I wrote a blog post entitled ‘we want web 2.0, whatever that is’ a couple of years back, which drew attention to the challenge of hype with new technologies and their capabilities as laid out by Tim O’Reilly in his original definition of web 2.0. My plea was for people to appreciate the entirety of Tim’s thinking, in order to really grasp the very profound concept he was trying to identify. Instead, what I saw at the time were a lot of moves by people and product vendors to make anything and everything some part of the web 2.0 bandwagon in the belief that would encourage people to try, buy or use their product.
Today its possible to apply the same concern to ‘clouds’ and in so doing, once again miss the very real point which is: any real form of clouds, involves sharing at some level or other. That may be by some form of virtualisation at the technology level, but the real impact of this is in the new business solutions that can be conceived. If you introduce web 2.0 in a product, people can behave very differently because they have new ways of sharing too – usually called collaboration or social networking. This makes for a really powerful transformation mix. Tim O’Reilly didn’t quite see all of this, but he did visualise the impact of a business change. In 2006, he added to his original seven statements that defined web 2.0, a definition of a business model based on applying the web 2.0 values to form very different enterprise capabilities.
However, it was left to Andrew McAfee of Harvard Business School to come up with and popularise the concept of enterprise 2.0, which describes how a business is able to use web 2.0 tools and techniques to change its ways of working. I have heard various ways to describe enterprise 2.0 and although they may be slightly different, they are all recognisable as being sufficiently similar to say that we now seem to have a working, or workable, common understanding of the term. Yet just at the moment when we seem to have a consensus – and I’ll come on to this in a moment – Andrew McAfee seems to have decided that we need to redefine the term and what it stands for! I need help to understand how to apply this new thinking (outlined in his blog under the title ‘enterprise 2.0 version 2.0’.)
In spite of this, ten different well known people in some top business schools across the USA got together to write a chapter each around a single common framework and explain exactly what clouds and web bring to business. The opening and closing sections of the piece are penned by Geoffrey Moore – famous for his work on technology adoption in Crossing the Chasm, the Concept of S Curves. This represents a remarkable uniformity of opinion and approach, reflected in the title of the book entitled: ‘Business Network Transformation’ (edited by Jeffery Word). It’s already listed on Amazon, even though it has not been released. The best way I can describe what this is all about is to quote the synopsis on the flyleaf:
This book is about the evolving nature of global business and the ways that a company’s network of relationships (with suppliers, customers and other partners) is being reconfigured to derive competitive advantage and increased profitability.
Business Network Transformation is a true market movement and isn’t something that can be ignored. As the pace of business change accelerates and businesses become increasingly connected, business networks provide the new source of competitive advantage for companies. We are now witnessing a global transformation into dynamic and orchestrated business networks in which each entity is focussed on its key differentiation while collaborating with others in its network to deliver shared business value, speed of innovation, and costs benefits.
Companies rely on partners not only to take on non core activities so that resources can be funnelled into innovative activities, but also to collaborate with them for new product development and new ways to enter attractive markets. Globalisation and deregulation are empowering companies to discover innovation and talent from all corners of the world and to enter emerging high growth markets that require new partnerships. Companies in the value chain must act as one entity to serve the end customer, who is armed with more information and has more choices than ever before.
The basic outline comes across as somewhat obvious in terms of the ability to make use of the connectivity and interactivity that now connects everyone and everything together. But the devil is in the detail of each chapter and its part of the overall framework. Does it describe Enterprise 2.0? Well I don’t know, now that Andrew McAfee has changed the rules. But what it does do is provide a convincing approach to getting real business value from the new technologies and for that reason it’s got to be on the right track!