Live from the Enterprise 2.0 Conference: Tuesday

June 20, 2007 at 4:34 pm | Posted in Enterprise 2.0, social software, Web 2.0 | Leave a comment

I’m here at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. I was not here on Monday, but Tuesday’s speakers had some good food for thought.

David Weinberger

David Weinberger posed an interesting question: “If there’s too much information, why aren’t we drowning?” His answer was that we’re adapting well and the solution to information overload is metadata. I believe he’s correct that we’re adapting well and that metadata is a key to surviving, but I think much of the information out there is redundant too. Frequency is often used as a measure of importance. All one has to do to catch up on the latest travails of a wealthy young heiress is catch one of the thousands of stories floating around.  By showing the phrase “Call me Ishmael” torn out of Moby Dick he made the point that deep searching (through the details of the data) is enhancing our ability to find information.  That’s true, although it’s not an example of metadata.  He also made a good point about the next frontiers for Enterprise 2.0 to conquer: authority, trust, and boundaries.

Andrew McAfee

Andrew McAfee was up next and assigned grades to E2.0. While he’s a highly respected Harvard professor, I suspect some grade inflation going on here:

Awareness: A. Among technology people I would agree, although awareness is often far short of understanding. Among business people though, I think it’s a C. There are a significant number of CEOs and business people that have heard of web 2.0 technologies, but nowhere near as many as know the latest business buzzword.

Technology: A-. Since he’s specifically talking enterprise, it’s hard to see how it could get an A- unless you mean “progress”. He seems happy there is so much to choose from. But that makes his point of view the technology vendors and not the implementers. Until the frontiers mentioned by David Weinberger (authority, trust, and boundaries) are conquered I can’t see giving the technology more than a “C” at best.

Communicating results: C. I’ll buy that. We seem to keep rehashing same success stories. The conference didn’t help in that regard though. I went to two sessions on case studies and half were vendors doing the case studies. The end users ones were not the best either (alerting? Nah).

Stowe Boyd

Stowe’s description of social apps sounded like self-actualization to me: “Judge the app by how it helps people discover who they are”.  I don’t find that description applicable in an enterprise setting.  Enhancing their ability to get their job done, visibility to management, feeling a part of a community: yes.  Learning about myself: no.

Any middle level manager who believes Stowe will want to immediately ask for a demotion or make a play for CEO since he says the center of organizations will hollow out, the “edgelings will self-organize”, and management (always just a necessary evil anyways) is doomed.  There’s more to say on this than I can type here at the airport this morning, but I find this view extreme and unlikely.  I don’t think 10,000+ person organizations can be self-organizing and I don’t think they will increase shareholder value by breaking up into 1,000 ten-person organizations.  I don’t think everyone wants to be self-directing and self-organizing.  I don’t think that employees will all become essentially independent contractors who decide what they want to do, self-organize into teams, and the “company” becomes little more than which logoed shirt they decide to put on the morning.  The market has generally voted its money on the idea that people organized in a hierarchy of groups (teams, divisions, conglomerates) are most likely to produce a return on investments and when that is not true (like a spinoff) they break up the units themselves.  I don’t see that changing.  That doesn’t mean employees will not become more empowered – just that their new networks are superimposed (not replace) the existing structure on the org chart.

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