Writing the Book on Enterprise 2.0: An interview with Andrew McAfee

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HM: It wasn't really all that long ago that people started looking at email as a cause of compliance vulnerability and risk. So has that awareness been speeding monitoring of social media within an organization?

AM: Yeah, I think a lot of things combine to make the security issues jump into sharp relief very quickly here. But to pick up on your point, we've had fairly scary technologies around for a long time when you look at it from a compliance perspective. Email is a doubly frightening technology primarily because, like I said earlier, it travels through channels, and it is very hard for the organization as a whole to monitor it and find out if any problems are taking place. ... I don't think Enterprise 2.0 significantly alters the risk profile ... because these contributions take place on platforms, and they are universally visible. So the instant something starts going wrong, the whole organization potentially can see it, flag it, and deal with it.

The guys from Lockheed told a very interesting story. They are a very conservative organization, for good reasons. So when they were rolling out their initial 2.0 tool set, the compliance officer said, "We will support this, but you need to put a little check box to flag any inappropriate contributions, and if that little box is checked, it will go immediately to the compliance department and we'll deal with it then." So they said fine, we'll happily do that. I don't think a flag had ever been used inside the company. In this day and age, employees know what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.

HM: Do you generally find that there are companies deploying commercially available tools rather than the popular Web 2.0 varieties?

AM: Yes. Generally, companies want something that feels a bit more enterprise-friendly that is not purely for the web. Companies want tools over which they have more control.

HM: What would you say to a senior-level executive or department manager or whomever might be in the role to advance Enterprise 2.0 initiatives in their organization?

AM: I usually ask a couple questions to probe what they're really interested in. For example, is it a case that they want to let people who are already close colleagues collaborate, or do they want to let people who should be colleagues but aren't connect? Do they want to help that connection get made inside the organization? So by asking a few questions, you start to identify where the organization thinks the real opportunities are, and that affects both the technology you deploy and the things you stress when you're doing the rollout.

Enterprise 2.0 is not a one-size-fits-all phenomenon. It's just not. There's way too much variety out there, and there should be a lot of variety because you can do many different things with this tool suite. So a big part of my book is devoted toward explaining the different things that it can do for you and helping you think through what you'd like it to do.

HM: Let's get into a little more detail about your book. What can readers expect to find from Enterprise 2.0?

AM: I start with four case studies about organizations facing challenges or missed opportunities, and hopefully, those big challenges or missed opportunities will be pretty familiar to the reader. Then, I get into Web 2.0 and the significant improvement in technologies available for collaboration. I show how, in each of the four cases, the organization [grabbed] some portion of that toolkit and made it work, helped address the challenge they faced.

I present a framework for thinking through what Enterprise 2.0 can do for you and how to think about it. At the end, I present some guidance about deployment. The book concludes by looking into the future a little bit and making some, hopefully, grounded predictions about where all this is headed.

HM: OK. What about those predictions?

AM: My broadest prediction is that these tools are going to increase differences between companies. In other words, there is a school of thought that says that technology is the great competitive leveler. Because you can buy SharePoint and I can buy SharePoint-or you can use Twitter and I can use Twitter-we become more alike, and the differences between companies go down. Everything I've seen, and all my research, points to exactly the opposite conclusion, which is that even though you and I might have access to the same raw material and technology, we do really different things with it.

What I see happening is that technology may increasingly separate winners from losers in competitive battles. These technologies are only going to accelerate that trend because they actually are fairly difficult to do well, but if you can pull it off, they give you very valuable capabilities related to innovation and collaboration and collective intelligence. Those are things that help differentiate a company from its rivals. So I'm pretty confident that this whole Enterprise 2.0 movement is not going to make companies more similar; instead, it will differentiate them more sharply.

HM: So you're quite confident that the Enterprise 2.0 movement is a fundamental shift in the way that organizations can share knowledge and gain collective intelligence and ultimately increase the bottom line?

AM: I am very convinced of that. I am also convinced that not all organizations are going to share that view. Even if they do, not all of them are going to be equally capable at deploying the new technologies and the new styles of collaboration and getting people to change the way they work. However, for the ones that actually can get through that process, I think some brilliant capabilities await them.

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