KPMG's report Enterprise 2.0: Fad or Future? The Business Role for Social Software Platforms is a disappointment. Here we have one of the world's leading consultancies publishing a 19 page glossy brochure that is short on substance and long on consulting sales bait. Perhaps it's a reflection of KPMG's belief about its clients understanding of the topic. Olivier Amprimo at Headshift notes the report author fails to mention leading suppliers like Atlassian. It also ignores Facebook, despite the fact the report was published a full month after f8 hit the headlines. Did the author not notice there are 211 KPMG related Facebook groups, many of which revolve around the firm's interns? The irony is that KPMG credits Generation Y for the uptake in 'Enterprise 2.0' apps but doesn't throw a bone to Andrew McAfee, arguably the foremost thinker on this topic.
Olivier sums the report's general tenor nicely:
...the "Challenges to adoption of E2.0 tools", page 13, is nothing but a Flintstone approach of the issue with a flavour of an American post 9/11 trauma. Security, "institutional cultures and norms" (i.e. confidentiality and hierarchy) are the usual arguments of conservatism...Understanding how social tools fit and complement existing ecosystems, that is the issue to be addressed. And on that one, it seems that a company like KMPG has still a lot to capture to get the point.
I'd go further. The ongoing discussion about corporate responses to E2.0 (I do dislike the expression but we're stuck with it), doesn't take place in brochures but on the live web. McAfee's Sharp Responses to Flat Communities is an excellent example providing useful insights into the status quo of community efforts:
They seem like no-brainers for companies who are interested in better, deeper, and more frequent interactions with their employees, customers, suppliers, and other partners (and doesn’t this mean all companies?). The hosts and members of these communities will receive value even if full-fledged emergence doesn’t happen. They’re technically trivial to set up. And companies like Cisco have been saying for a while now how much customers love them, and how much money, time, and frustration they save.
Olivier goes on to suggest that new forms of consultancy might arise.
Reading the above mentioned KMPG report leads us to the conclusion that stake is not high to compete against consulting moguls. And the standard product approach IBM, Microsoft, Intel and their long tail - companies that traditionally partner with consulting moguls to close deals - is to conflict with the real value and signification of social computing. As long as they think as Microsoft instead of Apple, their clients and customers will have issues.
The impression I've gained is that the big consultancies tend to see social computing as a threat to their centralized systems approach to knowledge management. Lobbing buzz words into a 50-slide deck isn't going to cut it. Neither is the exclusive form of high priced consulting to which they are used. Large consultancies are used to charging hefty fees yet as Andrew points out, the technical expertise and by implication cost, of establishing E2.0 technologies is trivial. How do you justify charging thousands of dollars a day for providing guidance, much of which is freely available on the web?
I was surprised that KPMG missed the opportunity to offer a deeper discussion into the implications for other systems. In fairness, it infers future discussions may open up the topic but I'd argue the discussion has already moved on. How for example will companies capture tacit knowledge and efficiently wed it to existing process based systems? To what extent will existing processes need reviewing in light of patterns of emergent behavior and knowledge? These are two of the more obvious questions that have yet to be addressed in any depth but which pose challenges for those operating rigid, inflexible systems.
A glimpse of what this means comes from this post by Sig Rinde:
Everything that happens in a business or any organisation for that matter is a process. Process as in a sequence of things-that-happens to real or virtual objects so as to add value to that. Problems, wrong colour widgets, broken arms, misplaced stuff, forgotten information, suppliers that do not turn up - all states that has to be addressed, on a daily basis. And damned important they are.
We've barely scratched the surface of discovering where value lays or how ad hoc problems are efficiently solved, let alone working out the best solutions. My sense is that it is at the intersection of the conversations Sig alludes to and the lightweight, fast track exception based process applications he envisages. I wonder what KPMG thinks about that?
Olivier thinks that the likes of KPMG, with their armies of super smart people will 'get it.' I disagree. E2.0 challenges the consulting business model at many levels, especially in concepts around shared knowledge and cost. How for example do you compete against the 34-minute time and expenses application without a radical rethink? It certainly won't come from a rework of past hierarchies. They're already being eroded by the rust belt of defunct management thinking.