I’ve been attending the Enterprise 2.0 Conference this week down in Santa Clara, Calif. This community has been congregating around social software since its inception. In the early days (say back in 2006), this was all a concept or an idea: Let’s put a blog or wiki up, because it’s a fundamentally more efficient way to collaborate than the existing tools we had inside our companies.
But despite how real enterprise social has become, the focus this week has remained around soft topics like building community, adapting culture and managing change (especially if you examine the keynotes yesterday).
The fact that adoption challenges remain a perennial topic isn’t shocking to me, both anecdotally and, now, statistically: Back in September, Forrester Research found that only 12 percent of enterprise workers had meaningfully adopted social software. Going around the conference yesterday, I talked to people who made social software deployments in 2008 and are now looking to take a different approach and direction.
Surrendering to Reality: The Revolutionaries Versus the Pragmatists
The majority of early enterprise social implementations failed not because of a company’s inability to build communities. They failed because the technology itself, and the people working around it, didn’t understand the way these organizations actually worked at a top level. It sounds righteously non-commercial to say, “it’s not about the technology” – a refrain I heard twice here yesterday. But I don’t buy it: The technology and its design for enterprises absolutely plays a factor. That’s why free apps that mimic Facebook on a two-month delay experience spikes of excitement and adoption, but wane once people actually have to do real work.
Enterprises have secrets. They have information hoarders. They have hierarchy. They have rigid business processes. You can hate on those things all you want, and even try to modify them, but in many cases, they aren’t going anywhere.
Some of it is about the technology.
We designed tibbr to map to these enterprise realities. Rather than a tag-based taxonomy, we built a Subject hierarchy that mirrors a company’s existing information architecture. And speaking of hierarchy, our people profiles can actually be mapped to a company’s org chart.
And this, I think, is where the enterprise social world sits into two interesting camps: The evolutionary pragmatists and the revolutionaries. I’m a reformed revolutionary turned pragmatist. Most of the tibbr team is in the same camp: We’re not just focused on flattening your org structure. We want to help you get your job done better and faster.
Get Your Job Done, and The Community Will Follow
A lot of bright Enterprise 2.0 minds have already expressed this thought, but it bares repeating: The way you transform your work is by marrying social with business process. What’s happening at OOCL is a good example. OOCL looked at its complex business of shipping logistics, and needed a better way to collaborate around disruptions (ship running late, cargo not loaded, etc.). OOCL now broadcasts exceptions to process to Subjects in tibbr, where the right people can follow that update, and collaborate around that issue to serve customers faster.
OOCL is a pretty business process centric use case, but it can be even more simple. At TIBCO, for example, we used to broadcast sales wins over e-mail. Now, our head of sales posts them in tibbr. So as a TIBCO employee, if I want to know how we did this quarter, I have to be in tibbr.
Now, what’s interesting (and the revolutionaries should take note) is that adoption in other, softer areas – like idea generation, expertise sharing, and people-to-people connections – increases AFTER wins around business process improvement. That’s because after people see practical value from working around a business process, they feel empowered and confident to try other things. As Steve Siu, OOCL’s CIO, put it, “tibbr is for ideas; e-mail is for everything else.”