The Enterprise 2.0 Value Propositions Agenda

The Enterprise 2.0 Value Propositions Agenda

Summary: Time is Money: Where's the Beef? The now biannual US 'Enterprise 2.

TOPICS: Collaboration

Time is Money: Where's the Beef? The now biannual US 'Enterprise 2.0' conference is a wrap, but disappointingly there is still little business understanding of what the term means or what the value propositions and benefits are. The general 2.0 suffix is well understood by technology enthusiasts but in the world of the enterprise - or small and medium sized businesses - it's still hard to deliver an understandable and memorable Enterprise 2.0 elevator pitch proposition between the 40th floor bar and the hotel lobby.

The Enterprise 2.0 conference was co housed with VoiceCon at San Francisco's Moscone's center and the unified communications/telecomms crowd attending that event, in my admittedly small sample, had little idea what E2.0 was all about. This is a major problem. Dennis Howlett posted an entirely reasonable 'smell test' - 'Enterprise 2.0: what a crock' back in August here on ZDNet and failed to find much in the way of compelling business propositions. You can bet that Dennis's view is kindly compared to most naysayers, who in North America might bellow 'Where's the Beef?', having been brought up on clear advertising propositions like the brilliant 80's Cliff Freeman Wendy's hamburger TV ad that question is from.

Vendors pay large amounts of money for their booths, people fly and pay considerable amounts of money to attend in an appalling economy, but the succinct value propositions they are ultimately looking for and which will drive market growth are in alarmingly short supply. The good news is this is a rapidly evolving space which will definitely be an important pillar of competitive advantage for post recession business growth, so long as value is identified and unlocked.

Putting my cards on the table, I'm a consultant with lots of internal experience making collaboration work inside large organizations both as an employee and as hired hand: our goal is to make money as a result of helping companies make large profits due to enhanced collaboration efficiencies. I'm heavily involved with the Enterprise 2.0 conference as an advisory board member.

The reason for a conference like E2.0 is to grow the market for vendors and the associated community in the space by demonstrating business value. The 'what's in it for me' value proposition - the 'where's the beef?' question - is unfortunately highly contextual. The executive business strata level I operate at is not interested in the mechanics of how you deliver value, they are interested in what that value is, when it will arrive and how to measure it.

An analogy I sometimes use for collaboration using Enterprise 2.0 is a commercial restaurant. We open tonight expecting 500 customers: we have a menu of 8 possible entres: 2 fish, 3 meat, 2 seafood, 1 vegetarian. A commercial kitchen's tools and technologies are analogous to hi tech collaboration  - you could do all sorts of brilliant things in and with it but the goals tonight are those tasks. So why is that guy over there cooking spaghetti on his own stove and talking loudly about what a great chef he is with his colleagues? If it's your restaurant you've got plenty to worry about - is there enough Salmon?, will the rain mean slow trade?, what's going on with the plumbing? - without dealing with the washing up guys who have gone freestyle as chefs with the ingredients.

This comparison may run counter to the knowledge of Enterprise 2.0 sophisticates, but it's a common fear from business users assessing the value of trying E2.0 techniques, and an example of the outsider's perspective. A solid E2.0 strategy will drive to execute explicit business goals enhanced by practical new methods. Taking into account legal, compliance and enhancing existing software (and extracting additional value from it) are all vitally important considerations.

The E2.0 space is still dominated by kitchen sales and chefs, with relatively few enterprise scale restauranteurs showing much interest, to continue that analogy.

Collaboration comes from 'co-labor' and that is the heart of the enabling E2.0 technologies, but organizing that labor with evidence of improved results is arguably the achilles heel of E2.0 as a movement. My colleague Sameer Patel and I ran a track tightly focused on extracting business value from an executive perspective. We started with a three hour workshop which followed a journey from collaboration concepts, through selling the business idea roadmap to management, through launch and into user uptake strategies. The other three sessions were 'Collaboration at Scale' with Cisco SVP Alan Cohen and Cordys Chief Strategy Officer Jon Pyke, where we explored the challenges of large scale interaction, A session on ' Lowering Customer Service Costs Via Social Tools' and a final panel on Launching Winning Products in the Market: How Social Software Improves Your Odds which focused on innovation. I'll drill down on these sessions, as I'm sure Sameer will also, in a separate post - our intent was to reach some cumulative conclusions.

For the Boston June conference earlier this year Stowe Boyd and I organized the 'Open Enterprise 2009' research and award, which was won by Booz Allan Hamilton's Hello environment, after extensive discussions with a broad cross section of the space. Susan Scrupski has done a marvelous job since then in setting up the '2.0 Adoption Council' (whose pin badges and cloth bags seemed to be everywhere at the conference) and awarded an internal evangelist of the year award to Claire Flanagan, who is CSC Sr Manager Enterprise Social Collaboration.

(The 2.0 Adoption Council is a private community of internal Enterprise 2.0 evangelists inside enterprises who have 10k+ employees)

At issue for me, as we touched on in my video discussion with Andrew McAfee yesterday, is that middle ranking employees dominate the conversation on an operational level around the enterprise 2.0 event. The conversation is valuable and needed, but as I'm acutely aware it takes a strong constitution to embark on change management (at more levels than most people realize) inside an organization without clear understanding and strong air cover by and from execs. The 'chefs' are frequently brilliant people performing at a very high level but at risk from politics and lack of well defined overarching business goals to drive towards.

I've deliberately not read the various blog posts around the conference yet, I'm writing this first,  but I'll bet most of them will be around operational minutae, rather than big picture value propositions. I'm also pretty sure there will be some cultish group speak, which is admittedly inevitable after a gathering of the faithful.

To the lay person the unprecedented empowerment and value given to individuals by browser based web 2.0 technologies is well understood these days. The collaboration technology architecture in large enterprises is also pretty well understood by everyone in the workforce, as is the use of email at scale.

The application of browser based Enterprise 2.0 technologies in business is just about tangible now to the lay person, but practical method is lacking and frequently clashes with current practice. The problem is essentially one of managing change to successfully deploy Enterprise 2.0 technologies, which are rapidly maturing, to improve existing business precedents.

The friction that happens as this is attempted was painfully reflected by those in the trenches at this and previous conferences, (and here on this blog) but this doesn't move the market's agenda forward.

This may sound unduly harsh: there are plenty of excellent point solutions available with well defined and tangible benefit - with a couple of excellent conference launch pad products demoed yesterday, and I'm sure more on the way.

Will the promise of Enterprise 2.0 technology as transcending business tools that extract more value from happier, more productive individual employees come to fruition? That will depend on the ability of the Enterprise 2.0 market to clearly provide tangible business value propositions and use case validations that are attractive to all levels of business users.

The 'Where's the Beef?' TV commercial was all about mass production of identical hamburgers without much meat: Wendy's provide more...very easy to understand.  My 'industrial kitchen as Enterprise 2.0 tools and technologies' analogy demonstrates the world is your culinary Oyster (or Turkey or whatever) with empowering tools. Not so easy to understand, too many variables.

The question is, what's the effective menu/business strategy that will build your business and have users coming back for more - how do you organize to be a better restaurant? How the food is made is irrelevant, the customers are hungry and want a good meal and experience.  (When was the last time you went in a restaurant's kitchen before ordering?)

It's these types of broadly accessible 'what's in it for me' digestibles which are lacking at a high level with Enterprise 2.0: improved productivity is a very broad term which you aren't going to write a budget against without specifics. We're currently at a stage where the potential diners are discussing the kitchen and how to use it instead of what can and should be crafted in there, and for how many people.

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Topic: Collaboration


Oliver Marks & Associates provides seasoned, technology agnostic independent consulting guidance to companies on effective Digital Enterprise Transformation business strategy, tactics, infrastructure & technology decisions, roll out and enduring use models and management.

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  • Strategy-Driven Execution can pave a path to proving E20 value proposition

    Hi Oliver,

    I made a very serious attempt to bridge the perspectives in my blog post entitled "Is Enterprise 2.0 a Savior or a Charlatan? How Strategy-Driven Execution can pave the path to proving legitimate business performance" located here: . I tried to provide deep coverage of some of the key themes of the conference and particularly the track you and Sameer Patel chaired.

    I would certainly welcome your feedback and look forward to a continued dialogue around the topic.

    Best Regards,

  • Customer Centricity is the value proposition

    Hi Oliver,

    To continue your restaurant analogy - when you run a restaurant your objective is to have customers come and eat there. It's all about the meeting customer needs so that they come, have a great dining experience (I suggest you follow @GrahamHill, @wimrampen concerning customer jobs and desired outcomes) that they will subsequently share with others through word of mouth so that their friends and friends of friends will come to eat as well.

    imho E2.0 and sCRM are means to an end, which is to become customer-centric, facilitating ecosystem collaboration to understand and work towards meeting the customer desired outcomes.

    E2.0 and sCRM are the trees that hides the forest. The tools are just enablers to get to customer engagement.

    Do you agree with this point of view?

    @MarkTamis (#scrm)
  • Let's debunk the non-debate

    Oliver, Dennis Howlett wrote a fair analysis of the event. He missed a lot of key points, but is opinions appear to be sound.

    I wrote a follow up to his analysis and used your video as part of the article.

    Enterprise 2.0 Caffeine: Let?s Debunk the Non-Debate
  • RE: The Enterprise 2.0 Value Propositions Agenda

    Oliver ... You said it all in one sentence. "The now
    biannual US ?Enterprise 2.0? conference is a wrap, but
    disappointingly there is still little business understanding
    of what the term means or what the value propositions
    and benefits are."

    Take a step back for a moment. Do businesses buy
    Enterprise 1.0 software. No. How ridiculous. They buy
    desktop productivity software, supply chain related
    software, portfolio management software, etc... AND they
    do it for reasons that are related directly to two value
    propositions: 1) it SOLVES a real problem (like tracking
    goods through a supply chain) and 2) it DELIVERS
    measurable business value.

    I've long since abandoned the E2.0 movement. Your
    colleague DH has it right.
    Scott Quick
  • Who cares....

    Let's took about what really matters in all of
    this.... Paige's teeth!

    But seriously - great post Oliver - we'll be
    dissecting e2conf for months...
  • RE: The Enterprise 2.0 Value Propositions Agenda

    There's an important distinction here that there is real value in E2.0, but to your point people identify solutions to their business problems, they don't buy technology which might be useful.

    The state of the 'movement' - and it's maturing fast - is still somewhat fixated on the koolaid of possibilities using technology.

    To continue my industrial kitchen analogy, if we're setting up our restaurant on a fixed budget we won't buy random interesting looking pots and pans, we'll think through what we need in order to cater to 500 people as a process.

    E20 is very valuable for capturing unstructured data, typically the exceptions to repeatable process. This can be a hard concept for people to get since it's highly experiential.

    The challenge going forward is to clearly identify the business values of E20 to the business lay person in order to grow the market. This involves articulating clear use case values that drives efficiency through informed collaboration...

    • capturing unstructured data

      Oliver ... you're still talking like a techie with a solution in search of a

      Quoting you: "...E20 is very valuable for capturing unstructured data,
      typically the exceptions to repeatable process. This can be a hard
      concept for people to get since it's highly experiential..."

      Let's debunk that notion for a moment and look at a real world use
      case for a moment:

      Situation: The CMO for a HUGE athletic apparel/equipment
      manufacture located in the Pacific Northwest is given the mandate:
      Grow U.S. Sales x2 within 5 years without significantly increasing costs
      to the Global Brand Organization. GBO for this corporation is
      geographically dispersed, a highly matrix internal organization and
      relies on a network of agency partners from a myriad of disciplines. It
      across nearly every line of business and interacts with multiple IT

      Challenge: The creative staff that serves the GBO (internal and
      external) is awash in unstructured data located on desktops,
      departmental servers and outside the firewall on their partners' IT
      systems. Inefficiencies include multiple re-working of final artwork
      (labor costs), courier and shipping fees, and missed deadlines for
      important product launches.

      I won't dive down into the solution for NDA reasons but the scenario is
      real ... and several years old. The magic to "selling" this multi-million
      dollar software and services engagement was to connect the corporate
      imperative to the tactical realities backed by a solid ROI analysis.

      The situation for E2.0 implementations haven't changed. The
      consultants just aren't deep enough into the corporate woodwork to
      credibly connect the dots for the execs who authorize the funding.
      Scott Quick
  • You don't get it and I don't care.

    The "you" in this provocatively titled comment refers to the
    E2.0 true believers who eschew any focus on business
    value justification. It's dedicated to Dennis Howlett
    ( ... whom every E2.0
    geek should learn to love and rely upon.

    Here's my point made as bluntly as I can:
    1. Basic Research vs. Commercial Product. E2.0 folks ...
    you're positioning your goods and services much like the
    Basic Research produced by Ivy League universities. Basic
    Research, while great building blocks for commercialized
    goods, is distinctly different in two important ways: it's
    subsidized by grants (private and public) and it rarely
    resembles the final product purchased by the final
    consumer (businesses or individuals) ... so please... stop
    using your lame VisiCalc examples!


    2. You versus Your Customer. When you rail against ROI,
    you rail against those folks who approve the purchase of
    your goods and services. In this era of hyper-
    accountability, no CFO is going to breach his/her fiduciary
    responsibility to their shareholders for the latest and
    coolest technology. Get over this or get out of the

    3. Latent versus Explicit Pain. I love Apple. Not because of
    its super sexy hardware/software ... but because it is a
    shining beacon of the difference between the "solution
    selling" push model and pure a pure demand-driven
    model. If your stuff is really that great, your value prop so
    compelling ... customers will line up to buy it.
    Scott Quick
  • Value chain

    Oliver, thanks for a thoughtful and candid recap of the E2.0 conference/expo.

    I think the problem is how E2.0 is <a href="" target="_blank">defined</a>:

    "Enterprise 2.0 is the term for the technologies and business practices that liberate the workforce from the constraints of legacy communication and productivity tools like email."

    And this somehow is going to deliver a "huge competitive advantage in the form of increased innovation, productivity and agility."

    To gain a competitive advantage, you have to deliver something that more innovative or operate much more efficiently than competitors or create better experiences that create an emotional bond with customers.

    I'm sure that collaborative technologies can help, but the approach that E2.0 evangelists are using is along the lines of 1) implement the tools and therefore 2) magic will happen. Doesn't anyone remember what happened with ERP and CRM?

    The strategic value of E2.0 lies in its ability to make the value chain work better. I really don't see how "saving 30% of email messages" is going to do that.

    The other reaction I had after my visit to the Expo and talking with vendors selling the tools, was that the customer was rarely mentioned. Ultimately, customer relationships are the source of value, not employee productivity. Can you think of any company whose competitive edge was just internal productivity?

    Further reading: <a href="" target="_blank">Where is the Customer in Enterprise 2.0?</a>

  • E2.0 Value Today

    This definition is ridiculous: "Enterprise 2.0 is the term for the technologies and business practices that liberate the workforce from the constraints of legacy communication and productivity tools like email."

    E2.0 cannot be about technologies because business doesn't buy technologies. Business buys solutions: http://tinyurl/EvolutionBegins. And liberating the workforce from email, a described productivity tool...what would they be liberated from? Productivity?

    I like the phrase Enterprise 2.0 but the current captains of its definition are lost. 2.0 should designate evolution from 1.0. Logic dictates it is an extension of or improvement upon the previous generation. Unfortunately for the current crew of the Enterprise 2.0 they have seemingly ignored what business is all about. Perhaps it is their training in the "consumer" world which distorts their perspective.

    Anything written by this guy about Enterprise 1.0 (ERP, etc.) is a good starting point to understand where current business systems stand: You can't entice business to leave all of their investment behind and follow a string of technologies that are supposed to liberate us from productivity.

    There are real E2.0 solutions available today. Companies can retain/protect their investment in E1.0 and earlier solutions and address the dynamic needs of business that have not been achieved during the evolution of Enterprise Computing to date. In spite of the consumerish nature of the E2.0 definition in active discussion today the real results and definition for E2.0 are realized only when aligned with actual business need.
  • RE: The Enterprise 2.0 Value Propositions Agenda

    TV Everywhere is the neatest thing to come to pay TV providers in many years! Being an employee of DISH, I have not only experience this option on my own account but have had the luxury of showing others as well. I think that everyone has a use for this. Being able to watch TV from my Android is such a neat option. It makes it so much easier for me to stay caught up on my favorite shows, and it does not get better than being able to watch movies on the go. Now that I have had this- I can?t go back!