Andy MacAfee on Enterprise 2.0 success factors

(First installment in a series of Notes from FastForward 2008)

Andy MacAfee: Enterprise 2.0: What will it take to bring about a world of change

MacAfee talked about what it takes to bring about change – Enterprise 2.0 (corporate use of Web 2.0, as I see it) has moved from the what through the why to the how. He looked into some of the factors that seem to be connected with success, grouped into technology, initiatives and culture.

Technology must have intuitive and easy tools (meaning that it needs to work with email, for one thing), the tools must be egalitarian and freeform, the borders must seem appropriate to users (meaning that you need some borders and confined spaces), at least some of the tools must be explicitly social, and the toolset must be quickly standardized.

The most difficult part lies in the intuitiveness – avoid feature creep! The egalitarianism and the freeform part has more to do with bosses than with technology. Bosses are not comfortable with letting loose the process definition part – they need to work hard to get out of the way, at least initially.

Initiatives usually involves incentives – they exist, and they should be soft. Not just T-shirts and nerf toys, but not much more, and not monetary. Goals need to be clear and explained – being interested in Enterprise 2.0 is not good in itself. Many companies don’t have a goal – the US Intelligence community is an example of an organization that has one. Most important: You need incentives; having evangelists, and having official and unofficial support from the top. You also need excellent gardeners, bottom-up energy and activity, and clear and explained goals. The CEO Blog is a good thing – Marriott has one, dictates it and it is not created by the PR team.

Most difficult: Getting the incentives right, and getting the excellent gardeners – people that accelerate the emergence of structure in wiki environments. In any population there are not enough of them.

Culture: Some important issues are that people should be trusted, there should be slack in the workweek, helpfulness has been a norm, top management accepts lateralization (turns out it is very hard for companies to accept even light user commentary, for fear that it might be negative, even though all statistics show that it it is very powerful – most of it is going to be positive, and the negative comments make the positive ones more valid), there are lots of young people, and there is pent-up demand for better sharing. Most important: trust, lateralization, and pent-up demand for sharing.

Most difficult: Trust, slack in workweek, and top management accepting lateralization. You need spare cycles!

Conclusion: enterprise 2.0 is going to increase differences among companies – technology accentuates differences, and this one will. The data is accumulating. The reason lies in willingness to embark, sincerity of effort, and ability to execute. These differences will matter – it will not be the end of the hierarchy, but it will help companies become more responsive, help capturing and sharing knowledge (particularly as the demographic bulge is leaving the workforce) and then there is this vague notion of collective intelligence. Groups and committees, geographically dispersed, can do spectacularly valuable things with this technology.