Microenterprises and the Enterprise 2.0 Trajectory


What is the curtain? 

The enterprise is the curtain.

In concurrent posts, SocialText’s Michael Idinopulos discusses killing pilot projects and the true nature of Enterprise 2.0. He explains:

Enterprise social software isn't one application. It's a range of collaborative modes that includes blogs, wikis, micromessaging, personal dashboards, collaborative spreadsheeting, and social bookmarking.

When Michael discusses killing pilot projects (small rollouts as proofs of concept), he is spot-on in saying that the real value inherent to those types of projects is borne of network effects, not in the efficacy of the technology. So pilot projects = proving the tech and not realizing the business value.  It would be like if I told you I wanted to know what University life was like, and you suggested I speak  to a professor for a day to “try it out.”

Today, Dion Hinchcliffe compiled a list of Web OS trends.  His first one is perhaps the most important:

Innovation is one of the easiest and least risky areas that can be tapped by most organizations.

Michael and Dion's quotations complement each other beautifully, and can be restated as:

Enterprise social software isn’t one application. It’s the realization that innovation has become the easiest and least risky way to solve problems within an organization.

3812835123_1e9a04297b_oPerhaps most important here is the word "enterprise." I submit that the term has fundamentally shifted from a consolidated model to a distributed one.  The enterprise is no longer a central node with dependent groups hanging off of it. Rather, it has evolved into a network with greater nodal autonomy, faster communication, and improved decision making power.

This nodal structure was there all along. We see it in the human circulatory system, we see it in the layout of ant colonies, we see it in flora and fauna.

The hierarchic enterprise is the curtain. We have been fooled into believing that there is, or even should be, one central corporate OZ qualified to make all decisions. Over time, centralization has created costly information and decision making bottlenecks. Does this mean hierarchy is dead?  Obviously not.

Enterprise 2.0 is not a panacea, it is a tool to allow corporate structures - congested by unnecessary bottlenecks - become leaner organizations. By redistributing information and decision making, companies limit waste, reduce costs, and are afforded the freedom to innovate. Microenterprises joined as nodes to a larger enterprise have the simultaneous ability to function both independently and as part of a cohesive whole.

What this means for Enterprise 2.0 is not that it becomes the next ERP, but that it becomes a host of spot-applications or, as Michael says, collaborative modes that allow us to realize Dion’s inexpensive and relatively painless innovations.

P.S. I really appreciate Michael’s “collaborative modes” – it re-orients the conversation from one of techno-miracles to one of business process. Not what are we going to use, but what are we going do?

Blogged at Ebeneezer’s Coffee House in Washington DC.

Photo by Tonianne