I last year in our keynote stressed that according to the study we did, culture far outweighed age, and any other factor in determining success with Enterprise 2.0. What was lacking in this year’s show was the HOW. How does one shape and manage culture and change behavior?
Indeed, despite the ubiquitous mantra “It’s not about technology it’s about culture”, the majority of presentations and panel discussions were from TECHNOLOGY providers. And with all due respect – for there are some great technology tools and platforms to be leveraged, for the most part these “providers” do not get it. Culture may be important, but they would like to see it go away, or convince us that “if you build it they will come.” An example: during one panel discussion, the issue of ROI came up, posed by a “user attendee”. The panel of solution providers tip-toed all around it, but never directly addressed it (this was a common approach to the issue throughout the presentations I saw.)
Stowe Boyd approached the microphone at one point to offer a different perspective. He stated that e-mail and even telephones at one time required an ROI in their nascent stage, but now we see that the value was “obvious” and defied traditional ROI. He had me with that, until I read Doug Cornelius’ blog post in which he stated: “When email was first adopted in the enterprise there was an ROI calculation. It was cheaper and faster to send an email, than to send a message through the post office. There is a reason we get so much spam. It is cheap and easy. Businesses may no longer calculate the ROI, but they did as part of the adoption process. Even though now it is just an assumption that you have email in the business. There was a compelling reason to adopt.” Well said Doug – and we in the Enterprise 2.0 world should not get lazy. If there are real tangible benefits than we should demonstrate them. More on that later.
But, before moving on I feel compelled to state that there was one very good presentation, given by a user organization, that did shed some light on the “reality” of implementing E2.0. This presentation was given by Walton Smith of Booz Hamilton and Allen, the recipients of the Open Enterprise Innovation Award.
Speaking from experience, Mr. Smith shed some light on what it takes to put E2.0 culture in place. The project had a “C” level sponsor (pun intended) and champion in the organization. A multitude of technologies were used – and so a strategy for technology was necessary. A relationship with corporate IT was most beneficial (e.g. Corp IT had to provide the network, data warehouse, SharePoint and active directory). There was a need to also align with a security team and help desk to make sure they were doing it “right”. And most shocking, even to me – there was a heavy handed approach to change management. Mr. Smith shared that at Booz Allen Hamilton, 50% of profit is allocated to change management. Now there is a culture ripe for Enterprise 2.0. The bottom line take away from the presentation for me was E2.0 is not viral, despite all the marketing hype to the contrary. Adoption may be partially organic, but success comes when you plan and develop a strategy, proactively control change management, and provide leadership. Go figure.
I reiterate that the award they won was the Innovation Award. I reiterate it because that brings up to the I in CIT – Innovation.
Although not spoken quite as often as culture – innovation was a popular term du jour. It was used in the definitions of E20 and as part of virtually every value statement associated with E20.
For me this was another “what’s new” moment, but I was, in this case, not bored by the white noise. I was glad to hear the innovation buzz because it helped to draw a line between Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 (a line that was all too often blurred during the conference. See commentary by Ron Miller.) Why do we collaborate? In the Web 2.0 world we collaborate in order to be social, to build communities of friends and COIs. In E20 we collaborate to foster COPS, to drive faster decision making, re-purpose knowledge and experience – and drive innovation. There is typically a business goal or purpose behind the deployment of E2.0, as highlighted by the Booz Allen case study.
But while I was encouraged by the prevalence of “innovation” as a term, as was the case with the culture mantra – I was disappointed by the fact that no one was really providing any insight on innovation. Does it just happen? Were we being led to believe that if you deploy E2.0 you will have innovation in your organization. Hardly.
No one was talking about how you take a team of connected people and make them innovate. E2.0 no more makes your organization innovative than it automatically change your culture.
Where was the focus on innovation itself? To the best of my knowledge, there were no surveys, no studies, no presentations on innovation, or commentary on how E2.0 maps into or complements the practice of innovation management.
This was unfortunate as innovation management is a hot topic. is such a hot topic. In fact, I was reminded of this via my Google alert on “Innovation management” which linked to two articles published during the show, one in the Wall Street Journal, the other in Information Week. We at Information Architected view Innovation Management as one of the next big movements within enterprises, a movement that is well positioned to leverage the systems created by E2.0. I hope to see more presentations on innovation management and its relationship to E2.0 at the upcoming Enterprise 2.0 conference in November, and here in Boston next year. (Yes – in case you missed it, that was a shameless plug for our services in this area.)
And that leaves us with the T word. Any guesses? Those of you who are thinking Technology were not paying attention. E20 is not about technology – remember. No the T is for Twitter. Yes, I know Twitter is a technology and a Web 2.0 technology at that, and so it seems that I am violating 2 of my own rules (E2.0 is not about technology, and don’t confuse web 2.0 and E 20.). But its presence can not go unnoticed.
Twitter wins my award for the elephant in the room – displacing SharePoint – still a close second. Twitter was discussed in many contexts: the older age demographic associated with its users versus other Web 2.0 tools; potential links to business applications and branding; its potential to make blogging obsolete; legality and authenticity. There did not seem to be any definitive answers, but there was much healthy banter.
But, more importantly, as I alluded in my opening paragraphs, Twitter was the tool du jour. Looking around the room you could see Twitterers everywhere, busy in their “Andy Warhol” moment – my opinion counts. It felt a bit like grade school, with the passing of notes back and forth. There was some wasted time and redundant tweeting going on. But there was also quite a bit of collaboration, both with folks not in attendance, and among folks in the audience. The most powerful example took place during the “Sheep in the Board room” keynote. Within 15 minutes the audience became the true presentation in my opinion.
Twitter is a tool that truly has value, but its exact value, its exact place in a collaboration strategy, and how it will morph inside the firewall of Enterprise 2.0, that remains to be seen and studied.
That’s it. Whew – for a high level three letter acronym recap I guess I went on a bit. But let me add in closing congratulations to Steve Wylie and his crew at TechWeb for staging a well orchestrated event and parlaying that success into a west coast conference in San Francisco in November.
Maybe I’ll see you there – or in the Twitter stream.