Blogger: Larry Cannell
A recent post from Andrew McAfee, the Harvard professor who coined the term “Enterprise 2.0,” speculated on what he would do to turn around an auto company in which the new management “will fund and fully support whatever initiatives I propose.” As someone who spent 23 years in the auto industry, the last ten of which were in developing and deploying collaborative technologies, and having been involved in the Enterprise 2.0 industry for several years, I feel compelled to respond.
It may be fruitless to comment on advice that is based on a “complete fantasy” (McAfee’s words, not mine). But, McAfee is an influential figure and many reading his post will certainly take it as practical advice for the adoption of Enterprise 2.0 in large companies. It is not.
If you are looking for principles of Enterprise 2.0 solutions then McAfee’s post is a reasonable starting point. However, if you are looking for advice on Enterprise 2.0 adoption within large companies then McAfee’s advice falls well short.
To summarize McAfee’s advice:
- “I’d roll out as quickly as possible a single integrated suite of emergent social software platforms (ESSPs) to all employees of the company.” (he also provides a set of requirements for this platform)
- Make the use of these tools mandatory. He would accomplish this “by announcing on the 'go live' date of the new E2.0 suite that participation will become part (10-20%?) of everyone's performance evaluation, starting in six months.”
- He would start an internal blog of his own.
- He would “work to create an environment in which people feel safe and free to speak the truth".”
- Deploy a prediction market to learn which projects will be late, predict sales volumes of new vehicles, and speculate on what moves competitors are making.
I can’t argue with starting your own internal blog and I kind of like the idea of using prediction markets in large companies. But, it’s McAfee’s first two pieces of advice that are unrealistic in non-fantasy situations. Other critical pieces are missing as well.
So please allow me to follow in McAfee’s footstep and tell you what I would do if I were the new CIO in this fantasy.
In the short-term I would learn of and support current Enterprise 2.0 efforts going on within the company, whether they were company-sponsored or not.
- Find the people in the company who are using and promoting the use of Enterprise 2.0 solutions. Perhaps this could be the topic of my first post on an internal blog (but, at least for this one, I’d send an e-mail message too). Although I think McAfee overstates the amount of experience the average person has with these tools (especially their application within enterprise situations) there is likely some people already promoting their use. Most importantly, I would look both inside and outside of IT for these champions of change.
- I would then listen to what these people are doing, learn what has worked, and what challenges they are facing. Of course, we would form a community within the company to share our experiences and support each other.
- Given the dire situation, these could be the people most likely to be axed. They need to be protected, supported, and eventually given the resources they need to be successful.
- The Enterprise 2.0 solutions most likely to make the biggest difference will come from this community. Best of all, they will give me a head start and build credibility.
Longer-term I would:
- Look for opportunities to leverage Enterprise 2.0 solutions that stand the best chance of success and plan how to develop this as a capability others can use. Stories sell change. We need stories, fast.
- The best opportunities integrate Enterprise 2.0 solutions within the natural flow of work (as McAfee says). This may mean focusing on technologies that are less commonly used among consumers but are more appropriate for enterprise use. The community we formed when I first became CIO will help figure this out.
- My first priority is getting something that can make a difference and is easily understood. A platform approach is something to strive for but won’t matter if these initiatives fail. Applications sell change, not platforms.
- Most importantly, the CIO needs to build a strong relationship with other senior executives in the company. This is necessary to get their buy-in on an appropriate IT governance structure that can ensure a coordinated effort between both the business and IT sides of the company. Grass-roots adoption works (I’ve seen it and creative governance structures can allow that to happen within reasonable limits) but the home runs that make a difference also require top-down management support to ensure change gets baked into every day work processes.
In short,McAfee falls into a classic “White Knight” trap by assuming no one in the auto companies is familiar with emerging concepts like Enterprise 2.0 or has tried to implement this or similar types of change before. He also ignores the tough adoption issues that cannot be solved through mandates or technology alone.