I just finished interviewing Bevin Hernandez who led the Penn State University enterprise collaboration project. During our discussions she shared an interesting bit of insight. Bevin stated that not having an in-depth strategy is a strategy in and of itself; instead it is more important to be adaptable. A similar sentiment was also echoed by other organizations that I have interviewed and have been speaking with. In fact I can’t really recall an organization telling me that they developed an in-depth enterprise collaboration strategy at all.
Is Planning Necessary?
I’m not implying or suggesting that organizations close their eyes, select a collaboration platform and then wish upon a star. However there is something to be said for “doing” rather than planning. Organizations need to understand and be prepared for the bit of uncharted territory that is going to come from these new emergent collaboration initiatives.
Failure to some degree is inevitable but just as we don’t give up on a baby learning to walk we also shouldn’t give up on an organization seeking to evolve. When Vistaprint first started their collaboration initiatives they used Mediawiki and had to put together a 15 person wiki mark-up team to help train the rest of the organization (this of course was unforeseen during the initial discussions but Vistaprint adapted). When Intuit first developed and launched into their E2.0 initiatives they had no idea that their time to market would decrease by over 60%.
The point is that organizations seeking to involve themselves in Enterprise 2.0 need to understand that there is going to be a large “black box” effect that just cannot be predicted, but that’s really that big of a deal. We never know what tomorrow brings yet we wake up and adjust to what comes our way, employees never really know how secure their jobs are yet they go in every day and work. The same is true for E2.0.
If an In-depth Strategy Isn’t the Answer Then What Is?
I believe the best approach to start is by addressing a series of considerations that key stakeholders need to discuss. Organizations seeking to implement Enterprise 2.0 need to consider the following talking points:
- There is a degree of uncertainty, the “black box” affect which means that there are some things that organizations won’t be able to predict in advance.
- These initiatives are going to take time; Penn State laid a 3-5 year estimated timeframe but was able to achieve their goals at around the second year. Oce began their initiatives around 2006 and are still working hard to get where they want to be 5 years later (although they have indeed accomplished quite a bit thus far).
- Ad-hoc teams are going to be essential. Vistaprint created an ad-hoc team of 15 employees to teach the rest of the organization the Wiki mark-up language, Penn State deployed a similar team for evangelism and content creation, and Intuit appointed a VP of innovation along with a supporting team to manage employee feedback.
- Business drivers are always at the core of these initiatives. Every organization I have interviewed thus far has clearly stated that these investments always came as a result of a business problem that needed to be solved.
- Failure is inevitable to some extent and should not be feared but expected. Every organization that I have interviewed thus far has had some sort of failure in their E2.0 initiatives. These could range from lack of technology adoption, to lack of senior management support, to lengthy timelines, to inability to manage employee feedback, to anything else.
- An over-focus on metrics and return from the get-go is useless. When I spoke with Bevin from Penn State our combined thoughts on this were, “if you need someone to explain the business value of effective collaboration then there are bigger problems you need to worry about.” Out of every organization I have interviewed thus far, NONE of them were able to predict the returns on their investment and many of them still don’t have any financial numbers they can share, however every organization also stated that they have accomplished the goals (to some extent) they set out to accomplish.
Two years ago Gil Yehuda wrote a great post titled: “There is no Enterprise 2.0, there is your Enterprise 2.0” which basically states that every organization is going to approach enterprise collaboration differently and that every organization is going to have its own unique journey. I hope the talking points above will help facilitate an on-going discussion within your organization on how to best prepare for making the investments into this Enterprise evolution.