Enterprise 2.0 is beyond a crock. It's dead

Enterprise 2.0 is beyond a crock. It's dead

Summary: Martijn Linssen and prof Andy McAfee are engaged in a battle over Enterprise 2.0. It is a battle that is well worth the studying as it demonstrates the chasm in thinking behind E2.0 and social business concepts.

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TOPICS: Enterprise 2.0, IBM
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An interesting war of words is breaking out on one of my favorite targets: Enterprise 2.0. In the blue corner we have ex-Cap Gemini consultant and integration expert Martijn Linssen. In the red corner we have what some might call the godfather of Enterprise 2.0, professor Andrew McAfee. For the purpose of this discussion, I'm taking the role of somewhat biased and unfair referee. I fully expect to both land and take a few blows.

Martijn Linssen's people argument

Mr Linssen starts out with a thinly veiled attack on prof McAfee's thesis that social tools can help business become more social. He notes the subtle shifts in the use of terminology by different actors in this play, juxtaposing Enterprise 2.0 with 'Social Business.' Why is this important? Mr Linssen notes in the context of the Enterprise 2.0 conference:

Enterprise 2.0 was mentioned in the hashtags, but not in the topics itself. Dion Hinchcliffe said at some point

Very interesting: IBM, Jive, & Adobe have all been using Social Business in their keynotes instead of Enterprise 2.0. #e2conf #socbiz #e20

which made me remark:

Where #E20 used to be about tools, process and people, and #socbiz about people, process and tools, they now seem to mean the same *cough*

and yes, that was slightly sarcastic

Maybe Dion got inspired as his next tweet seemed a Gandhi-like gesture:

My take: Any #e20 <--> #socbiz debate just isn't as important as focusing on solving business problems by better connecting people together

Dion should be taken outside and berated on that last one. He's been banging on about this topic forever. None of this would matter that much if it wasn't for the fact that the conference is dominated by the same players: IBM, Jive etc have been part of the Enterprise 2.0 conference fabric since forever. As has prof McAfee. What's going on? In Mr Linssen's analysis:

One year ago, Dachis seemed to be the prodigal son to E2.0, stepping away from the extremely IT-focused approach wielded by Andrew McAfee, and embracing people as the core focus of "Business 2.0". Over the past year, they and Altimeter have grown hugely just doing Social Business, and now Ray Wang takes that a few huge steps higher with his Constellation Research Group

This week, E2.0 returns to Social Business almost as a prodigal Dad, begging to be let in. I say we give the old man a break - but let's remember this parable and tell its tale the next time someone suggests that tools are at the heart of solving our issues...

Marketing won then?

I have a somewhat more prosaic analysis: the Enterprise 2.0 meme didn't cut it so the IT vendors have moved on to the next thing that sounds good: Social Business. There is a somewhat more complex answer: Enterprise 2.0 has never been comfortable with itself. On the one hand you have people who think it is about collaboration while others portray the topic as an extension to sales and marketing. It could be both but very often you will see the answers co-mingled as though they are one and the same. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Andy McAfee's tools argument

Mr Linssen's analysis clearly ruffled Andy McAfee's feathers. He argues:

...the idea of a ‘social business,’ a hive mind guided by open leadership marshaling people, process, and technology, is not new. It’s been around for 80 years, and has been studied intently throughout that time. In contrast, Enterprise 2.0, which I’ve defined as the use of emergent social software platforms by organizations in pursuit of their goals, is a novel phenomenon.

This distinction matters. It matters because telling business decision makers “There are some important new (social) technologies available now, and they’ll help you address longstanding and vexing challenges you have” is very different than telling them “Business is social, and the more deeply you embrace that fact the better off you’ll be.”

I'm glad he said the first bit, not so sure about the second. I wish that prof McAfee had made THAT first statement with as much force four years ago when I first asked him: "Show me the examples." (I am still waiting for a solid answer.)

What's more interesting is that in arriving at his '80 years' argument he references a number of social science academics that shaped his thinking. As a social scientist by training I recognize a number of the authors he talks about. The problem as prof McAfee well knows is that social scientists almost never agree on anything. The fundamentals that underpin any social science theory and practice are predicated upon belief systems that emphasize either nature or nurture in varying degrees. Neither he, nor I nor anyone else who operates in these fields is any different but rarely if ever do proponents of theory acknowledge those influences. And that's critically important.

Missing the point

From where I am sitting, prof McAfee is taking what I consider a reductionist position that has its roots in both Descartes and Darwinian thinking but without the benefit of understanding or infusing that with a real understanding of what makes enterprise tick. In throwing up his hands at Mr Linssen's barbs...

“Should this movement be called ‘Social Business’ or Enterprise 2.0?’” is a dumb debate, and one I’m not going to participate in any more (here’s what I’ve said about it). Advocating something like “social business design should place technology at the very, very end, and people first” is both dumb and harmful, which means that a response is important.

...he fails to make an essential connection. On the one hand he states there are well established theories that position people at the center of business. On the other hand he says management is tired of hearing it. What he doesn't do is explain why management has failed to make sense of the people centric argument. Instead, he assumes that tools are the answer.

This quantum change in technology is the reason that the Enterprise 2.0 conference, going on right now in Santa Clara, exists and has grown. It’s also why new companies like Jive, Socialtext, Spigit, Atlassian, Yammer, and many others exist, and why established enterprise software vendors including Microsoft, SAP, Salesforce, Novell, IBM, are making deep changes to their products (disclosures at end of post). It’s the reason that new professional services firms like Dachis Group and Altimeter Group are attracting interest and clients. It’s why the $250 million sFund was recently established, and why venture capitalist John Doerr said “If you don’t have a social strategy, you better go get one.” He didn’t say this because he suddenly realized that people were important and business was social. He said it because he saw how much opportunity there was to use the new social technologies to improve business.

In making these claims I fear prof McAfee has managed to confuse himself. Putting my own critique about 'social anything' to one side for a moment, he is losing sight of the fact that having a great sounding buzzword capable theory is always music to IT vendors. It sells 'stuff,' often off the back of industry pundits looking for the Next Big Thing to flog to an unwary buyer. The industry has a long history in this: MRP, ERP, CRM, SCM, HRM...the list goes on. And yet time and again we come back to the old chestnut argument that can be summed up as follows: other than one time productivity gains or reductions in head count, what did we REALLY get from our IT investments? Here, 'social anything' tries to set itself apart in what at times looks like a Frankenstein nightmare of conflated and confusing argument.

Altimeter's Jeremiah Owyang rarely uses the term Enterprise 2.0 or Social Business. At least not as far as I can tell. He prefers to think (broadly) of social media tools as a way for brands to sell more. That's not a difficult concept to grasp even if it has yet to become a mainstream idea. Dachis Group on the other hand wants to socialize the business from the inside with blogs, wikis and the like but also looking at the process elements. That's a much tougher ask and one that at present I see having little chance of real success precisely because the basic question I outlined above has not been answered. Do you see what I mean when I say confused?

In quoting a venture capitalist prof McAfee is further confusing himself. He is falling into the trap of believing VCs understand technology. With a few notable exceptions, they mostly don't but they know a hell of a lot about buzz trends that increase capital values, they know what sells and they know how to place spread bets. What he would have been better saying about John Doerr's remark was: "He knows a good thing when he sees it. Kerrching!"

Quo Vadis?

Does this mean Mr Linssen's discussion is right? It does after all seem to fulfill the marketing desires of those who talk people but actually mean tools. I would also argue it is an incomplete analysis. He does well to bring up the differences if only to allow me to infer the marketing differences. But none of this gets us an inch further unless the industry starts to get honest about what works and what doesn't.

I know of two very high profile, award winning 'Enterprise 2.0/Social Business' initiatives that are failing.  I know of others that are heading south. One is Intellipedia, the other I cannot name as the project leader is in a precarious position and about to jump ship after years of disillusionment.

When you get down to the nuts and bolts of the problems that prof McAfee correctly identifies but for which no amount of technology will solve it is really simple: the kinds of management and structures you need in order to make these ideas work in a sustainable manner is almost non-existent. Command, control, power and status have a huge part in this. And no amount of putting lipstick on those organizational pigs will change the fundamentals. In one well known case I still see individuals being taken to one side and asked: "Did you really have to say that? It's not what we expect from people in your position." Insidious isn't it?

If the application of a technology looks like it will either save money or deliver top line revenue growth then it's going to get attention. That's one reason why Altimeter has done so well and is getting attention. Jeremiah Owyang has done a great job of sifting through and identifying those things that can deliver business value and which can be externalized without necessarily impacting the way a business is fundamentally organized. He may argue differently in the area of customer service but I have plenty of contra arguments on that topic.

If E2.0/social business is based on some perceived fluffy idea that exposing the social nature of business is a 'good' then forget it. Management, as prof McAfee states, has known this for years. But does it REALLY want that exposed for internal or public consumption? Far better to pretend it doesn't exist as a way of exercising control than unleash a tidal wave of unfiltered, critical thought that may at once make management look extremely silly or inept. That's the fear that kills these projects. That's what leads to the kind of pressure which ensures a dumbing down of ideas in the name of presenting a unified, brand enhancing face.

Where to next? That's hard to tell but I'll take a stab at it. 'Social anything' is a currency that's out there to be traded and marketers, ably assisted by PR are milking this for all its worth. In the real world, it will continue to fail until it is wrenched away from the marketing hand wavers and put into those of organizational social scientists and HR professionals who are genuinely empowered to help bring change. We are a very long way from achieving that Nirvana.

In the meantime I look forward to reading the next installment in what should be an enthralling intellectual battle between messrs Linssen and McAfee. My sense is this war of words is only just beginning.

Topics: Enterprise 2.0, IBM

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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34 comments
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  • There are always two groups of people...

    ...the group of people who have to assign a number to everything and a group of people who don't. :) I fall into the group of people that don't care about numbering things. This is an age-old "version numbering" problem for software. With the Enterprise 2.0 debate, IMO, we don't even have to number anything--we can just provide a collection of products and services that solve customer's immediate and near-future problems, and will be flexible enough to grow with them and have enough longevity to last through the typical 3 year technology lifecycle. So in other words, a SOLUTION. It doesn't have to have a number, necessarily, it could have a year or it could have nothing. If you have to number it, call it "MyEnterpriseSolution 2011." MyEnterpriseSolution 2011 will be different for every company because every company is in a different business, a different point in their social and customer relationship lifecycle, etc. MyEnterpriseSolution 2011 will be different from MyEnterpriseSolution 2012 because there will be something new to think about at the end of 2011. So MyEnterpriseSolution 2011 will hopefully get your company to 2014 because you were able to live with MES2011 because it had flexible workflows, business rules, and a good API's to band-aid you through. Every year companies could roll out their collection of services and products that they feel are the most flexible, scalable, and have the longest longevity to meet Enterprise Requirements.

    You also just discovered why companies never involve me in naming products or numbering them. :-)
    charlieisaacs
  • RE: Enterprise 2.0's is beyond a crock. It's dead

    Nice summary of the argument. People all too often forget that the point of business is to be in business. Stuff like wikis etc can be nice, but if they don't move the bottom or top line then they're a distraction.<br><br>As you rightly point out, most of the noise around E2.0 and social business is either buzzword compliance or someone trying to refresh their brand. Smart consumers/customers are ignoring the discussion.<br><br>A friend of mine (<a href="http://www.capgemini.com/ctoblog/">Mr Mulholland over at Capgemini</a>) nicely summarised this when he pointed out that business only really cares about three things.<br><br><ul><li>Changing the cost of production.</li><br><li>Creating new products or services which customers want.</li><br><li>Creating new ways to communicate with customers.</li> <br></ul><br>(I seem to be quoting this a lot at the moment <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/happy.gif" alt="happy"> )<br><br>Social Media for most intents and purposed is just a tool to communicate with customers earlier in the sales cycle. Enterprise 2.0 is a tool to improve employee communication and capture (some) tacit knowledge. These are all good things, if you need them; however, most/many businesses don't need them.<br><br>I think Seth Godin backed into this question when he argued that <a href="http://peter.evans-greenwood.com/2010/09/15/short-blog-posts-are-cheese-burgers/">Jazz is more interesting than bowling</a>. The idea is that we'd all rather be a creative, improvising Jazz musician than a do-the-same-thing-every-time bowler; so why do we treat business like bowling rather than Jazz? <br><br>The reality of business today means that most people will be bowlers, and the best they can aspire for is to be road crew for the Jazz musicians, as business has always needed (and will always need) a lot more road crew (and bowlers) than musicians. Until we change this fact, we can expect command and control to remain, and both social business design and e2.0 will be niche plays for the majority of the business community.
    pevans-greenwood
    • RE: Enterprise 2.0's is beyond a crock. It's dead

      @pevans-greenwood - hmm...doesn't stop the flogerati though does it?
      dahowlett
      • RE: Enterprise 2.0's is beyond a crock. It's dead

        @dahowlett they're just playing an angle, selling silver bullets to the folk who want them, and it's paying their bills
        pevans-greenwood
  • Not Dead but Thriving

    To quote Yogi Berra: Its deja vu all over again.<br>The preponderance of evidence doesn't seem to deter you. Oh well...
    fidelman
    • RE: Enterprise 2.0's is beyond a crock. It's dead

      @fidelman The preponderance of inane claptrap talked by people who ought to know better is what drives me.
      dahowlett
  • Another #E2Conf, another crock post.

    Sad really, could have almost predicted this two days ago.

    While the entire #SocBiz vs. #E20 could make for an interesting debate, the issue is mostly moot. #SocBiz is clearly Dion's and Dachis marketing message as prompted by his initial tweet.

    It comes down to two different marketing messages pushing the same technology and fundamental cultural shift in the organization.

    The reality however is this. The toolsets and cultures of business are fundamentally affected by Social Media. With a rising GenX workforce that makes huge use of these toolsets, it is going to happen. With an emerging GenY workforce that understands the tech, but not the biz of the tech, we have a huge mentoring opportunity.

    The workforce is forever changing and this is truly happening. Right now it is more like a crock pot, slowly cooking up something tasty.
    Robert Lavigne
    • RE: Enterprise 2.0's is beyond a crock. It's dead

      @Robert Lavigne Agreed, while academics and marketeers can spend hours discussin the minutiae of naming conventions and focus, the reality is that fundamental shifts in business, in the workforce and in technology converge to create a demand for "this stuff". In the same way that others have tried to redefine and rename cloud computing, it's a hopeless exercise, far better to get on with driving the changes that it can bring...
      benkepes
      • RE: Enterprise 2.0's is beyond a crock. It's dead

        @benkepes I think Mark stated it best on his reply here http://andrewmcafee.org/2010/11/social-business-past-retirement-age/

        "the order of People, Process, Technology is not fixed and is situational"
        Robert Lavigne
      • RE: Enterprise 2.0's is beyond a crock. It's dead

        @benkepes - this is precisely the kind of argument that management hates. "...reality is that fundamental shifts in business, in the workforce and in technology converge to create a demand for "this stuff"." Where is your evidence? And if I hear 'Fail often' as if to say 'Don't worry about it, we'll figure it out eventually...' whatever that's supposed to mean, then you really are on a hiding to nothing.
        dahowlett
  • Some garbage on here!

    Labels and buzzwords are simply an opportunity to sell more. Hence the the ongoing involvement of the vendors particularly, who are quick to create a 'solution' for something and present themselves as experts on things they just fundamentally don't understand or 'get'. "Emperors Tailors" as someone recently called them. Quick to agree the organisation is naked and even quicker to knock up an imaginary set of clothes.

    You made a good point - "What he doesn?t do is explain why management has failed to make sense of the people centric argument." - and the reason is that 'management' or 'leadership' just don't get it. They are not interested in having a people centric organisation, especially an 'open' or 'social' one simply because they lose control. They are no longer the 'experts' and more importantly, their methods can be called into question which they don't want. Why do you think we are still having this debate about tools and people etc etc after 30 years??

    Truth of the matter is though that this time the changes cannot be ignored. Sooner or later organisations will be people centric weather they like it or not. The only thing to say about technology is that it has enabled the ability for people - employees and customers alike - to connect and share REGARDLESS of whether the organisation, its leadership or management want that to happen or not. And its a good thing. All this endless talk of Social Media and Enterprise 2.0 is just symantics. Labels.

    And pevans_greenwood i have to take issue with one of your statements - "Social Media for most intents and purposed is just a tool to communicate with customers earlier in the sales cycle. Enterprise 2.0 is a tool to improve employee communication and capture (some) tacit knowledge. These are all good things, if you need them; however, most/many businesses don't need them."

    These are all good things if you need them??? IF you need them?? IF you need to talk to customers??? IF you need to improve employee communication?? This attitude is one of the key reasons why organisations are not getting it and why, on the whole, most organisations only achieve average performance. As Jim Collins pointed out, there are very very few Great companies. And also, very very few Great Leaders.

    Luckily, the 'social' momentum/movement call it what you will removes the IF decision from organisations and people like pevans_greenwood. You no longer have the choice, its no longer within your control. Even if you try and shut out the noise by failing to adopt the principle or banning access to social tools within the business, for example, it wont matter.

    Its a social tsunami, and those that don't get it are standing on the empty beach in their speedo's wondering where all the water went.
    garelaos
    • RE: Enterprise 2.0's is beyond a crock. It's dead

      @garelaos there is nothing innately compelling about social media tools that mean this is an inevitability. When you say: "Truth of the matter is though that this time the changes cannot be ignored. Sooner or later organisations will be people centric weather they like it or not. " - where's your evidence? This is EXACTLY the kind of thing I am talking about. Unsubstantiated assumptions that sound good but have no bearing in fact.
      dahowlett
      • RE: Enterprise 2.0's is beyond a crock. It's dead

        @dahowlett The evidence is not there simply because it has not happened yet! Its like arguing over the planting of the first trees and saying - show me evidence it will grow?!

        Social connecting or tools or whatever you want to call them are enabling something that hasn't been possible before - real time collaboration. You cant control your brand any more like you thought you could. You can no longer ignore your customers because their thoughts and view are being shared real time, through the web and social tools. You cant ignore it, like some people want to.

        And its no different with employees. For too long we have chosen to ignore the watercooler conversation and 'blame' it on 'disgruntled' employees and hope that our 'internal comms spin' will counter it. But it doesn't. The watercooler conversations are now going mainstream. Every employee potentially has a microphone and they are beginning to use it. What we need to do is stop obsessing about the problems this might bring, and instead embrace the sheer power this has to break down silo's, improve communications and collaboration and, overall, improve the organisations performance as a whole.

        The issue it is that it exposes leadership weaknesses that, as leaders, we have been able to hide and avoid in the old hierarchical, one way, top down structures.

        Stop talking HR spin and crap like Enterprise 2.0, Social Media, Talent etc. Forget the spin, and the technologies. We have been debating these since my first days in HR in '87.
        garelaos
      • RE: Enterprise 2.0's is beyond a crock. It's dead

        @dahowlett what you said :)
        pevans-greenwood
    • RE: Enterprise 2.0's is beyond a crock. It's dead

      @garelaos<br><br>Evidence? Or is this stuff "self evident", much like the Sun revolving around the Earth?<br><br>Competition in the market, and competition in the workplace will sort this out, and all the complex models and theories will be worth squat if they don't deliver. The bits that work will be absorbed by the mainstream, and the rest will die away.<br><br>Getting "IT" (whatever "IT" is) doesn't and won't matter, as it's results that count, and not theory.
      pevans-greenwood
      • RE: Enterprise 2.0's is beyond a crock. It's dead

        @pevans-greenwood Like I said, taking the IF attitude to engaging customers and employees demonstrates is madness! How can an organisation consider engaging customers or employees as optional?

        The point is you wont have a choice when social connecting becomes mainstream. Your employees will have the same voice as customers and will become as brave and as vocal. Then, as an organisation you will be forced to deal with the issues rather than ignore them. If you don't, you will fail as an organisation long term because an organisation that is seen publicly (And its going to be very public) to ignore customer and employee messages loses credibility.
        garelaos
  • RE: Enterprise 2.0's is beyond a crock. It's dead

    Dennis, your comment sums it up:

    But does it REALLY want that exposed for internal or public consumption? Far better to pretend it doesn?t exist as a way of exercising control than unleash a tidal wave of unfiltered, critical thought that may at once make management look extremely silly or inept. That?s the fear that kills these projects. That?s what leads to the kind of pressure which ensures a dumbing down of ideas in the name of presenting a unified, brand enhancing face.

    But it will be no longer possible to 'Pretend it doesn't exist' as you put it. The nature of social tools - which are growing rapidly and ignoring corporate walls - mean that you cannot prevent the 'tidal wave'.
    garelaos
  • leveraging power shifts

    From the start these issues have bothered me. The concepts were not as clear to me as they are presented here but the issues were the same. Internal company business can not be made public without permission. There is too much power to lose. On the other hand customer communities are vocal and enabling and empowering them benefits sales, marketing and it seems development. <br><br>This is a lesson that those of us in the open source software movement have learned well. The power of the community is the evidence you are looking for. It is well proven by the browser you are using to read this comment. A well lead customer community has great potential and companies would be wise to leverage it. <br><br>Where does this leave e2.0. Right where it started inside the firewall. Corporations can manage internal communities. A company profile can benefit the employee and help them to better highlight the work they are doing. It can also help the company find workers that aren't (but little is said about this).<br><br>A proper system for storing information can break down knowledge silos. This has always been important for management. Especially for companies that see employees as a commodity. "Please document what you know!" or "What if you get hit by a bus!" You have to wonder how many of these buses actually hit people, you would think it happens everyday considering how often it is talked about. No one ever says, "What if you quit."<br><br>The benefit goes both ways but the company benefits more which seems to me to make this a clear winner. If employees want to participate to get a badge so much the better.<br><br>Collaboration tools are becoming an essential part of business. Once a company identifies problems where do they go to get actual work done? Anything that speeds access to information or enables better collaboration benefits the project. At Teleplace (shameless plug) we believe in the importance of the last mile of social collaboration. (see: <a href="http://www.teleplace.com" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://www.teleplace.com</a> or <a href="http://wordpress.teleplace.com" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">http://wordpress.teleplace.com</a> for more information)<br><br>Enabling a mobile workforce and removing the need for large brick and mortar investments amounts to a bit of a power shift. The company gets the benefit of lower expenses and access to a greater pool of talent. They lose the lock in they have enjoyed but considering the speed of change this may not be such a loss. The power of the employee is similar, they have a greater pool of companies to choose from and they are not locked in.<br><br>In this new environment community and collaboration is everything. Without e2.0 you are lost. e2.0 does not mean that you expose your company or management to the public, it means that you enable your internal community and allow it greater choices for collaboration. It is the place where real work gets done inside the company. Leveraging your customer community is an entirely a different animal but it is clear that there are benefits there too. <br><br>Seen from this perspective e2.0 is not dead, it is a tool for managers and hardworking employees. It is a power shift, true, but I wouldn't cry for the companies just yet. Where I sit I see successful implementations, including new businesses that have no buildings at all. They do everything in Teleplace. I see companies embracing internal communities, agile business processes, and an open source mentality that gives them a huge market advantage. There will be winners and losers in the internal power struggle. Who wins and who looses in the company is not clear but the benefits of access to information, dynamic communities, knowledge retention, and agile response, seems to clearly benefit one company over another. <br><br>"Bring out your dead. - Wait, I'm not dead yet!" - Monty Python.

    Ron Teitelbaum
    @ronteitelbaum
    RonTeitelbaum
  • leveraging power shifts

    Sorry for the duplicate
    RonTeitelbaum
  • Dennis, you're right...

    And I have posted as such:

    http://smoothspan.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/heretical-thinking-enterprise-2-0-is-dead/

    Cheers,

    BW
    BobWarfield