I got some interesting feedback on my post ‘Imagination in the use of Web 2.0 thrives’, of which one point was about the need to work differently when using Web 2.0. This pretty well crossed with two other events; the first was a really funny advert on US television which shows a father and son in a new car; and the second being sent a link to a blog on five questions a teenage kid might ask if starting work at your business today. You really need to read this, and then think long and hard about why we can’t answer all the questions. The only really response is ‘because that’s the way it is round here and we can’t change it’.
The blog comments were almost polarised between the ‘why would you not work in a Web 2.0 manner’ and a ‘where would you get the best pay off for adopting Web 2.0’. And there in lies the issue, a traditional enterprise with all its investments in IT and allied to that the ways of working, needs a reason to change, whereas a new start up business just wouldn’t be bothered with the need to build up all of this. I already know of at least two companies where the classical implementation of an Intranet has been replaced by using Facebook. Actually it wasn’t a question of replacing; these enterprises have cut the cost and time of building infrastructure out by going straight to a Facebook based enterprise. You can add to that the use of SaaS to build out the rest of their enterprise systems and the whole package is a generation different.
An answer that is really not going to be possible in a conventional enterprise, or is it? The more I have looked at what works and what is challenging the more I realise that it’s less of a replace or integrate challenge and more of an add on a different capability. This quite frankly is the accommodation that we have had with each new generation of technology, and why the Mainframe not only lives, but its use still is being extended in many cases. If it works don’t bother to come up with an argument to replace it. The challenge is more subtle and it’s the reason why my CEO thinks I have become a business consultant, (no I don’t like that thought either).
What I have learnt after living through two previous generational shifts – Mainframe to Mini and Mini to PC – is that you can’t push the technology, you have to figure out the business value and allow the users who really want that value to ‘pull’ through solutions. That’s why I have kept focussed on this point, I know, and believe those of you reading blogs like this one, know it’s the right technology and due to its inherent rather simplistic nature are not deeply troubled by the technology deployment issues, but how do we get the Business to see the light and use it? Solve that one and then we get into the interesting details of what and how issues of pure technology.
My answer is let the ‘kids’ and the ‘aware’ got on with it, but by kids I mean the young professionals, those same guys with MBAs that pulled in the PC technology that last ‘changed the game’ are doing it again right now. And if we are facing a tougher year for all business activities in 2008 then in the search for new markets, cost savings, etc then the barriers to acceptance will just collapse. Why? Because whilst you still have the existing market activity it pays to carry on with what you are doing now, push away disruptive activities ,and optimise the current way of doing things; When the market isn’t there that’s when it becomes necessary to rethink things and consider really innovating. Just make sure in the meantime you haven’t killed off the ‘kids’ and their under cover activities with new ways of doing things.
The TV advert? Well the father doesn’t understand all the new features on the new car, but it doesn’t matter because the old controls are still there so he can still drive where he wants to go. His son can’t drive, but annoys him by knowing what everything is, Bluetooth, iPod link up, Satellite radio, GPS, etc. It ends with the father ordering the son out of the car to stop him playing with everything.