Wednesday 10 November 2010

Enterprise 2.0: The Prodigal Parent

Stranger titles have appeared on this blog...

Following the Enterprise 2.0 conference on Twitter via its hashtag #e2conf, I noticed a strange phenomenon: most tweets weren't about Enterprise 2.0, but Social Business

In a post of over a year ago, appropriately titled Social Business Design - the beginning or end of E2.0?, I wondered what Dachis' definition was going to do to Andrew McAfee's, and now it seems, the time has come to pass the verdict

Rewind the clock to May 2006; Andrew McAfee defines E2.0:
Enterprise 2.0 is the use of freeform social software within companies
Needless to say, that definition is hugely tool-focused, as is the entire post. Later-on that month, Andrew made another attempt:
Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers
For those of you now thinking he introduced people in that definition: you couldn't be more wrong. Andrew uses this definition to elaborate on the definitions of Social software, Platforms and Emergent, and once more restating that of Freeform

Fast-forward to October 2009: still, Andrew's talking tools and tech, people do play a part in those stories but they almost appear as necessary evils: they're just pawns in the great chess game

One month later, Dachis defines Social Business Design:
  • People
  • Process
  • Technology
clearly placing technology at the very, very end, and people first

Wow. Scary! Up till then, E2.0 was an IT-fest, selling the proverbial tech fix for a human problem, and even though the 80's are part of last century and a while ago, IT people still aren't prone to handle humans very well - more about that in a next post...

Enough of that. Back to the 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
A great remark, but a little too quick for me. Did Enterprise 2.0 just suddenly die here? Dennis Howlett made a cunning remark the other day by saying
Lets be clear: @mcafee is an academic who stumbled across a way to make $$ talking case studies that proved his theory....sort of..
which was truly, truly too true to be good (...)

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...

12 reacties:

Jon Ingham said...

Yes, but I still think most definitions of, and certainly approaches to, social business (including Dachis') still actually focus on the technology piece.

'What are we going to do with the technology - and other things?' is still a very different question from 'what are we going to do?' ('what's our social intent?')

Martijn Linssen said...

Thank you Jon - I like your definition.

The goal of that is somewhat flimsy IMO, but the focus is clear: people encompassing employees, suppliers, partners, to be led, managed, and communicate more effectively

Yes, we need tools for that in an enterprise. An enterprise is big, there's distance. If we'd all still live in a village we wouldn't even need e.g. phones, we could just still shout at each other to bridge the gap

Andrew has the tools as goals, and in his reaction ( he stretches that message again

Dachis ( puts the tools in second place, and the meaningful dialogue in first

Andrew defines the goal to be "more social, more open, more Theory Y, more Model 2, etc" and provides the "digital toolkit" as means

I rest my case

Mark Fidelman said...


The chicken or egg tool debate is unproductive. Tools have always been used in companies and some are at the "heart of solving issues". But, as Peter Drucker espoused, neither technology or people determines the other, but each shapes the other.

It's never been a discussion (at least for me) about whether tools are more important than people, process or strategy. It always been about the introduction of tools (as a result of a strategy) and their potential impact in the organization (negative or positive).

I remember the fax machine and its impact on the organization. It changed the way we communicated and thus we adjusted the way we worked with customers. Likewise, we then started to use the fax machine to replace other methods of communication precisely because we were successful with it.

So Social Business is how tools, people and process form a symbiotic relationship in order to obtain the benefits of stronger ties to customers, suppliers and employees.

I also don't think the order of people, process and technology matters as much as the overall impact each will have on the other.

Moreover, every company is different so the people, process, tool debate is situational and dependent on the organization's culture. For example, process dependent companies will want to lead with process while technology driven companies will want to lead with technology.

Martijn Linssen said...

Thank you Mark! Just saw you sign off in Santa Clara so you won't get to sleep on my reaction :)

It's never a question of yes or no, the answer is always "yes, to what extent?"
Yes, the faxmachine changed the way we work - for 2% let's just say
Re-wiring disconnected enterprise employees would create a revolution however- compare it with soldiers who have realtime battle intel during a war: that would fundamentally change the role of central command

I agree with your last paragraph, yet, again, how many companies are dependent on process or technology? I don't consider factories or plants to form a significant part of enterprises in general. It is exactly the complex, close-to-business, dynamic "exception-handling" enterprises that do

ScorpFromHell said...

Social Business is taken or rather defined by Muhammad Yunus of the Grameen Bank & Nobel prize awardee fame. ;)

Collaborative Enterprise makes more sense IMHO. Though been talked about since long by some management profs & books too have been written about them, they will go mainstream thanks to the burgeoning presence of the people & their usage of the social web. When these people are customers they need social CRM, when they are employees, they need Enterprise 2.0.

Though triggered by tech usage patterns, these will be reliant more on the mental model innovation rather than tech innovations that the various vendors claim to be doing.

Hanoz Dilli Dur Ast :)


Jon Husband said...

I also don't think the order of people, process and technology matters as much as the overall impact each will have on the other.

Right, IMHO .. think eco-system (of course ?). I believe that the field of socio-technical systems addressed these issues about 30 years ago or so, but the Web and 'social' tools were not around then.

The evolution has been slow, but the direction is unmistakable and the movement in that direction is inexorable.

I believe it will lead to a new organizing principle, but seemingly that may be a minority position these days. And no, hierarchy is not going away, it will (i believe) intermingle and interweave with networks (and become more temporary, designed for purpose and not stability).

Martijn Linssen said...

Thanks Prem and Jon!

Prem stop throwing my wiki quotes back at me LOL
You may call it whatever you want, but yes we people out here are all employees and customers, and we're out here thanks to the (free!) tools that we don't need to plug into any legacy backend (yet)

Delhi will come...

Jon, the word wirearchy isn't on every wall yet, but as I said on my comment to Andrew's post the current enterprise hierarchy is a workaround installed on its way to expansion in order to enable coping with the issues encountered: latency, rigidity, anonymity and a general lack of involvement - none of which got solved doing so

Bringing back involvement, intimacy, flexibility and swiftness will require that different form of organisation: a (very) strongly flattened form of hierarchy where managers will become facilitators again in stead of assuming they are the enterprise's stakeholders

Jon Husband said...

Bringing back involvement, intimacy, flexibility and swiftness will require that different form of organisation: a (very) strongly flattened form of hierarchy where managers will become facilitators again in stead of assuming they are the enterprise's stakeholders

Pretty much yes (as you might expect I'd say ;-)

Unknown said...

It seems that such a debate is always happening when IT invents something new, and is looking for users. You have early adaptors and those that will never see any benenfit and will not adopt and adapt.

I think it's a matter of pushing from IT (a.k.a. Enterprise 2.0) and pulling from people and organisations (a.k.a. Social Business). Does it really matter? It can surely aid in connecting employees within companies, and to customers outside. And that's the important message of both sides.

Ed Nadrotowicz said...

The term Social Business is simply a marketing term to sell Enterprise 2.0. Social Business connotes something that uses social tools to help my business. Enterprise 2.0 requires an entire explanation the usually starts with the tools, followed up with how those tools can help in a business context. The consultants and vendors have embraced Social Business as a better markteting term. It's the same group of consultants and tool vendors selling the same services and tools. This marketing approach is evident whenever a new technology approach come to the fore. You can get the IT folks to listen when you start with the tools or technology. Go to a business person and start talking about E20 and micro-blogging, tagging, folksonomy, etc. They will glaze over and your sales pitch is over. Hence, we now have social business. We should turn our focus to something really important like what is cloud computing and what isn't :-p

Trevor Miles said...

I'm a bit late to this discussion, but I am pleased to have found it.

I'll come clean: I work for a software company in the supply chain space.

I found Dennis Howlett's srepnse to this discussion frustrating. But he may well be correct that the biggest barrier to E20/SocBiz - to me they are the same thing - is the existing organizational and power structures. Managers who have obtained power throught he control of information and the dissemination of opinion are threatened by SocBiz, whether embodied in theories espoused by consultants or in technology espoused by software companies.

Dennis and I are roughly the same age so I hope he will relate to this anecdote, which is relevant to the entire SocBiz/E20 debate. In the early 1990's I used to review research proposals for the then DTI in the UK. At some dinner I happened to sit across fromthe table from the senior civil servant who ran the DTI and disbursed large amount is research grants. I started talking to the person sitting next to me about the various word processing packages available at the time. As we were going through the various pro's and con's the civil servant interrupted us to say if we worked for him he would fire us. When asked why that was, he said that writing letter was what secretaries did. We should be focusing on the content.

Given the capabilities of the word processes at the time and the difficulty of transmission, let alone the ability to edit the document, across the enterprise he had a point.

Yet who would argue 20 years later that the virtual standardization around Microsoft Office has resulted in a huge increase in productivity? Now we have a whole generation that has grown up with PC's and personal productivity tools, such as Microsoft Office, and gone much beyond that. If I want to get hold of my kids I use Facebook because they only check email a few times a week.

So yes, organizational and power barriers always slow down the adoption of new processes and the technologies that enable them (please note the order of the terms). Does this mean the technologies, and technologists that promote them, need to be dismissed? I hope not.

So a small challenge to you Martijn. Why not spend as much energy arguing against the conservative attitudes that prevail in business that prevent the adoption of more collaborative ways of working as you do about the relative merits of People, Process, and Technology versus Technology, Process, and People?

Henry Ford supposedly once said "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." Thank you Henry for pushing your "technology".

Martijn Linssen said...

Thank you Trevor!

I agree with you and Dennis to the structural barrier being the company structure: the kingdomry as I call it, the Troj Enterprise (

I'm a bit tired of hearing the old Henry Ford example, to be honest. It's a stupid quote that doesn't make sense: the horse is just the powersource, the carriage is the car. And Henry didn't push technology, he redefined the entire industry: processes, people and ownership.
Other than that, Ford failed twice and went bankrupt, and only when tying up with the Dodge brothers, did he survive a few years. 7 Years after that, Ford introduced the assembly line - but the only reason why Henry Ford was able to produce cars this cheap was because he cut off all intermediates and their margins
He also radically broke with working traditions by introducing an 8-hour workday with a $5 wage over the 9-hour one where people could earn $2.50 - of course giving him the best and finest of the workforce and highly motivated people

So, so much about Ford, who had nothjing, absolutely nothing, to do with technology, and everything, absolutely everything, with changing a company's culture, structure, mental models, up to redefining the meaning and definition of the entire industry

Back to your Word processing example: the fact that it wasn't used to write letters, but put just about anything else in writing, is what made it successful. Technology enabled that, yes, but it's people that gave it a goal and m,ade it successful

I'll gladly take up the glove to make a solid businesscase for social in the enterprise Trevor, thank you. It will be a devious plot that has got everything to do with waging war and divide and conquer, but then again the walls of Jericho are many...

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