Enterprise 2.0 – another “build and they will come”?


I already un-followed several people on twitter because I could not stand any more E2.0 trivia being hurled at me. I have hardly seen anything new being said about it. And no –  just by adding “social” and “collaborative
” to every sentence does not make you or your idea look smart.

I earn a living by finding out my customer’s pain points and offering solutions to them. I have only been in consulting for about 12 years or so, and hence don’t claim to be the most experienced dude around. However – in these 12 years – I have not seen a significant change in the top 5 pain points for big companies. And till date – I have not seen E2.0 in that list. I actually doubt if it even makes it to top 10.

Don’t get me wrong – executives at almost every single client of mine are keen to find how E2.0 can help them in their business. Most are willing to invest in pilot projects to check out the idea too.  But almost invariably – they can always find other avenues to invest that money for better ROI.

Here are  few things that are probably worth keeping in mind in this context.

1. Business users are not dumb

Everything does not have to be stupid simple. There are complex things they need to do, and a simple UI is not always what they are looking for. These people are smart enough to use complex tools as long as it serves their purpose.  They feel insulted when they read/hear that things have to be made stupid simple for them.

2. Not all customers are consumers

What works in B2C does not work in B2B all the time. So when we talk about facebook type things for enterprise – remember that it is only one of the many things a business user needs to do.

3. Guess what – people have been collaborating before E2.0

If a millennial reads about E2.0 – he/she might think that people used to never collaborate till now. Enterprises have been collaborating internally and externally all the time – it is the tools that kept evolving. Email, telephone, snail mail all have helped us collaborate and they all still work. What the new tools help with is scalability. But then again – unless it is B2C – not many enterprises need such extreme scale.

4. Large enterprises cannot be flattened

I get very amused when the E2.0 gang keeps talking about flattening hierarchies. Try doing that in a significant way for a large company – and you will soon figure out it cannot function effectively.

5. You can build your own community online – but you cannot control it

And this can bite you. If you nurture a community and make every one passionate about it – you should also be prepared for even more backlash if you mess up. Plus – you cannot restrict all the activity to a site you control. It is a free world – and people will discuss about you anywhere they please.

6. Collaboration is not always neatly tied to a given business transaction.

Lets say you can have an online chat with your vendor on a certain product. It is very seldom that you talk only about one transaction – you will talk about many transactions, weather, baseball and so on. But when you go back to that transaction – you don’t want to see the baseball discussion – you just want some specific discussion about that transaction. And most software I have seen don’t support a useful way to use collaboration information. Just being able to collaborate is not value adding – using that effectively in decision-making is key.  MDM, content management, collaboration, OLTP and OLAP all have to play together – and this is hardly possible today.

Bottom line – till it becomes a top-5 pain point, I do not see many enterprise customers taking the E2.0 plunge. And I am not holding my breath on it for now.

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8 thoughts on “Enterprise 2.0 – another “build and they will come”?

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  5. Just out of curiosity what are the 5 top pain points of your customers right now. Any changes in the last years?

    Let me know, Mark.

    P.S. The flattening of hierarchies is not coming over night. E2.0 functionality is shifting the power structure making some of the levels less relevant and over time it will go away.

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    • top pain points usually include not being able to measure and optimize costs, dealing with post M&A standardization, lack of real time visibility on revenue, costs, liquid assets , lack of figuring out marketing effectiveness in reasonable time, lack of consistent planning and budgeting across the enterprise etc.

      On flattening hierarchies – at best you can get rid of a few redundant levels, but for the most part – this is not going to give enough benefit to make it a big deal. Or may be it is – but I have not seen it happen yet. But such org efficiency strategies have been around for ever, and the big companies take on such projects every now and then.

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