Sunday 9 January 2011

Stop breaking down silos, let's enginize the pistons

Everywhere I go these days I encounter the call for integrating everything into anything and the words "break down silos". While the former I applaud, the latter is a politically incorrect way to address the stakeholders (sic, more about that 3 paragraphs from now): it brings across a threat rather than an opportunity in most cases

So, believe it or not, but I'm going to explain why it's better to soften up our talk and change our vocabulary - solely with the goal of bringing the Social Trojan Horse a few steps closer to the Enterprise gates of course

An old-fashioned enterprise is run by Boomers. While there may be some that are 2.0-savvy, the vast minority will use their secretary to print our their emails so they can read them, and hand-write a response so she can type and email it back.
These boomers get along because they know their limitations: territory-limitations that is. Each of them owns a kingdom of some size, and the frontiers are well-marked within the enterprise. While they have to cooperate on an enterprise board level, all of them have the single goal of maintaining and expanding their kingdom

In enterprises, stakeholders have changed from shareholders to upper management. The enterprise is there for them, to fulfill their goals. Customers have become a necessary evil, employees a welcome bait for increasing the margins

Where upper management used to work for a company, they now expect the company to work for them

That very important difference is the reason for writing this post: social is a clear threat to these managers. And if that weren't bad enough, evangelists come knocking at their door with a great smile, happily and loudly announcing that "social will break down your company's silos!"
That's the worst message to bring across. Those silos are the very Boomer-controlled upper management kingdoms. Simply swap the words and then visualise that scene again: "Hi we're social evangelists and our product will break down your enterprise kingdoms!"
Not much of a business case there, is it?

As much as I detest Andrew McAfee's narrow tool-centric definition of social, he did do a good job slowly penetrating enterprises and boards of directors, he even made it into Capgemini's annual report, meaning he reached these people:

Not a very social-crazy looking crowd there, is it? It's a nice example of the average enterprise board of directors I think, those that rule a company. Yet, E2.0 made it to them, and I wonder if Social Business will do the same. One thing I know, is that the current social folly contains too many evangelists, and too little monks.

Which brings me to my plea. As a consultant, I know that words can do wondrous things and that is mostly human. Wrap the message as follows:
Social will enginize your pistons
Pistons drive an engine because they are left intact, not broken down. They remain intact, disclosing their silo content at regular intervals, in close cooperation with each other. Together, they form a powerful engine. And the very reason for their strength and power is the fact that they're silos most of the time, and only open-up a small part of their time

A message like this will not only please the average CxO decision maker, but also hold truth and reassurance. Their kingdoms won't be broken down, but left intact. We can't expect enterprises to go belly-up on command, much as we can't expect vendors and system integrators to fully embrace Public Cloud

We all have a means of existence. To some that might seem semi-legitimate or even illegitimate, but don't expect anyone to willingly give that up overnight

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