Enterprise 2.0: A Business Case for Change | 1: Beyond Email

Organizations need to move away from email, but that requires more than just introducing social technologies. Part 1 of 3.

Organizations are in pain. Our market research shows that many organizations are confused about responsibilities and who's doing what. Very basic, the stuff of management 1.01.

The reason for this is, that many organizations are running on outdated operating models. They're optimized for the good old times, when time was slow, the world was assumed to be predictable, and the boss knew best.

The network revolution has exposed many previously shielded industries to gale force winds of change. Welcome to the new normal, where time moves at internet speed, crises trigger more crises, and the smartest person in the room is the room.

Since external change pressure is not going to let up, the only solution is to increase the pace of change an organization is comfortable with.

Enterprise 2.0

Enter Enterprise 2.0: the application, within the enterprise, of collaboration tools that have evolved on the open web.

And then something goes wrong. Managers hear "tools" and "web", and delegate to IT to provide a new "social intranet". A strategic organizational change requirement just got demoted to an operational technology issue. Which then fizzles out, since technology by itself cannot change organizational performance to the degree that is required.

It doesn't help that most of the management layer grew up before the web even existed.

Business Practices That Refuse To Die

It also doesn't help that the web is full of nice stories like the video below, which presents replacing email with social technologies as a magic bullet solution.

Sure, email has to be reduced and social technologies have a lot of potential. But this video hides some pretty big issues:

  • Replacing email with social technology only works if everybody is using the social technology.
  • How do you get everybody to use the social technology?
  • What do you do when not everybody switches away from email?
  • Instead of moving ad-hoc processes unchanged to social platforms, isn't there an opportunity to improve social decision making processes?

Outside The Inbox

Luis Suarez, who is famous as the man that lives outside the inbox, provides a more nuanced picture. If you listen closely to his story, you'll get an idea of the effort involved to cut down on email.

Social technologies enable us to move away from email. Doing so requires much more than just sprinkling some "magic technology dust": it requires people to change their behaviors, and it requires organizations to change their routines.

In the part 2 of this 3-part blog post series, we'll explore just how big a deal this is.

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