One of the arguments over the past year among those passionate about "Enterprise 2.0" has been the position that such initiatives must become more pragmatic. Specifically, that E2.0 initiatives and solutions should target process-centric business activities. If we can improve the way people work within structured contexts like processes, then we should be able to deliver measurable outcomes that in turn satisfies management desire to see the ROI from E2.0 investments. I don't entirely disagree. However, it's important to recognize that this argument does not mean that E2.0 champions have focused on the wrong imperative up to know. Improving the softer, more intangible aspects of how work gets done is incredibly important as well - despite the difficulty in measuring cause-effect impacts.
That said, the transition to a focus on process has been a long-standing goal of collaboration strategies for some time (i.e., "contextual collaboration" circa 1999). Strategists involved in E2.0 should not view a process-centric approach as an sign of failure or as an excuse to abandon original goals (e.g., emergence, relationships, more visible and transparent participation, etc) but as an expansion in the scope of those objectives.
Indeed, E2.0 over time is broadening our understanding of what we mean by the term "collaboration". Traditionally, we (the industry) have taken a narrow view of collaboration. As I mentioned in my previous post on how micro-blogging is expanding our notion of communication, E2.0 is expanding how we view collaboration, moving it beyond a mind set that has been biased towards content-centric, asynchronous, and workspace-based models.
And it doesn't stop with E2.0. Technology sectors we have thought to be adjacent and/or over-lapping (unified communications, social, content, collaboration) are converging into a singular, multi-faceted domain that is deeply inter-twingled. We will be unable to treat content and collaboration independently from each other, or communication strategies in isolation from its social aspects. More pervasive use of video will need to be thought of as part of an integrated collaborative experience, not as a stand-alone communication channel. There are no more well-defined structural borders. Market adjacencies are porous and always in transition. Place these trends in the context of a market that produces a seeminly endless stream of new mobile consumer devices and an "office" environment where the work style of employees occurs in the context of a digital lifestyle that is increasingly mobile - and you can see how security, identity, and privacy requirements can also not be viewed as something to bolt-on afterwards.
This viewpoint was actually the driving force behind the launch of what-was-once-known-as-Burton-Group's Collaboration and Content Strategies service back in 2006. "Social" is the new entrant to what we called convergence of "the 3C's" (communication, content, collaboration) back then. Gartner alludes to this phenomena when it talks about fourth-generation collaborative environments.
So while it is appropriate for E2.0 enthusiasts to argue for a focus shift towards process, I would expand that line-of-thinking to include not just the tactics, practices, and tooling we associate with E2.0 (which is inherently about "social") but expand that framework to include communication, content, and collaboration where people are at the center and process is just one use case to consider. We simply cannot treat social as a silo. A unified approach can satisfy not only the need to improve processes but address needs related to business transformation, innovation, productivity, organizational development, etc. etc. If you want to wrapper that all under a single E2.0 label that differs from its roots, that's fine. Some organizations I've talked to leverage E2.0 as such a uber-term. I prefer to keep E2.0 more to its original concepts but that's a personal preference of how I segment things.
The important point is to ensure that you are treating at social, communication, content, and collaboration in a cohesive manner. For me, this represents a more accurate view what a "next generation collaborative experience" represents. This next generation collaborative experience will require business and IT strategists to think across multiple dimensons with people at the center (vs. process). If you want people to excel - to innovate - to transform the business, you need to consider:
- People-to-activities: The traditional area where we focus on work models, process, projects, productivity, information sharing, etc.
- People-to-collectives: An area often touched on by knowledge management efforts realted to teaming and communities
- People-to-networks: A key aspect of E2.0 (that we still only barely understand), related to social identities, social roles, social networks, and the underlying participation structures that connect peope inside and outside of the enterprise
- People-to-organization: An area often disconnected from collaboration related to how people learn and develop their own talent - and how the enterprise can best leverage its social and human capital
This is a line of thought I'll continue to evolve - feedback welcome...
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