Enterprise 2.0, is this “social” or just a brilliant disguise?

Canada Dry used to have this ad in the French market: “It’s like alcohol, it has the taste of alcohol, but it’s not.”

Looking at all the buzz and $ injected in Enterprise 2.0, I’m wondering whether Enterprise 2.0  is not becoming the Canada Dry of Social Networking.  “It’s like social media, it has the taste of social media but it’s not”.

One of the major promises of the blogging and social networking phenomena is to open the walls of enterprises and connect work-groups, engineers, marketers with the relevant communities of clients and experts in order to co-develop, co-brand, co-market with the open world.

Yet, these Enterprise 2.0 solutions are  leveraging technologies that have been invented for social networking to create “gated corporate communities”. One might argue that  customers and prospects are welcomed in these gated communities. However, very few people will go,  set up  and maintain a profile in the private communities of all their prospective suppliers. It’s already difficult to keep up with  LinkedIn , Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare…

Looking back:  Corporations have succeeded in taking over people’s email and most employees have now their professional emails as primary ones. Will this be the case for social profiles ? Will Facebook and Linkedin become obsolete and lose the battle against the Jive, Lithium, Telligent of the world?

I’m not sure.  For many functions within enterprises, building walls kills the value of social networking. This is the case for sales, marketing, innovation, hiring, just to name a few.

The net is that the challenge is not in technology and that enterprises need to embrace both the technology and the paradigm shift of “social media”…. as scary as this is.

So what’s next ?

What about Microsoft buying more of Facebook and bringing it to the enterprise level ? It could have the same feature set as Jive, Lithium, Bluekiwi and others while leveraging the Facebook infrastructure. Such a system would rule out the need for employees to create profiles  on their employer’s portal … and to do  it again every time they change job.

What about Google doing the same, with a better version of Buzz, a few acquisitions and a similar agenda.

I’m  betting on the last two. Whoever owns the social profile owns a major entry point to the internet and both Microsoft and Google are too big to fail.

3 thoughts on “Enterprise 2.0, is this “social” or just a brilliant disguise?

  1. Some Enterprise 2.0 implementations, as you mention, allow for direct interaction between the inside and outside of the company with limited control. Relationships are built and fresh content is generated by stimulating synergies between employees and the outside. The benefits are an improved understanding of the marketplace, improved processes around providers, suppliers and partners, reduced costs and troubleshooting time. And it grows the brand. Unfortunately any companies are not genuinely there and may not be there fore long.

    My own experience is that the key to developing any Enterprise 20 capability is people inside a company being first able to go social among each other, vertically and across silos, before they can go social with the marketplace.

    I see many Enterprise 2,0 implementations languishing. They had been sold and bought on the premise that the platform would deliver collaboration and the creation of new knowledge. As if technology was able to deliver such premises. While the knowledge of the platforms is often god among buyers, the understanding of how to create organizational change is more often than not primitive. It is one thing to say “Its not about technology, its about people.”It has become one of the truisms of the decade. its another one to be able to design and implement a successful strategy for Enterprise 2.0 to be adopted and to deliver results As soon as one leaves the circle of early adopters’ , the challenges become humongous.

    This situation is strangely reminiscent of ERPs in the 90s when corporations sunk billions into systems supposed to embed perfect processes into organizations. The idea was that employees would feel compelled to embrace these new perfect processes. Now the idea is not to transform processes anymore, but to transform the ways the people work, by providing tools and mechanism to develop processional relationships, helping them focus on adding value, foster information discovery, collabration, cross pollination of ideas, innovation and transparency.

    However, like with ERPs, the challenge of establishing these new ways of working remains as accute as it was before computers were even invented. Human nature and organizational cultures evolve at glacier speed, if that. In many organizations the prevailing culture overwhelmingly favors silos over transparency, lone-rangerism and coalition building over collaboration, and retention of information over open sharing. Faced with that, the best Enterprise 2.0 platforms are somewhat powerless. I see Sharepoint platforms used just by secretaries, or just to send emails. I see companies with 1,000 seats on Sharepoint and 200 postings on the forum over the last 6 months. The vendor has moved on since long and the IT folks have stopped wondering whyemployees dont participate.

    So yes, Enterprise 20 is a great promise. For the first time the technology exists for those people and organizations that want it to collaborate, create new knowledge, and work in ways that are humanly natural. The difficult part is that it takes to unlearn many short-sighted, self serving ways of working. This requires wanting it, a ton of education, and a culture that actively supports such adoption at all levels, with executives demonstrating the desired behaviors. A tall agenda.
    But…….. is there another option for those who want to survive and thrive?

    So .back to your post, corporations have to first go social within their walls. From there they will be able to shape ways to engage their ecosystem.

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