Traditional collaboration tools can create powerful, local information flows but little build-up of value over time.The latest data emerging on how enterprises are using Web 2.0 tools in the workplace this year is painting a picture of a sea change in the way those businesses conduct collaboration and communication amongst their workers, and to a lesser extent the rest of the world.
Intriguing new just-released reports now show that between a third and one half of businesses either already are or will be employing so-called Enterprise 2.0 tools in the workplace (blogs, wikis, and social networking/messaging) in 2009. The data also show that security concerns remain high, access is actually fairly low, compliance with mainstream enterprise data practices is poor, and some workers aren't planning to get anywhere near them.
The bottom line: The tools have arrived. How enterprise knowledge and is created and flows within our organizations is beginning to change dramatically.
In my recent post about the return on investment (ROI) of Enterprise 2.0, I cited the most recent widely available data as of mid-2008 saying approximately a third of businesses have the tools in place. However, we know have additional, more recent datapoints that shows both the latest adoption rates as well as some of the concerns that business have with use of the social tools inside and outside their organizations:
While the challenges of taking a business social are many and varied, one critical underlying issue that's become increasingly clear that businesses need to strike the right balance between the tools they now have for communication and collaboration. A major change has taken place in many organizations over the last year and so there is imbalance and uncertain about how to best use the resources at hand.
To be clear, social tools aren't the right answer for every collaborative business problem. But neither are traditional tools such as e-mail, in-person meetings, or phone calls. Using the right tool for the job while at the same time understanding that the Enterprise 2.0 tools change the very nature of the job is going to be essential for achieving good outcomes in virtually every organization.
As depicted in the figure above, which lays out the spectrum of most enterprise knowledge creation and flow today, important new channels have been added to the corporate mix in recent years. Channels that are just starting to be used. Blogs, wikis, and activity streams (those event lists in apps like Facebook and Twitter that tell you what's happening in near real-time) in particular are changing how knowledge workers express themselves and work with each other. The intrinsic design of these tools creates much more of a usable, accessible information ecosystem than traditional tools. These traditional tools can create powerful, local information flows but little build-up of value over time or collective intelligence. In other words, the new social tools change enterprise knowledge flow by making it more social, more open and public, discoverable, and ultimately, the most leverageable.
Note: I somewhat reluctantly included ECM in this list since the latest crop of ECM tools are adding much of the emergent, freeform, and social aspect that makes Enterprise 2.0 apps so distinct, powerful, and engaging. Just be warned that most off-the-shelf ECM today is not going to enable Enterprise 2.0 outcomes.
So the latest data above shows that it's clear that Enterprise 2.0 has arrived for most of us. Now the question is what are going to do with it? We need some policies, we need some help for workers with literacy, and most of all, businesses need to offer clear guidance: When should social tools be used for getting work done and when should the older, traditional tools be used that keep information submerged and unusable by the rest of the organization. Hint: The create the most value for the organization (and themselves), workers should generally default to social tools unless the information is highly sensitive.
But the extremely rapid rise of the tools in private life gives us an indication of what's to come: Despite the powerful network effect of traditional communication tools, social tools have become highly disruptive to the status quo on the consumer world. This same type of disruption, while dampened by company policy and governance, is only starting to be felt in businesses today now that the tools are in place in most companies.
Wise organizations will manage to this, get out ahead of the curve, and direct it for their benefit.
How are you using social tools in your business? Or not using them? Why or why not? Put your comments in Talkback below.