A review of Andrew McAfee’s Enterprise 2.0 book and a bit of related Gartner research.

Cross posted from my Gartner blog.

I received a review copy of Andrew McAfee’s Enterprise 2.0 just before Christmas, so I added it to my book pile as an extra Christmas present. Thank you Andrew and the publisher, HBS.

In reviewing books, I have a simple test. Would I spend my own money on a copy? This book passes that test.

There are a goodly number of reviews on the web already, so I’ll keep this review relatively short. I found Jon Ingram’s review to be particularly useful.

The book is clearly written, well structured and it is refreshingly devoid of hype (other than the slightly jarring tagline). McAfee writes well, aiming at a management rather than a geeky audience. It is an easy but nutritious read, there is little technical jargon yet it doesn’t over-simplify or seem condescending when explaining technology. More importantly It isn’t just preaching to the enterprise 2.0 choir, nor it is the Iskra for the Enterprise 2.0 revolutionaries, whomever they may be.

In the same way that technologies and new business practices have changed businesses in the past, so to are new technologies and business practices changing things today. McAfee shows through 4 case studies how collaborative technologies are changing the way we work, and will work.

The term emergence is important to Enterprise 2.0, and McAfee explains this thoroughly. I particularly liked this sentence, Emergence is the appearance of global structure as a result of local interactions.

The section on ROI is also very useful, and not just for Enterprise 2.0 projects. He goes through the limitations of ROI models in some depth, even though he uses baseball examples, it makes sense.

It was also good to see that Argyis and Schön’s Model 1 and Model 2 theory of behaviour, Granovetter’s The Strength of Weak ties, and Burt’s Structural holes were referenced in the book. I’m of the view that we need to be applying more organization design and sociology to business and IT thinking. There are many models in the sociology that we could use to better understand organizations and how they change.

McAfee also references von Hippel and John Allen Paulos. Both are essential reading.

I would have liked to have seen a further reading section. The HBR book site  wasn’t available when I looked today. This book would be well served by a supporting web site, emergent or otherwise.

The final 2-3 pages of the book are key. They link the Enterprise 2.0 proposition back to his broader research (with Brynjolfson, Zhu and Sorell) into IT and competitive difference. He briefly makes the case for how Enterprise 2.0 can improve ERP, and I wish he had made more of this argument in the book.

With regards to the relevance and the extent of emergent technologies and social software in an enterprise context, let me take the liberty of pointing to the blogs and / or research of several Gartner colleagues, for instance Anthony Bradley, Jeff Mann  Andrea DiMaio  Carol Rozwell, Nikos Drakos and Adam Sarner.  For Gartner clients have a look at The Business Impact of Socialization: Real-World Measurable Results. This collection of research highlights 16 examples of social computing that were not open-ended, undefined experiments, but rather were purposeful engagements resulting in actual measurable business benefits. (client access needed)

Somewhat selfishly, I would have liked to see more on the HR implications of enterprise 2.0 in the book. I’m doing a lot of work in this area at the moment. I have recently published a collection of short case studies on social software’s impact in HR as part of 2009 Business Impact series and I field a lot of calls from HR and IT who are looking at the HR implications of social software, both behind and beyond the firewall. In 2008 I published a note, The Business Impact of Social Computing on HR Data. (client access needed) but here is an excerpt.

 Social computing’s impact: With social computing, we’re seeing a new set of HR-relevant data: volunteered data. Employees, managers, executives, applicants and customers share HR-relevant data, but only in ways that suit them, rather than in the structured format that is required by traditional HR processes. People are sharing data to get things done and to socialize. Examples include employees maintaining internal blogs, in which they discuss their skills and interests; workgroups and document sharing via wikis; and social networks. In addition, networks such as Facebook and Xing often offer richer, deeper insights into career history, skills, qualifications and business interests than traditional HR skills and career history databases do. Organizational changes often are reflected in LinkedIn before they appear in the transactional HR management system.

I made this strategic planning assumption then.

By 2012, volunteered, HR-related data will exceed mandatory HR data in volume and value. Leading HR organizations will invest more time and effort in managing and exploiting voluntary data than they spend on mandatory data.

This is similar to the points McAfee makes about imposed, emergent and competitive advantage.

I look forward to reading his next book, and continuing to follow his academic research. As a final aside,  McAfee cites JP Rangaswami in the book. I’d suggest reading his blog. JP is high up on my list of people who I’d like to have write a book.

Thanks again, Andrew, for the copy.


The power of being nice.

This made my morning. I’m smiling now. Thanks for blogging it,  Michael.

And speaking of Michael, if you are in Australia and interested in HR and 2.0 stuff, you really  ought to check out his  event.  HR futures conference 2009. Great lineup of speakers, and I’m not just being nice.

Also I think  I need to watch some movies made by Kurt Kuenne. This smiling thing is really rather catchy.

Dusting off the Weber

Most of the time when I think about Weber, I mean one of these.


photo thanks to massdistraction.

Not this fellow, Max Weber.

Max Weber 1894.jpg

photo from Wikipedia.

While browsing through my feedreader  (actually I think it was on Techmeme) this morning I read this article, the Wisdom of the Chaperones.

Social-media sites like Wikipedia and Digg are celebrated as shining examples of Web democracy, places built by millions of Web users who all act as writers, editors, and voters. In reality, a small number of people are running the show. According to researchers in Palo Alto, 1 percent of Wikipedia users are responsible for about half of the site’s edits. The site also deploys bots—supervised by a special caste of devoted users—that help standardize format, prevent vandalism, and root out folks who flood the site with obscenities. This is not the wisdom of the crowd. This is the wisdom of the chaperones.

Nick Carr, who often writes about wikipedia, said something similar a while ago.

The myth begins with the idea of radical openness, the idea that Wikipedia is a creation of the great mass of humanity in all its hairy glory. It’s a myth encapsulated in Wikipedia’s description of itself as “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.” As we now know, that’s never been precisely true. According to cofounder Jimmy Wales, there have always been filtering mechanisms to restrict certain people’s ability to edit certain articles. Those mechanisms have been expanded and tightened over time. In Wikipedia’s early days, the encyclopedia asked contributors to maintain a “neutral point of view,” but, as the official history of Wikipedia notes, “There were otherwise few rules initially.” Since then, rules have proliferated, as the encyclopedia has adopted a de facto bureaucratic structure.

And Andrew McAfee at Harvard includes a wikipedia case study in his MBA course, and his picks on Wikipedia’s  bureaucratic nature.

Thinking about wikipedia, elites and bureaucracy took me back almost 20 years, to a sunny afternoon in Pietermaritzburg with Prof Irvine. We were discussing a paper I’d written about J.S.Mill and Max Weber on bureaucracy and democracy. Much of Mills’ thinking has since slipped into a dusty corner of my brain, but Max Weber has stayed with me ever since.

Although he was writing about 100 years ago, I don’t reckon he would have been surprised by how Wikipedia, or indeed most of the web 2.0 world is organised.

II. The principles of office hierarchy and of levels of graded authority mean a firmly ordered system of super- and subordination in which there is a supervision of the lower offices by the higher ones. Such a system offers the governed the possibility of appealing the decision of a lower office to its higher authority, in a definitely regulated manner. With the full development of the bureaucratic type, the office hierarchy is monocratically organized. The principle of hierarchical office authority is found in all bureaucratic structures: in state and ecclesiastical structures as well as in large party organizations and private enterprises. It does not matter for the character of bureaucracy whether its authority is called ‘private’ or ‘public

From Max Weber, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, part III, chap. 6, pp. 650-78. (more at this site).

Some learned commentary here.

Bureaucracy is in fact the division of labour applied to administration, and bureaucracy occupies the same place in Weber’s account of the development of modern civilization as division of labour in general occupies in Adam Smith’s account. For Weber this species of division of labour is more fundamental than the others because it initiates and orders other divisions of labour. Instructions come to the factory floor from the office. Just as Adam Smith saw division of labour in general as the cause of progress toward modern, generically commercial, society, so Weber sees bureaucracy as one of the most important causes of the development of capitalism specifically. He points to many cooperating causes (see Collins), and in The Spirit of Capitalism puts some emphasis on the moral causes – on the factors that made people strive for ever increasing profit, and to use their profits not for consumption but for further investment. But among the causal factors he often mentions the adoption of rational accounting methods: no amount of will to make a profit, or willingness to invest, would have had the desired result if investment and management had not been guided by systematic accounting, carried on of course increasingly by a bureaucracy. Once some began to be systematic others had to follow suit or go under. Labourers were ‘separated’ from the old-fashioned means of production by the superior effectiveness of production guided by systematic accounting – they could get a better living as employees. Capitalists adopted machinery and other innovations when their bureaucracy analyzing the possibilities of investment found that such innovation would be profitable. In fact a bureaucracy finds its own capitalists. As modern Weberians have pointed out, modern firms are run, not by owners, but by their managers, who often initiate the issuing of shares to raise capital, or seek loans or investments.

As I sit in the sunshine today, slightly more than a stone’s throw away from where Max Weber did much of his teaching and writing, I wonder what he would have made of today’s online world? What would have impressed him? What would disappoint? Would he find his Iron Cage and the polar night of icy Darkness, or would  he be pleasantly surprised?

The great social theory thinkers of the past 150 odd years;  Tonnies, Parsons, Durkheim, Comte, Spencer,  Mill, Bentham, Weber, and even Marx can teach us  a whole lot more about today’s online cultures, institutions and behaviours than we realise. 

I’m hoping that somewhere in a political science or sociology department there lurks a Weber 2.0, someone that will apply the same levels of rigour, research, insight and original thought to today’s world as Weber did at the turn of the last century.  I also hope that he/she has  a blog.

from wikipedia.

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Complexity syndrome and Rumplestilskin 2.0

Goodness me. I logged on for the first time in a couple of days to see that enterprisey corner of the blogosphere has been in a frenzy. Robert Scoble began it all by wondering what the Enterprise Irregulars thought about the lack of sexiness in enterprise software.

I’m a tad late to the party.

Michael Krigsman, Nick Carr, Jason Wood, Dennis HowlettEd Hermann, George Ou, Ross Mayfield, Susan Scrupski, Ian Joyce, Anshu Sharma, Craig Cmehil, Sadagopan, Vinnie MirchandaniStowe Boyd and Alan Patrick all chime in, and the there is a lot more I’ve not seen yet. (see Techmeme for more)

As an aside, I do find the blogosphere convention of starting posts with  “I’ve met you and gee, you are really a nice, super, kind and smart guy, but now, having said that, I’m going to tell you why you are an idiot.” really odd.


Sitting here at Starship Enterprisey, you’d bet Oracle’s maintenance revenue stream that I’d jump and take up my cudgels to defend enterpriseydom,  But I’m not.  

Something James Governor said a while ago about IBM nails it for me- The false distinction between consumer and enterprise.

RedMonk has long called for IBM to abandon the somewhat false distinction between “consumer” and “enterprise”. What’s the main difference? Who pays the bill at the end of the month.

I’ve argued before about the dangers of using the “enterprise” as an excuse for complexity, and in the summer I said.

Labelling things enterprise, business or even professional enables a defence of complexity that shouldn’t be tolerated without a challenge.

Full post here.

One of the things that makes me mad is the “enterprise is complex syndrome”. Complexity, not Oracle, is SAP’s biggest competitor.  We enterprisey types need some Bauhaus.  We can learn a lot from the often brutal simplicity of consumer applications. A focus on simplicity is imperative.

In this sense, Nick Carr is right.

By perpetuating a false dichotomy between the friendliness of consumer apps and the seriousness of business apps, all that Krigsman is doing is giving enterprise vendors cover for continuing to produce software that’s difficult and unpleasant to use. Give Scoble credit. He’s asking the right question, in his own strange way.

Rumplestilskin 2.0

At the same time, anytime a consumer software expert craps on the enterprise gang for not being more like the consumer stuff, I’d  politely ask them to do the Rumplestilskin 2.0 Test.

Flickr  from YTaP

Apologies to my loyal readers –  I have used this before, but for those of you new to this blog: 

We provide a room with perfect lighting, beanbags with fairtrade beans, the social media tools of your choice, lattes and other beverages of your choice on tap,  eco-friendly pizza and Macbook pros all round, but we only let you out when you have a working polish payroll that offers a compelling user experience. And maintain it. At a profit.

Oh, and It seems we have short memories, or perhaps this is a yuletide thing.  Last year Bill Thompson’s Tyranny of the UI post sparked a similar blogosphere spat.  I’m now self linking beyond the pale of politeness, but the UI is not the application.

Come to think of it, having a UI at all means a failure to automate.  I guess the sexiest UI is no UI at all.  This would enable you to leave the computer alone for a while and get on with the real thing.business time. 


At the risk of turning this into a SAP infomercial, I received an interesting email today   about a joint development (co-innovation in enterprisespeak) With SAP and Wincor Nixdorf.

The challenge here  is not bringing 2.0, to the enterprise,  but rather 0.5.

How can you bring  dramatic process and time savings to lengthly, costly administrative processes on the factory shopfloor without slowing up production lines?  How can you provide systems access in a way that makes it easy and fast for factory workers to enter timesheets, access schedules, book holiday, check payslips and the like when they have oil on their hands.  I’m not going to call it sexy, but it is damn cool.  check out this video (sorry wmv only – note to SAP marketing, stick it on youtube, please)


the power of AND

Ed Hermann, both a builder and victim of enterprise software writes of the tyranny of OR, he is so spot on. He also places this in an SAP context

It’s an internal struggle between the old school German engineering mentality vs. the new school Silicon Valley start up attitude. Only time will tell if they will find balance and harmony of both by embracing the “Genius of the AND”.

We enterprisey types need a big dose of AND.

Steve Mann, commenting over on Vinnie’s post, said,

Vinnie, from my vantage point, there is significant change under foot. Granted it has a long way to go but if you look at the influx of ethnographers and user-centric design teams in the larger enterprise software firms, the Voice of the Customer aspect of interface design is becoming more prevalent. Again, I grant you that companies that have been delivering software for many years without customer input at the front end of the process face significant cultural and process hurdles to get there. I have my doubts that all will succeed. Whether enterprise software can become more customer centric is dependent on the underlying culture of the company trying to deliver it.

Nick, things are changing in Enterprise land. The user is getting a whole lot more respect.

Oh and, flipping it , watching Facebook over the last month, I reckon they could do with a dose of enterprisey.

I’ll leave you with Jason Wood’s take.

Make users lives easier. Sounds simple, but it’s really not

Transparency, performance management, HR and the Cluetrain.

At India’s HCL Technologies, workers get to grade the boss, and everybody can see the ratings. Read the full story over on business week.

Instead of asking why should you open up performance management for everyone to see, I’d suggest you ask, “why not?” What is the point of having an elaborate recording keeping system if it is kept looked away?  Imagine how much more seriously managers would take 360 degree feedback if it was open for the whole company to see? 

Do you know of other companies doing this? 

Nayar, the CEO had this to say.

“I believe this whole concept [of making management more accountable to workers] is going to get accepted as a way of life … Talent is only becoming scarcer and scarcer.”

Cluetrain meets HR. Cool. This fits in rather nicely with what James wrote a couple of weeks ago.

Most people, I suspect particularly the generation that went to college in the last ten years or so, will want to work for employers that trust them, not those that try and control them. They will also want to work at places that allow them to use the tools they know make them productive. Forget ROI studies- this generation doesn’t need, expect or want someone else to tell them whether web services might make them more productive. It would be like saying no you can’t use a pen- you have to use this chalk and slate. Forget the phone we have this cool pigeon service…

Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0 and so on are not matters for IT professionals to decide, really. They are questions for managing directors and human resources professionals. If you want to hire top talent you need to trust people and help them become even more effective. Shutting things down won’t cut it. Is training required alongside the trust? Absolutely. Does your corporation need clear policies about acceptable behaviour, online and off? Obviously.

HR departments today are faced with a simple choice. Are they for or against openness and trust? Every other policy decision is just details.

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Berlin web 2.0.


thanks Korbatz flickrstream

This irks me, well more than irks, but this is a family blog. The biggest  web 2.0 event in Europe. 

In our back garden.

And SAP nowhere to be seen.  

thanks Flickrstream cihgt

A wasted opportunity to position what we are doing with communities, design and new technologies. Wii hands anyone?  A chance to start to change perceptions?  learn about our blind spots?

 Microsoft is all over it.

I hope I’m wrong, and there are lots of SAPlers there, soaking up all that 2.0 goodness.


Thanks Shyne’s flickrstream (note to self: seek out details of Jeremy Keith’s talk)

At the very least we could have sent our slide template people along to learn about what cool slides look like.

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A busy HR related couple of weeks ahead.

I’m rather busy on the SAP HR-HCM front at the moment.

On Tuesday I’ll be speaking at at an ADP event on HR Transformation to be held in the London Savoy.

The SAP-ADP relationship continues to strengthen, both in terms of business success and longer term strategic significance. It will be good to listen to the Pitney Bowes story and I’ll be talking about the challenges and benefits of standardisation and broccoli, and shock, horror, a little tiny sprinkling of SOA. (Minus the technical bits.)

Then on Thursday and Friday we are holding our next HR Best practice meeting. This one is in Edinburgh, and it should be an excellent session. We have something like  27 different companies attending. The theme of the meeting is HR shared services. Details here.

The momentum for driving efficiency, cost saving and service improvement in HR is very strong at the moment, and it isn’t just a case of people talking about it, but doing it.

The week after, on the 28-29 November, we will be in Stockholm at TeliaSonera, running a focus workshop on the employee of the future. Using an interactive design led methodology, we will be exploring how the students and new entrants to the workplace work and think differently, and how that may impact HR practice and processes in the near future. Social media will play a big part, but it isn’t the whole story. I’m really looking forward to this. (Agenda here)

HR today is under pressure to become more efficient. This pressure will not diminish. HR professionals need to be asking questions about what’s next, and look for some answers. Because If they don’t someone else will.

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What HR can learn from Socialtext: weak ties.

Socialtext is a wiki-maker. Ross, the founder, realised he needed a new CEO to drive the business up a notch. The company now has a new CEO and more funding. (more here)

Firstly, respect. Stepping aside isn’t a thing most founders can do easily.

Secondly, HR folks out there. Look how he found the CEO.

One thing that is of interest is how we met Eugene through the strength of weak ties.  I blogged it and he saw the post via TechCrunch.  I also posted it on LinkedIn and sent it to my contacts.  One of them was a mutual acquaintance and when they happened to have breakfast the next week.  We had 250 applicants that we narrowed down collaboratively through a wiki, of course.  Finding the right guy in two months this way is in stark contrast to paying an executive recruiter $100k to act as a PI for six months

On the point of the power of weak ties, read these two Andrew McAfee posts.

I’ll quote a bit.

I also think that employees who blog behind the firewall are establishing something like weak ties with all of their colleagues. If decent search exists, any employee can find out if their blogging peers have sought-after knowledge or expertise. The ties in this instance are potential rather than actual, but they’re still still valuable in the way that all options are.

In fact, the concept of an option is a useful one for understanding the overall power of weak ties. An employee’s strong ties give her colleagues. Her weak ones open up options. Technologies that help weak ties proliferate therefore also provide options. Given how cheap they are, and how many options they bring, they seem like one of the best investments out there.

This weak ties stuff isn’t a new buzzword. It has some serious grounding in rigourous sociology. (That ought be another post, reviving rigourous sociology theories with 2.0)

We read a fair bit written by Mark Granovetter, a sociologist now at Stanford who must be one of the most frequently referenced of all organizational scholars. In 1973 Granovetter wrote “The Strength of Weak Ties” (SWT), a seminal article that’s been cited a jaw-dropping 5111 times according to Google Scholar.

The time for HR departments to get stuck into enterprise 2.0 is now. Not in some vague policy kind of way, but in terms of action. Why aren’t more HR professionals blogging internally and externally?  On a practical note Wiki is an ideal mechanism for policy management. Try it. Most companies have a tired employee referral scheme, but what if you actually redesigned that to take social networking into account?  Do you have a strategy to leverage Facebook and Linkedin? What about prediction markets? RSS for policy and contract change announcements?  Microsurveys? Social Bookmarking?

If you really start thinking about aligning corporate goals and personal goals, then internal blogging and social networking is powerful medicine. Imagine I could click on an employee’s internal page and see what their KPI’s are, and what their boss’ KPI’s are, check what other projects they are involved in, even know a bit about what they do outside the office. Maybe a bit about their preferred work style? How much better are we likely to work together if we know what we want to do before we start? 

HR systems and processes are currently mainly about managing strong ties (manager-employee-immediate team). It is high time that they focused on the weaker ones too. Managing the informal….

Can social software fundamentally change organisation structures and work practices? Yes, I believe so. It already is. Now is the time for HR professionals to get stuck in. Don’t wait.

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May we have this please?

My inbox receives at least 40 emails a day from internal subscription lists, blanket emails, or helpful forwarders.  Some of them are really important, others not. Some of them are sent more than once, as some mid-management soul forwards them on with the helpful header “may interest”. Some of them are beautifully formatted rich HTML emails with black and white photos of the management across the top. These are brilliant to read on the blackberry, (not).

Some of them have monster powerpoints attached to them. Perhaps a big deal win announcement, or this SVP now reports here, or that there is a fabulous new training course on how to win in the mid-market, or that there is a HR shared service conference in Poland, or that we need to change the footer on the email to meet some odd law, or that Oracle has acquired our caterer, or or that there is a new process for expenses, or that it is quiet period, or if I don’t send my tax card in my tax rate will be changed, or that Christmas is coming and that it is in Q4.

Sometimes I send them myself.

Occasionally, mind you, I might need to find one of these damn things later. So they lurk, filling up my inbox.

Give me them in an RSS feed please, and leave my inbox in peace. Pretty please. I’m not Scoble, but I manage several 100 blogs and newfeeds in my feedreader from the outside world with consummate ease. Please, give me the same for internal stuff.

If they are in a feed I will read them, I promise.

Is Enterprise RSS a killer application? I don’t know, but email the way it is used today is dragging me down. I reckon  Jeff Nolan is in the right place.

[podtech content=http://media1.podtech.net/media/2007/10/PID_012946/Podtech_NewsGator_demo.flv&postURL=http://www.podtech.net/home/4490/demo-of-newsgators-enterprise-feed-system&totalTime=741000&breadcrumb=84a76540e90a45b79c2c59c125eed0f3]

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Get your hands…..

Here at SAP teched, I’m sitting next to Ed, one of the Colgate twins.

I’ve ranted before that today’s user interaction in enterprise applications is constrained by the table and column.  The database is in your face.  It is time that we start to think differently. 

The wii hands, Majority Desk experiment is is a good starting point to kick the table and column domination of the UI into touch. (excuse Rugby metaphors)



 Cartoon from Hugh.  This may seem a long way from enterprise software, but it shouldn’t be. 

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