Enterprise 2.0 conference: why I am attending, what I'd like to learn

Enterprise 2.0 conference: why I am attending, what I'd like to learn

Summary: I didn't attend Enterprise 2.0 in 2009 but will be doing so this time around. I'm hoping to see marked progress in adoption and reported success. The only way to find out is to turn up and listen at an event, which for all its faults attracts a great crowd.


I missed Enterprise 2.0 last year because I (correctly) guessed it would be little more than a bunch of vendors engaged in a kumbaya style meetup. I hope this year is different although I still see that keynotes are liberally sprinkled with vendors who will no doubt drop into pitch mode at some point. Let's be clear - everyone's selling something:

  • Vendors: want you to buy software and services
  • Consultants: want you to buy services
  • Analysts: want to sell you their opinion and advice
  • Buyers: want to sell management the next project or keep them funding existing
  • Event covering media: want you to click through the ads on whatever is accompanying it

And while the finance people have yet to turn up, they want to sell you the money to make it all happen. And the lawyers want you to be aware they've got your back when things go pear shaped; for a fee. A perfect mix some might think.

I will be attending in part because Oliver Marks suggested he and I do a two-hander on value propositions in the lunch break on 15th June. That will be interesting if only for the fact two somewhat grizzled, battle worn ex-pat Brits will likely utter expressions only other Brits will understand. More seriously, my position is to emphasize the need for approaching the socio-psychological dynamics that can side swipe any project but which can delight you along the way. The 'what's in it for me' question looms large in this discussion. I should warn that in private conversations, Oliver and I frequently bemoan the lack of depth in conversations around value props and implementation barriers. We're often aligned along a path that emphasizes practicality over dreaming. It will be telling if anyone cares enough to turn up and quiz us.

Susan Scrupski of Dachis Group wants to put me in the coconut shy with practitioners on the last but one session of the final day. That should be fun because I'd like to think we can get beyond the fashion moment as a justifier for investment and into the analysis of how this stuff works. Given its time slot, this will be one for the heavy hitters and doers. Susan says I make her cross and that's OK as long as it leads to more thinking. To her eternal credit, Susan recently invited me to contribute to a call-in session on E2.0 adoption. I learned that the barriers to success are just as large as they ever were in any IT project. Practitioners are fighting turf wars every day to get the idea of collaboration infused into the minds of those who are E2.0's recipients. I am skeptical of progress but ready to be persuaded if someone can point to techniques that have worked. I have ideas of my own.

I want to introduce a client who hasn't attended this sort of event to 'serious' analysts and influencers who understand both the opportunities and barriers. His company has much to learn but there is only so much ground that can be covered from Internet searching and reading. Sometimes you just have to get face time.

Above everything I want to find out how much has changed in the last couple of years among those attending. That means quit bleating and get attending. I've said almost forever that I have a great face for radio and rarely if ever appear 'front of house.' That's changing, not because I want to nor even because I've been asked. I want to learn more that I can apply elsewhere. One of the great ways I can do that is to put myself out there as a buyer advocate and wait for the bombs to go off.

I'm going to second guess but my instincts tell me that with the IT fashion wagon having moved on to cloud everything and SCRM that we'll hear much more about what works and what doesn't. In a recent post on adoption, Andy McAfee noted that:

Enterprise 2.0 is sometimes a too-well-kept secret, despite the best efforts of the executives, trainers, curators, and others who want it to succeed. Most of today’s knowledge workers are somewhere between busy and harried, and they certainly feel that they have better things to do than poke around the Intranet looking for cool new social tools.

I wonder. That sounds like a refrain I've heard for at least four years. If we've not learned much in that time then something foundational is missing. I hope I'm wrong.

One thing I see that is conspicuously missing in the agenda (apart from a session that includes Jason Corsello) are discussions around the HCM aspects. While there is plenty that acknowledges that Enterprise 2.0 is about people, I've yet to see a serious expose of the HCM challenges that play into this story. In listening to an incisive and no holds barred session organized by Knowledge Infusion (registration needed for replay but otherwise free) I noted that foundational problems continue to bedevil implementations. At the most basic level, some organizations don't know who is working for them. I've been hearing that one for at least 20 years. HCM is only just grasping the importance of the social in developing talent. In turn that has to impact on the notion of collaboration. Where is that discussion?

If there is anything I'd like to ask it's this: Why, regardless of the technology do we seem as an industry both on the buy and sell side to continue repeating past mistakes? If the promise of Enterprise 2.0 is so compelling (and in theory at least, it IS compelling) then why are vendors puzzled by slow take up? Let's see if this year's conference sheds light.

Topics: Enterprise 2.0, Collaboration

Dennis Howlett

About Dennis Howlett

Dennis Howlett is a 40 year veteran in enterprise IT, working with companies large and small across many industries. He endeavors to inform buyers in a no-nonsense manner and spares no vendor that comes under his microscope.

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