Enterprise Karmic Koala

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When on holidays, I try to be unaware of technology as much as possible (people that happen to know my e-mail out-of-office messages will recognise this). Only natural. But not as easy as it seems. Two years ago, when we drove back through the French Lorraine region, we ended up in an ultra-modern fuel station […]

When on holidays, I try to be unaware of technology as much as possible (people that happen to know my e-mail out-of-office messages will recognise this). Only natural. But not as easy as it seems. Two years ago, when we drove back through the French Lorraine region, we ended up in an ultra-modern fuel station that had literally crashed due to a software error. A guy in a yellow emergency vest was nervously searching for a Windows start-up disk while all of his screens just showed that all too familiar sandglass. And last year, when we cruised through lovely California we could not even imagine how to do it without TripAdvisor, Google Maps and a bunch of other on-line travelling tools. This year, after returning from Spain and the Alsace, I decided to buy a new bicycle. I found a not too expensive Gitane mountain bike – completely made in France, quite an unexpected pleasure – only to find out later that the model is called ‘Fitz Roy 2.0’.
That really got me annoyed.
A bicycle with a software version number? What is that supposed to mean? Is it Facebook-enabled? Does it send GPS-based tweets every hour? Or is just meant to be ‘open’ and shared by everybody (which happens to be the default for bicycles in Amsterdam, for that matter). And what might the even newer, enhanced Gitane Fitz Roy 3.0 bring? All parts have self-describing RFID chips built in? Semantic tyres? This is what happens when IT people start to flood the marketing department.

At a certain point in time, it all becomes too much. While we are entering the last part of 2009, we may want to call it a day, this ‘2.0’ stuff. It is established. Let’s all get a life again. Nowadays Web 2.0 evangelists just seem to be preaching to their own church of Web 2.0 devotees, already convinced and completely aware of all the virtues of collaboration, co-creation and being totally connected in general. And we might be stuffing that technology-driven thinking just a bit too much down the throats of business. We are version-numbering the others.
I happened to stumble upon a discussion started by Tom Graves which neatly sums it up. He rightfully stipulates that the ‘Enterprise 2.0’ concept essentially is about the power of people leveraging networked conversation, extending beyond the organisational borders. But in fact, the ‘official’ definition by Andrew McAfee mainly speaks about software and digital platforms. Then, somebody comments that ‘2.0’ is a software thing in the first place. How can you expect to speak business if you suggest that organisational changes are like software updates? He proposes to use Enterprise Next which is of course a charming, very reusable concept.
Albeit a bit generic, admitted.
I left my own comments, put something about it on Twitter and that really got the crowd going. In – well – true 2.0 style, creativity was quickly unleashed. Some people stayed close to the ‘next’ concept, suggesting Enterprise Thereafter, Enterprise Even Better and Enterprise The Next Generation. But also Enterprise Genesis, Enterprise Armageddon, Enterprise Revelations and Social Enterprise came up. Somebody suggested to use metaphorical city names, like Enterprise Babel – no explanation needed – and Enterprise Budapest (two cities coexist, business and technology, get it?).
It surely would change consulting jargon: “currently we have an Enterprise Armageddon baseline with some Babel elements but we are moving towards Enterprise Budapest” (thanks Steve Jones).
Yet many stayed closer to the more familiar IT grounds. If Ubuntu (thanks Mike Turner) and Apple are using imaginative version names, rather than numbers, why not apply that to the enterprise as well? We could have Enterprise Tiger, Enterprise Leopard and even Enterprise Snow Leopard (with only minor performance improvements and less employees). Heck, who does not want to be a part of Enterprise Jaunty Jackalope?
Richard Veryard has a good point in emphasising the nature of an IT company as a metaphor for the desired change: Enterprise-a-Google would be an enterprise that aims to emulate the innovative, entrepreneurial spirit of Google. In the same way, you could strive to be an Enterprise-a-Dell, an Enterprise-a-Cisco or an Enterprise-a- Red Hat. I even got the suggestion to use a software package as the metaphor: according to a Micro Strategy tweet, Enterprise Wave would be ‘caffeine for enterprises’.
Just makes you wonder how many companies would suit the Enterprise WordPerfect description.
All in all, no lack of creativity here. And I am sure you all agree that the ‘2.0’ suffix by now is something to really, really avoid. Of course, the biggest challenge for IT people is to forget a bit more about the world they come from when reaching out to business people. After all, it’s the IT people. that invented Enterprise 2.0. And it’s the IT people that currently try to describe what – according them – is a true business architecture. Usually without asking anybody in the business (more about this soon).
No matter what we are using: version numbers, release names, package names: it is obviously difficult to let go of IT roots. A formidable challenge. Whether you are working in Enterprise Karmic Koala or not.

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