People love lists and step-by-step directions because they make life easy (unless you’re putting together Ikea furniture). However, directions and steps really only make sense if you’re trying to do something such as bake a cake (which I still can’t do) or put together a couch. There’s really only way to succeed with these types of things, and if you don’t follow the directions the end result won’t be what you expect. But, do linear strategy approaches have a place in the enterprise collaboration environment? I don't think -- at least not yet.

At a conference, someone in the audience always raises their hand and says, “Here’s my problem, what do I do?” I usually hear presenters come back with a templated approach that, while it may be true, is most likely useless to that specific company. It’s akin to 100 people asking a contractor how to build a house in their desired areas and the contractor saying something like, “make a blueprint, get some tools, get some people and start building.”

It doesn’t really work like that.

Your Enterprise 2.0 

I've read over a few step-by-step approaches, but the problem is that there is no way they can make any logical sense. I can’t develop a framework or linear process that works for every company. As Gil Yehuda always reminds me, “there is no Enterprise 2.0, there is YOUR enterprise 2.0.” I agree. The end state isn’t about collaboration at all, it’s about solving problems and finding opportunities, a journey which every organization is going to go through. Thus far from all of my interviews with enterprise organizations, I haven’t found a single process or strategy that would work for them all.

Every organization is going to have its own way for approaching enterprise collaboration. What works for a technology company probably won’t work for a consumer packaged goods company. Collaboration initiatives come in all different shapes, sizes and colors -- or in business terms -- departments, cultures, and use cases.

I once spoke to someone who told me they developed a 300 step process for a company that was interested in enterprise collaboration..300!! Now, would that same 300 step process work for your organization? I doubt it. In fact I’m sure there are many companies out there that would shiver at the idea of even trying to implement something that was 300 steps, but then again some companies out there might prefer that approach.

Flexibility is Key

What I would like to see (and part of what I’m going to try to work on as well) are adaptive social business frameworks that allow for flexibility and maneuverability. Deloitte put out a framework for social software a few weeks ago, and while the document as a whole was interesting, I found the models to be too linear and unrealistic in a practical business setting, precisely because they were very “my way or the highway-ish.”

Rigid frameworks don’t work in an unstructured setting. Many enterprise collaboration proponents advocate for a “get out of the way approach,” meaning you let the users decide how and why they are going to use something, while you provide some overarching guidelines, training, resources and an understanding of what the value is (among a few other things).

Why then do we strive to create approaches for organizations that don’t follow this same type of mantra?
Is it more valuable to create a one size fits all framework or is it more valuable to create something that, while encompassing, allows the organization to choose what they feel they need to work on?

Complexity vs Simplicity

Finally, I also don’t think these frameworks or approaches need to be complex. As an industry, sometimes I feel as though we are trying to sell complexity instead of trying to build with simplicity. 

In-depth approaches and more strategic directions only make sense when an organization hires someone to do this and the proper due diligence has been done.

This doesn’t mean that any of the frameworks or approaches are useless, in fact they are quite good for helping organizations understand what they should be thinking about and how they should be thinking about it. I personally enjoy reading through frameworks because whether or not I agree with them, I get additional ideas that I probably wouldn’t have thought of.

What’s your take on the best approach for enterprise collaboration? Should we stick to linear approaches or become less structured and adaptive?

Editor's Note: Check out these additional articles on Enterprise Collaboration: