Beware of Digital Taylorism

E2.0 tools today are typically not integrated with the rest of a company’s applications. So the unstructured / emergent / social work happens in a totally different digital environment than the structured / pre-defined / formal work. Orders get filled using the ERP system, while conversations about why the order’s not getting filled happen in email, IM, a wiki, and so on.

For some purposes, this is OK. Narrating your work via blogs or microblogs so that others can find you and access your expertise is a great standalone use case, as is narrating your ignorance —   asking questions to the enterprise as a whole without guessing in advance who will know the answer.

But most informal collaboration, I bet, happens ‘close to’ the formal work of the enterprise. So the digital environments that support the formal and informal work should also be very close to each other, either within the same application or across tightly integrated ones. Data and decisions (“OK, go ahead and increase the customer’s credit limit so we can ship the order”) should be able to flow easily between the systems for formal and informal work. This is not a new point, but it bears repeating for exactly the reasons Laurie mentions. Unless and until this happens, E2.0 is much less than it could be.

Yes, its easy to drink too much social ‘Kool Aid’. But that applies as much to the process centric view, as it does to focusing only on the “social, humane, people-centric” perspective.

My point about the impact of electricity on industry still stands. Hard nosed contextual collaboration built around a bad or inefficient business process is only stop-gap measure (if even that), but is probably easier to sell in the short-term. This kind of digital Taylorism is bad not because it ignores the soft stuff, but because the pseudo-science of scientific management was debunked a long time ago.

Part of the problem is that we still get confused by the differences between ideas such as user-driven computing, lightweight enterprise IT approaches, creating good user experience in enterprise apps and social software. Each offers benefits and there is a strong relationship between these four, but they aren’t mutually inclusive all of the time.

For example, improving a process might not be so much about contextual collaboration but could simply be about applying lighter Web inspired IT solutions to enterprise problems. I remember seeing this example of a shipping company having a bottom line impact with Enterprise RSS back in 2008.