Annoyed at 'Enterprise 2.0'
To me, a core aspect of an enterprise’s architecture revolves around the role of conversation in collaboration and cooperation – the human side of business knowledge, as expressed within the broader enterprise that extends beyond the organisation’s borders. Hence a natural interest in what’s been labelled ‘Enterprise 2.0’, which, on the surface at least, is about the centrality of those conversations, and active support for them within the enterprise.
The catch is that that isn’t what the ‘standard’ definition of ‘Enterprise 2.0’ by Andrew McAfee actually says. Instead, it’s all about the software:
Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.
Social software enables people to rendezvous, connect or collaborate through computer-mediated communication and to form online communities. (Wikipedia’s definition).
Platforms are digital environments in which contributions and interactions are globally visible and persistent over time.
Emergent means that the software is freeform, and that it contains mechanisms to let the patterns and structure inherent in people’s interactions become visible over time.
Freeform means that the software is most or all of the following:
- Free of up-front workflow
- Egalitarian, or indifferent to formal organizational identities
- Accepting of many types of data
People are not even mentioned in the definition at all. Neither is the enterprise – nor the actual purpose of any of this. It’s just about software, and characteristics of that software.
Which, bluntly, is meaningless. Worse than meaningless, in fact, because by ‘hijacking’ what would otherwise be a meaningful term, it actively blocks us from the possibility of meaningful discussion about the nature of the enterprise within which such software might be used. In practice, this is very similar to the ‘hijack’ of the term ‘enterprise architecture’ to mean ‘the architecture of enterprise-wide IT’: the key term is applied exclusively to a very minor subset, preventing any means to describe the true whole.
Annoying, to say the least.
I put out a couple of tweets on this:
- tetradian: standard Mcafee defn of ‘Enterprise 2.0’ http://bit.ly/2KTcAL is as absurdly IT-centric as most ‘enterprise architecture’ // … ‘Enterprise 2.0’ should be about people and purpose first, not ‘social software’! – get the priorities right!!
But to illustrate the point exactly, the first response-tweet (which I’ve anonymised here) was from someone who clearly thought that so-called ‘social software’ was all that one would need to create ‘Enterprise 2.0’:
- xyz: might I recommend <our software>, it’s a collaborative tool..
This is classic ‘cart before the horse’ thinking: the presence of the tool is deemed to be the purpose for the tool…
Fortunately, many people in ‘the trade’ are thinking much broader than this – for example, Oscar Berg commented:
- oscarberg: @tetradian Couldn’t agree more! Problem is “software” is part of McAfees definition // E20 definition should be about allocating and leveraging social capital within enterprises
Enterprise 2.0 combines two key concepts:
1. The application of Web 2.0 and other emerging technologies to enhance organizational performance
2. Establishing the organizational structures and processes that will drive success in an intensely competitive connected economy
I’m not sure about the latter emphasis on the second point – ‘competitive’ doesn’t apply in the same sense to government, where some of the most active work on ‘Enterprise 2.0’ is taking place at present, for example. But in any case there’s another key point that’s missing:
- 3. Clarifying the nature and purpose of the enterprise, to identify the role, reason and focus for enterprise collaboration
Without clarity on what the enterprise is – what it stands for, and how it engages people in that purpose – there’s no point in any attempt to implement ‘Enterprise 2.0’.
In that sense, a key prerequisite for any ‘Enterprise 2.0’ implementation is an enterprise architecture. By which I mean a real enterprise-architecture, of course – not just yet another overblown, over-hyped ‘IT-architecture pretending to be the enterprise’, but the true ‘architecture of the enterprise’ in the broadest possible sense.