Another ZDnet blogger, Dennis Howlett, also threw a curve ball with his Enterprise 2.0 is crock post
. Howlett challenges the whole Enterprise 2.0 idea and concludes:
Like it or not, large enterprises – the big name brands – have to work in structures and hierarchies that most E2.0 mavens ridicule but can’t come up with alternatives that make any sort of corporate sense. Therein lies the Big Lie. Enterprise 2.0 pre-supposes that you can upend hierarchies for the benefit of all. Yet none of that thinking has a credible use case you can generalize back to business types – except: knowledge based businesses such as legal, accounting, architects etc. Even then – where are the use cases? I’d like to know. In the meantime, don’t be surprised by the ‘fail’ lists that Mike Krigsman will undoubtedly trot out – that’s easy.
In the meantime, can someone explain to me the problem Enterprise 2.0 is trying to solve?
The inescapable conclusion of this analysis of the ‘knowledge management’ idea is that it is, in large part, a management fad, promulgated mainly by certain consultancy companies, and the probability is that it will fade away like previous fads. It rests on two foundations: the management of information – where a large part of the fad exists (and where the ‘search and replace marketing’ phenomenon is found), and the effective management of work practices. However, these latter practices are predicated upon a Utopian idea of organizational culture in which the benefits of information exchange are shared by all, where individuals are given autonomy in the development of their expertise, and where ‘communities’ within the organization can determine how that expertise will be used.
The nonsense paper was interesting because it helped to reveal some truth about why information management projects dressed up as knowledge management often failed to live up to expectations, but ultimately is was also a disappointment because it did nothing to explain how to respond to the latent need that information management was not meeting. Similarly there is a lot of truth to Howlett’s call for Enterprise 2.0 to step up and come clean, but on the other hand I think he is mistaken in thinking that Enterprise 2.0 is a solution looking for a problem.
There are plenty examples of companies using Web 2.0 inside their companies without any of the ‘social’ aspects – for example, a legal firm in Australia created a mashup called PeopleFinder
that helps to reduce the number of calls to voicemail and shipping company Wallem
saves money on fuel costs using Enterprise RSS as part of a system for communicating with their ships. While this probably isn’t what most people think of as Enterprise 2.0, it does demonstrate that Web 2.0 technology has real benefits once you work out how to apply it to business problems. Some companies are also simply using open source social computing tools as a cheaper alternative to proprietary content management software.
I don’t agree either that Enterprise 2.0 pre-supposes anything about organisational change
. This assumes, incorrectly, that management hierarchies are the only reason for poor information flow in an organisation. It also assumes a strict choice between a free form or a structured information system. This doesn’t mean that existing management mindsets that have a basis in controlling information or information systems won’t be challenged, but we shouldn’t assume this is always the case either. This actually takes me to the point – and some people might be disappointed to hear me to say it – that the use cases for Enterprise 2.0 are no different from the use cases that intranets, document management systems, e-learning environments and collaboration tools have been trying to solve satisfactorily for years.
However, the most important feature of Enterprise 2.0 that many people still don’t get is the concept of emergence. Emergence isn’t about creating social chaos inside organisations. Instead its about taking an abundance approach to IT using Web 2.0 technology that allow users to create their own solutions with few constraints or penalties for wastage. And this is why Howlett gets it all wrong. As faddish as it sounds, Enterprise 2.0 isn’t a solution – it actually describes an IT paradigm shift.