Enteprise 2.0: Software Is Failing

Nov 06, 2009

Rob Tarkoff, senior vice president and general manager of business productivity solutions at Adobe, did little to cushion the blow when he said to attendees at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference: "Enterprise software is failing." Too many companies are neglecting the needs of the users and are unable to deliver solutions that support and encourage customer-driven collaborative and social experiences. As a result, years of failed promises, failed integrations, and costly implementation have also made consumers reluctant to move from traditional methods onto the web. "It's a high cost problem anyway you look at it," Tarkoff said.

Companies have historically been based on a system-out rather than a user-in approach. In other words, they've taken the "internal constraints of [the] businesses, masked the complexity, and served it out to users as a next-generation platform." What companies should be doing instead, Tarkoff said, is understand how users-"not fictitious users," he warned, but "real users"-prefer to work and how they want to incorporate new technologies into their applications. Only then can companies achieve the complexity and diversity that is required for new capabilities to take root. These new problems are changing the way companies measure and customize, but by thinking about the needs of every person in the value chain, Tarkoff said, "we're able to transform [the customer] experience, and serve better."

Companies are forced to redefine what Tarkoff called "the moment of truth"-that is, the moment the customer and service provider come together. This calls for, among other things, designing features that previously existed only in silos and, more broadly, define expectations as it applies to the user and the world they live in. According to Tarkoff, there are three key enablers that will evolve the individual work experience into a highly-connected, conversational one: client and cloud; social computing; device and desktop.

Adobe, Tarkoff said in a final plug for his company, is working with developers and users to create "customer interaction solutions."

For consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, making the shift to an enterprise 2.0 culture wasn't easy, but Walton Smith, senior associate, and Art Fritzson, vice president, at the firm would argue that it was well worth the effort. "If we're going to be a better consulting firm," Fritzson told the audience during the afternoon presentation, "The Secret Sauce of Enterprise 2.0: Success at Booz Allen Hamilton," "then we have to be giving the best of what Booz Allen has to offer, not the best of what an individual has to offer." The concept took five years to take root, then another 10 before it was in full swing, resulting in the company's Hello.bah.com social enterprise platform, which earned the Open Enterprise Award for 2009 at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference's east coast event this past June.

The problems at Booz Allen Hamilton were typical of most businesses: Information was floating around in systems with authors unknown; search was inadequate; and conversations between employees were trapped in emails, telephone calls, or in-person meetings. The goal was to move everything into an online environment so it was not only searchable, but searchable by the entire company.

Fritzson recalled how people were wary of the getting rid of a widely-used system like Outlook, but he reassured, "we're not trying to get rid of outlook. We're trying to make those emails more intelligent." Eventually, he said, people will see the value of sharing messages in a public space, rather than locking it into a long "reply-all" chain.

Half of the company's budget is aimed toward change management, explained co-speaker Walton Smith. For the next generation of employees, there's a disconnect when they're forced to work in an environment where their cell phones with more computing power than their work computers. "Our big effort is to get folks to being from hoarders of information and get them into the conversation." However, Fritzson emphasized that it's not a generational difference, such that he sees older generations just as eager to participate.

Currently, Booz Allen Hamilton has accumulated around 480 communities that contain anywhere from five to 5,000 people. These individuals are talking about what they're passionate about, which, in turn, gives the company situational awareness about what its consultants are excited about. When higher-ups expressed concerns about mixing work and pleasure, Fritzson stood firm. "I would not make concessions that this was all about business," he said. "It had to be fun."