Over on ReadWrite Web Sarah Perez wrote a compelling post summarizing Forrester’s predictions of Web 2.0 adoption in the enterprise. She gives a great synopsis of the report, and speaks about the barriers to adoption:
“….One of the main challenges of getting Web 2.0 into the enterprise will be getting past the gatekeepers of traditional I.T. Businesses have been showing interest in these new technologies, but, ironically, the interest comes from departments outside of I.T. Instead, it’s the marketing department, R&D, and corporate communications pushing for the adoption of more Web 2.0-like tools.
Unfortunately, as often is the case, the business owners themselves don’t have the knowledge or expertise to make technology purchasing decisions for their company. They rely on I.T. to do so - a department that currently spends 70% of their budget maintaining past investments.
Despite the absolute mission-critical nature of I.T. in today’s business, the department is often provided with slim budgets, which tends to only allow for maintaining current infrastructure, not experimenting with new, unproven technologies.”
And she goes on to say,
“By 2013 Web 2.0 will be a feature, not a product.”
And while I agree with the overall premise of that statement, I agree with Forrester:
By 2013 Web 2.0 will be a fabric, not a phase.
And I think it’s that vision - coupled with fear, not budget constraints - that is precisely what’s holding so many businesses back from Web 2.0 adoption today. Scott Niesen over at Attensa has blogged a leading indicator (to me) of the fear when he said,
“We are working with forward thinking IT professionals [JLJ's emphasis] who are partnering with business teams to integrate Web 2.0 technologies to enhance existing systems and business processes….”
I agree with Scott that finally enterprise RSS adoption is coming into fruition - but why has it taken us so many years to finally get here?
Why do the folks considering (what James Dellow has called “the DNA” of enterprise communication and collaboration) enterprise RSS today have to be the “forward thinking” ones? Because of fear.
And it’s not the IT folks who are to blame. Many business leaders (in all sizes of organizations) are fearful of Web 2.0.
Why the Fear? Because Web 2.0 Fundamentally Changes Business Rules
Many have written compelling visions of the future of the enterprise under the influence of Web 2.0 technologies. (I still enjoy Sam Lawrence’s “Enterprise Octopus” vision as a succinct roll-up of what happens to a business in a Web 2.0 environment.)
And I believe Hugh Mcleod, in writing his extremely insightful “The Hughtrain” post from 2005 was right:
“: There’s only one thing harder than starting a new business: Re-inventing an old one.”
Hugh’s “Porous Membrane” description (which could look a little like an octopus on it’s side) sums up “why the fear?” to me:
“….So I drew the diagram above.
1. In Cluetrain parlance, we say “markets are conversations”. So the diagram above represents your market, or “The Conversation”. That is demarkated by the outer circle “y”.
2. There is a smaller, inner circle “x”.
3. So the entire market, the “conversation” is seperated into two distinct parts, the inner area “A” and the outer area “B”.
4. Area “A” represents your company, the people supplying the market. We call that “The Internal Conversation”.
5. Area “B” represents the people in the market who are not making, but buying. Otherwise know as the customers. We call that “The External Conversation”.
6. So each market from a corporate point of view has an internal and external conversation. What seperates the two is a membrane, otherwise known as “x”.
7. Every company’s membrane is different, and controlled by a host of different technical and cultural factors.
8. Ideally, you want A and B to be identical as possible, or at least, in sync. The things that A is passionate about, B should also be passionate about. This we call “alignment”. A good example would be Apple. The people at Apple think the iPod is cool, and so do their customers. They are aligned.
9. When A and B are no longer aligned is when the company starts getting into trouble. When A starts saying their gizmo is great and B is telling everybody it sucks, then you have serious misalignment.
10. So how do you keep misalignment from happening?
11. The answer lies in “x”, the membrane that seperates A from B. The more porous the membrane, the easier it is for conversations between A and B, the internal and external, to happen. The easier for the conversations on both side of membrane “x” to adjust to the other, to become like the other.
12. And nothing, and I do mean nothing, pokes holes in the membrane better than blogs. You want porous? You got porous. Blogs punch holes in membranes like like it was Swiss cheese.
13. The more porous your membrane (”x”), the easier it is for the internal conversation to inform and align with the external conversation, and vice versa.
14. Not to mention it makes misalignment, if it happens, a lot easier to repair.
15. Of course this begs the question, why have a membrane “x” at all? Why bother with such a hierarchy? But that’s another story.
[AFTERTHOUGHT:] And yes, this works with internal blogs as well, poking holes in the membranes that seperate people within a corporate culture; aligning “the conversation” internally etc. The other advantage of internal blogging is that it organises conversation into a long-term manageable form. Two people sharing ideas via blogs is a lot more permanent, viral and useful for the company than two people sharing the same information over by the watercooler.
[AFTERTHOUGHT:] Poking holes in membranes subverts hierarchies. Avast, ye scurvies etc.”
Avast ye scurvies it is! Let’s subvert the hierarchies, get over the fear of changing the way we do business and let the porous membranes dissolve. Our customers, employees and (I’ll bet money) shareholders will appreciate us for it.
Again, in a succinct summary statement, Martin Koser over on Frogpond said:
“Donâ€™t spend hours pondering the details and splitting hairs - actually use this stuff and find out.”