Enterprise 2.0: innovation is the name of the game

I'm at the Microsoft FastForward conference in Las Vegas, and seeing and hearing quite a bit about the growing movement to open up enterprises and drive greater innovation with Enterprise 2.0.

I'm at the Microsoft FastForward conference in Las Vegas, and seeing and hearing quite a bit about the growing movement to open up enterprises and drive greater innovation with Enterprise 2.0.  Here are some observations:

There's what I call it the LIFT phenomenon -- Linked In, Facebook, Twitter -- the rise of public social networks that are being embraced by individuals, and reshaping the organizations they work in. And, potentially, will lift individuals and organizations out of the economic doldrums. The network effect is powerful and should not be underestimated.

Striking the Great Bargain, 2009 style. The lines between work time and personal time have grown cloudy, and may even disappear altogether.

Employers may look the other way, willingly or not, as employees spend time on the Web and social networking sites during work time. In return, employees may be spending their off hours doing research and answering customer inquiries related to business.

The US Department of Labor, with all its rigid rules about workplaces and overtime hours, would have a hissy fit if it was able to uncover all this blurring between worklife and personal life. But it’s a huge wave, and a way of life for the connected generation.

This blurring was discussed at length by keynote speakers. Dan Rasmus, director of business insights for Microsoft, said his team looks at a lot of likely scenarios for the network-enabled workplace, and that it’s looking like “in 20 years, there may be no boundary between work at life.”  Call it “placeless work.”

Don Tapscott, author of Grown Up Digital, said the incoming “Boomer Echo” generation expects to be working with social networking tools as part of their jobs. “This is a powerful new force — these kids are different.” They were raised on the Internet.

Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody, said there are many instances of enterprises bowing to pressure from social networks, and even seeing these networks as sources of additional value at no cost — they even refer customer service questions to these sites. However, these communities have great value to their members beyond corporate purposes. Nevertheless, larger enterprises are beginning to leverage these values, and may be better able to introduce advantage of scale than seen at smaller companies.

Rasmus, Tapscott and Shirky all raised the recurring theme that today’s networked employees (and that even may include some Baby Boomers) lead digital lifestsyles that they want to bring to the workplace. The question is, will corporations let them?  Will governments also bend to this new workplace?

Enterprise 2.0 is maturing into an enterprise strategy. If there’s any major trend reshaping the way information is being shared and distributed across the online world, it’s the growing ubiquity of social media — and this is reshaping the way businesses interact with customers.

Charlene Li, author of Groundswell: Living in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, demonstrated how companies are positioned to take advantage of the growing ubiquity of social networks in a variety of creative ways.  For example, postings on social media sites are likely to be integrated with one’s activities across the Web.  She observes that “social networks will be like air… Social networks will rush to open themselves up.” At some point, comments posted on a site such as Facebook will be viewable across the range of Web-based services and sites.

Another effect is that “companies will be transformed from the outside in,” Li says.  Companies have opened up with the help of their customers. Some companies use Facebook for their employee recruiting. But many are still afraid of losing control.

Companies on the cutting edge. One company embracing the agility of Enterprise 2.0 approaches is Thomson Reuters. Venkat Khrisnanoorthy, head of platform development for the company, said that the financial information company was bogged down with two many products that “customers had to stitch together,” as well as issues with ability to provide large amounts of data from multiple sources. “We have 40 content databases with terabytes of information,” he explained. The company has developed a content search through which information could be quickly captured by financial analysts at customer sites.

Speed of information delivery and collaboration were also top of mind at Accenture and Cisco, part of a panel of social media organizations. Amit Bansal of Cisco reported that because of a social networking intiative fully supported by CEO John Chambers, the company has been able to speed up product delivery times to within 120 days.

Kevin Dana of Accenture also provided good advice to managers looking to develop social networking capabilities: Don’t be afraid to experiment, try out new approaches. “Failure is okay, as long as you don’t spend too much.”

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