Enterprise 2.0: the lost years

Enterprise 2.0 is done for another year. But how much has really changed? Very little it seems with the same old problems recurring. Time to move on.

If day one of Enterprise 2.0 conference was disappointing then day two was marginally more encouraging with some of the best stuff held to the end. Most people I spoke with seemed to agree the keynotes were dominated by vendor pitches while the plenary sessions were stacked with 'how to's' I'd rate as fit for grade school. When viewed through that lens, there is an inevitable disconnect between the notion of Enterprise 2.0 as disruptive and a trade show that follows traditional lines.

As the Enterprise 2.0 conference winds down, my over riding sense was that while people coming to the show for the first time will have heard a coherent if repetitive message, those who have been around a while will go home bored by the sound of the vendor voice and some downright silly rhetoric about how the millenials are going to come riding to the rescue of hard pressed evangelists. Sandy Kemsley expressed it best when she said:

The millennial argument is, not to put too fine a point on it, BS, and I’m tired of hearing it spouted from the stage at conferences. You don’t have to be under 28 to know how to live and breathe social media, or to expect that you should be able to use better-quality consumer tools rather than what a company issues to you, or to find it natural to collaborate online. Many of us who are well north of that age manage it just fine, and I don’t believe that I’m an outlier based on age: I see a large number of under-28’ers who don’t do any of these things, and lots of old fogies like me who do them all the time.

It would be easy to point the finger of suspicion at the show organizers but they only get to play with the hand they're dealt. Even so, it is worrying that some four years after Andy McAfee's seminal story on the topic, there are still sessions addressing the 'how to' of ROI.

I guess it is an unfortunate fact of life that as what once was seen as skunkworks introduced to companies via a credit card acquisition is starting to gain board attention.

As I said in the final panel session, companies can't kill the Pacioli-esque domination of cost driven decision making. It is a reality with which we will be living long into the future. On the other hand, buyers have yet to find ways of befriending the bean counters to the point where they can provide real help in building business cases. As someone who lived in that world for more than 20 years, my feeling is that the accounting types would love nothing more than to be approached for assistance. It would give them something valuable to contribute rather than fighting the stereotype of always saying 'no.'

However, my attention was caught by those who are starting to talk about success metrics. While I have complained for years that post implementation success stories that include metrics are thin on the ground, Enterprise 2.0 examples are dribbling through where hard dollar values are mentioned. That has to be a good thing.

One continuing misconception is the idea that social computing will be applied as a layer over existing applications. I don't see that. In five years' time, I predict that a good 90% of the companies represented at this type of show will have been bought or gone out of business. It is the Darwinian nature of software. More important, what we currently think of as vendor solutions/products will have been absorbed as features of an expanded applications toolset we loosely corral as ERP. That's because past investments are too large and complex for business to risk layering over the top. Far better to absorb.

And just as things were starting to get interesting with discussions around culture, the show closed. It's maddening when that happens. I hope that next year we will see real war stories from companies that have learned how to traverse this delicate topic.