The view from the trenches...

Summary:Taking a pragmatic approach on collaboration 2.0 strategy and tactics, here's an example of some realities from a client side perspective.

Taking a pragmatic approach on collaboration 2.0 strategy and tactics, here's an example of some realities from a client side perspective.

This post is about what it's like inside a large enterprise running a collaboration system. I've been on both sides of the fence during my career: working within large and small software companies, in marketing and consulting, and in both small and large enterprise management rolling out objectives.

Lets start with a crude punch list of typical big company characteristics:

• Big companies are conservative and slow moving: even pushing the wheel hard right will make the supertanker turn gradually. They are therefore focused like hawks on more agile players in their space, anticipating where they need to be heading for on the horizon..

• Big companies are paranoid about their data and constrained by legislation in the countries they operate in, and even some they don't...

• Big Companies have powerful security officers to ensure compliance to external and internal regulation including email discovery...

• Rigid (and company readable) email clients/Blackberry, telephone and asynchronous Microsoft Office documents are the big company lingua franca...

• Big companies are typically comprised of multiple silos, each of which has constantly mutating yet interrelated business objectives...

• Silo inhabitants are often feuding both internally and with other silos, and sometimes build out incompatible infrastructure to protect their turf...

• Big companies are constantly adding and shedding staff to respond to changing objectives, and planning prevention of intellectual property security bleed by leavers...

• Big company management is risk averse and will defer decision making upwards if they feel their role is threatened...

• Big companies have powerful but often understaffed IT departments that have to keep expensive legacy systems working...

• Publicly traded big companies are very focused on making the next quarter's predicted numbers...

• Big companies are sitting ducks to get sued...

...Obviously there are lots more items that could be on this basic list but this sets the stage...please feel free to add more relevant examples in the comments...

Counterbalance against this the attractions of Enterprise 2.0, many of which are being informally adopted by employees at big companies so they can get things done, despite the constraints outlined above.

While the barriers for Enterprise 2.0 formal adoption seem low, the above illustrates the entrenched bureaucratic processes that modern agile techniques and software seek to augment and /or replace as appropriate.

The sheer inertia of the processes and tools currently in use to meet objectives can make it tough to formally switch gears. Informal low budget/below the radar uptake is increasingly common to transcend the above limitations, but 'official' formal strategic planning using coherent tactics is still relatively rare.

There is of course much consideration of currently fashionable social software, reading of (great) offline books such as Clay Shirky's 'Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations' and conference going to explore what the next big thing is.

However, the hard work of formally relieving the email and document iteration exhausted troops in the field is slow in coming. Informally these troops are using online tools on an ad hoc basis because they see their value in getting their job done.

I've previously discussed here the reality that they are using web 2.0 tools routinely in their 'real' life outside work: why, they reason, not just grab their enterprise equivalent to get their job done more efficiently?

Formal executive management planning is often tactical, piecemeal and subject to change. A lack of formal adoption can cause software try outs to spring up within silos that don't scale and ultimately paint solutions to other business problems into a corner. Although the software adopted is often cheap or free the associated business processes can be expensive and hard to change.

Appropriate formal patterns and processes that fit the needs of specific enterprises are badly needed in order to execute the promise of Enterprise 2.0: agile, efficient and economical solutions that increase efficiency while meshing well with existing infrastructure.

While a centralized approach can seem counter to the spirit of Enterprise 2.0, a well planned infrastructure will allow the freedom to collaborate and grow organically along preconceived expandable paths.

Surprisingly often software adoption takes on a mutated life of its own in the enterprise...design and construct the house and then figure out what the details are, don't start with a cooker and then build out around it...

Topics: Software, Collaboration, CXO, IT Employment

About

With extensive senior management practical experience in international enterprise collaboration, Oliver previously managed the Sony PlayStation 'WorldWide Studios' collaboration extranet, and has worked with the American Management Association, Sun, Docent/SumTotal Systems, Harvard Business School and McKinsey & Company on major initiativ... Full Bio

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