Enterprise 2.0 – The 7 year itch

June 27, 2011 Appirio

Steve Elmore

Last week’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference marked its 7 year anniversary, a critical milestone to be sure. The Boston session moved to the Hynes Convention Center and some of the biggest players in technology made their presence felt: Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, & Avaya. I had the opportunity to speak at the conference (representing Appirio’s Social Enterprise practice), as did Yahoo’s Kristen Sanders (recognized by Appirio as the first “Cloud Pioneer” of 2011). I wanted to share my thoughts on a common theme from the event: what “itch” is the social enterprise trying to scratch?

At its core, collaboration feeds the deep human need to be connected and have a voice. And since passionate employees tend to be twice as connected, can the promise of social enterprise’s greater connectivity begin to restore passion in the workplace? And what kind of technologies and leaders do we need to make this happen?

MIT’s Andrew McAfee explained in his keynote address that old-fashioned bosses are still the biggest threat to social enterprise advances. To make social enterprise software effective, we need to focus on what computers are bad at: the “eureka” moments. How do we take the flow of information passing through our organizations, and develop those differentiating insights that become our future value proposition? The danger, at the end of the day, is not that computers will think like people, but rather, people will start to think like computers and we will lose organizational creativity.

This was certainly echoed later during the Business Leadership Roundtable by Marcia Conner, Fellow, Enterprise Collaboration at Altimeter Group: She argues that enterprise culture has caused us to check our personalities at the door. Those people were just alive a few moments ago when they were outside the door. What happened? We need to bring our full selves to work! The Dachis Group’s Lee Bryant added during his keynote that social business isn’t just about direct collaboration. It’s about dynamic signal and ambient sharing around the enterprise. Organizations must refine the way they interpret data for maximum effect.

Sara Roberts of Roberts Golden pointed out that we can’t incentivize employees to horde knowledge and then expect them to share, and the pervasive culture of many organizations has everyone but top management acting as choice-less doers. The reality is that line employees are building mental models for the customer segment, but those insights are often not valued or captured by the organization. And when employees leave the organization, they are taking their best ideas with them if the culture and technology has not been put in place to create an information legacy. A strong case for the value of social CRM.

Successful social enterprise software deployments begin with a simple problem, relevancy and immediacy. Yahoo’s Kristen Sanders (recognized by Appirio as the first “Cloud Pioneer” of 2011) discussed building “The Source,”, a replacement for Yahoo’s “stinky, dirty information landfills.” She discussed the importance of both creating a governance model to avoid creating yet more digital landfills, and thoroughly understanding user requirements in order to build a healthy environment. Yahoo’s successful implementation of Salesforce.com Chatter was based on two key factors: the initiative was business led and addressed real pain points. Kristen pointed out that a platform must be agile, mobile and integrated, and the technology must keep up with the conversation and solve globally, something Yahoo was able to achieve with Appirio in implementing Salesforce Chatter.

I spoke on a panel with Sovos Group co-founder Oliver Marks, Moxie’s Megan Murray and Saba’s (and The Career Within You author) Ingrid Stabb on Balancing Business Leadership with Governance, Regulatory and Compliance Realities. Two key takeaways from the session: First, engage compliance early and often when implementing collaborative technologies– the future of HR is to take a stronger, leading roll in designing the employee experience. Second, design an employee experience that embraces social enterprise software to not only understand what is driving employee behavior, but to direct behaviors in ways that are mutually beneficial to the individual and the organization.

Jive’s Chris Morace reminded us that 70% of enterprise employees are using unsanctioned cloud apps. In fact, evidence shows 35% of employees are spending their own money on social software at work so they can get things done when corporate systems fail to deliver. People want the same tools they have access to outside of work inside of work, and so they will find a way to get them even when it violates policy. This creates a huge compliance headache and ultimately impacts HR’s ability to recruit and retain employees when these tools and behaviors are absent.

EA’s Bert Sandi identified three elements critical to collaboration: head, hearts & hands. He challenged the audience: is your physical environment collaborative? And once you are more than 35ft. apart, you might as well be in a different building, so what does social enterprise collaboration look like in your organization?

And that, at the end of the day, is the real “itch” behind the social enterprise: Can we access the tacit knowledge contained in the heads of employees, engage their hearts and make them passionate once again about walking through the door, and can we put in their hands the tools necessary to get the job done and create institutional memory? After seven years the E2.0 Conference is showing us how to scratch that itch.

Dr. Steve Elmore is Business Architect for Collaboration at Appirio and develops organizational blueprints for the launch of collaborative initiatives. Steve serves on the faculties of University of Phoenix and Grand Canyon University and sits on the board of the Central Texas SPCA. In addition to a Doctor of Business Administration, Steve holds an MBA in Global Management and a BS in Business Management. Steve has been published in the Journal of Leadership Studies, co-authored with best-selling business writer Don Tapscott, and is a regular conference speaker. You can follow him on Twitter @steveelmore.

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