On January, 7 I posted my thoughts on an article Oracle contributed to Enterprise Systems Journal (Oracle's View On Enterprise 2.0). One of the Oracle authors (Billy Cripe is the director of product management, Enterprise 2.0 and ECM) was kind enough to notice and post a reply, Dialoguing with Mike Gotta of Burton Group on Enterprise 2.0. Below are his personal thoughts followed by some of my own perspectives:
... The idea of shared business drivers is almost an anti-pattern between top-down/centralized goals of management and the more self-organizing, networked employee work model that E2.0 promises.
Self-organization presupposes an organizing principle. In business these manifest as working groups, teams, email distribution lists, etc. The shared business purpose for a working team is not the same as for the board of directors. Nevertheless the shared purposes and passions of the self-organized are givens that ought to be leveraged by an Enterprise 2.0 technology and implementation strategy.
First, self-organization is a broad term and I should define how I view E2.0 and self-organization. What Billy outlines I would equate to an "institutional" strategy to allow some degree of self-organization by employees to get work done within a set of constraints. As Billy outlines - working groups and teams are two very common enterprise methods of organizations - they are not always however completely self-organizing. In general, decision-rights are granted by the institution to the working groups or teams and often created in response to some process or defined business activity. These types of entities typically have explicit roles, relationships, decision structures and are more-or-less management-sanctioned. Enterprise technologists have supported working groups and teams through deployment of a variety of productivity, communication, information sharing and collaboration tools well before the notion of Enterprise 2.0 came into being.
Enterprise 2.0's original definition is largely anchored to the concept of "emergent use". It is not anchored around the directed, or functional use of tools (for more thoughts behind this concept, refer to an earlier post Why Is Social Software So Important? where I outlined the different between "directed" and "volunteered" participation. I strongly believe that E2.0 applies to volunteered participation across different application scenarios (i.e., process-centric, activity-centric, community and social networking).
Which brings us back to the notion of "self-organization". To me - Billy is not totally incorrect, there is a case for "permissioned self-organization" (although that sounds like an oxymoron). Many organizations do share decision-rights and do make room for employees to self-organization within certain boundaries. But he is incorrect in applying that type of self-organization to E2.0. E2.0 is focused (I believe) more on the cross-cutting, peer-centric / grass-roots aspects of self-organization (communities and social networks are prime examples).
I think that Mike's next thumbs down is right and wrong at the same time. He first quotes the article and then weighs in:
"employees to leverage technology to further the success of the company, not their personal social lives" - Ouch. Back to traditional big-company thinking....The idea of personal value to the employee as a way to encourage participation and contributions is key.
I actually think we're probably in agreement here but have different interpretations of "personal value". The point is that E2.0 is not about having a corporate Flickr where you can post your family vacation photos (maybe Mike thinks this would be OK). Rather it is having a place where "personal value" is measured in convenience, familiarity, efficiency and collaboration. At Oracle we have an internal social network application (think Facebook). We can connect with each other, give each other "kudos", blog, update our profile photo and form, join, and interact with groups (organic associations on topic X) etc. We each get a personal value out of this, but not because it is a business provided alternative to Facebook (it's only behind the firewall). The point is that behind the firewall alternatives to commercial/public Web 2.0 applications don't make sense unless they're furthering the business. Our Oracle social network is useful because I can communicate with, get ideas from, and ask questions of people outside of my Org Chain. Yes, we have groups for folks who "Have an iPhone?". But remember that the article is talking about the platform technology, not the policing of groups, posts, pictures etc. Most organizations already have policies in place governing "appropriateness" for all of these. If the platform helps me do a better job, build my "brand"/influence in the company or nets me kudos/ratings/thumbs up etc, it's a personal value even if my buddy from IBM can't participate with me there.
Actually, Oracle could learn something from IBM's research in this area related to Beehive (not to be confused with Oracle's collaboration platform with the same name). There clearly is emerging research that substantiates the idea of social environments. That said, I wasn't suggesting that particular argument in my post (although I generally agree with the research in this area that has come out of IBM). The assumption that Billy makes is incorrect - that employees have some altruistic motivation to perform well at work "for the sake of the company". That would be nice - but I can tell you based on countless conversations over the years with organizations regarding knowledge sharing that employees are motivated by many things in their lives - home/family, professional development, helping co-workers who are friends or with whom they have a collegial relationship, etc. What I was specifically talking about was the idea that people don't participate in social systems where participation is voluntary unless they first derive some level of personal value from that participation and subsequent contributions. I tag and bookmark something because it helps "me" not because it helps the company as an often-cited example by those experts in that area. So we're pretty close in agreement but I think Oracle's thinking here is that you can control/conscript participation "for the good of the enterprise". If you fail to account for the ability of employees to gain personal value (for their own unique purposes) you are missing a key aspect of persuading people to participate in a voluntary way.
That's my feedback - again - I think Oracle's challenge when it comes to E2.0 is to refrain from the institutional, structured, formal, programmatic approach towards E2.0 - I would like to hear a stronger voice on the informal, community and network models that E2.0 is mostly about. This is not to say that organizations need to define an institutional role within E2.0 programs that address what needs to be addressed in a centralization fashion (e.g., legal, security, compliance, etc) - but this should be more of an employee (edge) to institution (core) approach that augments business initiatives.
... I applaud Oracle's sudden interest in all things e20. It's like I was saying to @georgedearing (Telligent) the #1 barrier to adoption in the enterprise is still Awareness. #2 is Culture (and Oracle misses this), but before we can begin working on the culture issues, enterprise buyers need to "get" what all the fuss is about. I don't care if Oracle wants to spin the definition to suit their needs. In reality, the definition falls apart with every customized social network/collaboration effort anyway. And to your point on employees and cake-eating, I agree with you, but we both know mgmt owns the budget-making decisions for enterprise initiatives. Companies like Oracle are speaking to them in a language they understand.
I would point Susan (and the folks at Oracle as well) to a post I published today on Defining Enterprise 2.0: Less Is More. Definitions are important. We should care when a vendor spins the definition to suite its own needs. In my experience the definition falls apart because "we" (technologists, consultants, analysts, etc) fail to express E2.0 in scenarios relevant to the business. KM suffered this fate. CRM also suffered from this dilemma for years.I would point you also to a recent post Anne Thomas Manes from Burton Group published recently on the problems with SOA - one of which is a interpretation issue.
My real point is that we should not be talking about an architectural concept that has no universally accepted definition and an indefensible value proposition. Instead we should be talking about concrete things (like services) and concrete architectural practices (like application portfolio management) that deliver real value to the business.
In fact, in another Enterprise 2.0 article (versus the Enterprise Systems Journal article), Frank Buytendijk, Vice President and Fellow, Enterprise Performance Management at Oracle defines Enterprise 2.0 (emphasis mine):
Drawing on our diverse backgrounds in customer relationship management, enterprise content management, enterprise performance management, and human capital management, we define Enterprise 2.0 in a different way. I believe Enterprise 2.0 creates competitive advantage through interactive and collaborative business models. In this sense, Enterprise 2.0 is not a vision for the future, but today’s reality. It has become a business imperative. Because business requirements are leading technology, organizations risk lagging seriously behind. The following trends are causing companies to respond urgently:
Enterprise 2.0 is thought by many to be a useless buzz word already. If we don't put to rest the interpretation of the basic definition then we will be writing the obituary of E2.0 just as Anne shared her thoughts on the demise of SOA. We simply don't need "YAD" (Yet Another Definition) - we need to talk about the application of the definition to business models and processes and other organizational initiatives (as outlined in my Defining Enterprise 2.0: Less Is More post).
That's it - as Billy mentioned in closing - I appreciate the opportunity to share these thoughts openly with Oracle and others. I don't expect everyone to agree with me - but I feel that my arguments are credible and should be considered as organizations listen to the different "E2.0 stories" coming from large and small vendors as well as consultancies in the space.