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Enterprise 2.0 Will Never be Dial Tone

By Joe Shepley posted Apr 07, 2011 3:58 PM

  

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Toronto, midway through my trip here. I’ve had the opportunity to talk to former clients and potential clients, as well as account managers and product specialists at content management and collaboration software companies.

I’ve talked about a lot of stuff with these folks, from the U.S. Olympic Rugby team to large-scale scanning operations, from how awesome Toronto’s PATH underground walkway is to the future of teleconferencing.

But one constant through all of these conversations is the challenge of quantifying the impact of E2.0 on the organization. And, as you might expect, folks fall into one of two camps.

Two sides of the coin

The first feels that E2.0’s impact can’t be quantified any more than the impact of mobile phones or email can be—it’s dial tone, plumbing, part of the core fabric of what organizations do. And so trying to quantify what you get in return for investing in it is not only the wrong question in the first place, but damn near impossible to answer anyway.

The second feels that E2.0’s impact must be quantified—jumping on the E2.0 bandwagon without a strong business case derived from a clear, articulated vision of what you’re trying to accomplish is a recipe for disaster: either you won’t get the funding and organizational support for your E2.0 efforts or you will…and fail to make any meaningful, measurable impact on the organization.

Tails

As the title of this post declares, I’m in the second camp. For my money, organizations need estimate the impact of everything they’re considering doing; nothing should be done because we have to or because we can’t afford not to. To me, this is either laziness or an inability to get to the heart of the matter (or both).

I would argue that the things we consider dial tone or plumbing do have quantifiable benefits or we would have never adopted them in the first place. It’s just that on this side of the divide, they seem to be a natural part of the fabric of everyday business. But this obscures the reality of the path we took to get here, which required some sort of quantifiable impact to drive adoption.

Don’t wind up like knowledge management

And while I do think E2.0 will eventually be as (or nearly as) ubiquitous as things like email and cell phones at organizations, it will only happen as a result of E2.0 practitioners getting serious (and effective) about demonstrating what E2.0 can deliver to an organization—otherwise it will go the way of promising transformational fields like knowledge management: a groundbreaking idea that never adequately demonstrated quantifiable impact and so has enjoyed sporadic adoption across corporate America.

The final word

So that’s my stake in the ground—I’m excited to hear what you all out there think. Dive in and make the case for one camp or the other…or even dismiss the whole distinction as misplaced and introduce a better way to look at the issue: let’s get the conversation started!

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