Newer ways of working and emerging technologies were changing the way enterprises functioned, this lead to the existence of Enterprise2.0. The idea behind using 2.0 was to communicate that we are heading towards a next-gen enterprise. We all know the importance the technology plays in this transformation into the new enterprise of tomorrow. However many industry thought-leaders and experienced talents have expressed that most of us are over-involved in the technology aspect of it and tend to forget the real basics.
If you recall my post Enterprise2.0 is the new face of Knowledge Management from last year, then there was a reason for it. Both Enterprise2.0 and KM have come to existence for transforming an enterprise to be leaner and more agile helping them achieve their end objective. Both have the same set of advantages, challenges and myths. For me these two are like business functions – that are interrelated with most if not all, other functions within an enterprise. The name is not important – you call it Knowledge Management or Enterprise2.0 – but what and how it helps the organization in achieving its objectives is what matters.
We need to understand that Knowledge Management also helps the business to drive its mission towards success just as other established functions like HR, Sales, Marketing & Communication, and Finance etc. For example the way HR helps an enterprise to hire the right talent for each of the other functions, KM helps the entire enterprise to provide the right information at the right time to the right person in the most swift & efficient means. There are many tools/technology suites that support the HR function to do their job better, but that in no ways indicate that people in that function side-line thoughts of improving aspects like Recruitment, Employee Relations, Employee benefits and compensation, Career development, Motivation, or even Counseling. A tool could help facilitate some or all of the above aspects but cannot take away the prime focus of the thought of improving itself. Similarly, when we talk about Knowledge Management/Enterprise2.0, we need to think beyond the tool and look at aspects like communication, collaboration, behavior, awareness, evangelism, human psychology, society, enterprise culture, and demography to name a few. The focus should be on how we can go about managing these facets and which tool(s) can further facilitate in doing so.
So Enterprise2.0 is like a business function however the difference in this case is the factors that play a role in it are slightly subtle, intangible, human, and social thus making it more difficult to understand its application or realize their benefits. Some of the web2.0 (especially social) tools certainly go a long way when it comes to facilitating the cause when compared to some of the existing or traditional tools. However, enterprises are (and will) find it difficult to formulate an adoption strategy for these tools since they touch upon the factors that I have listed above. Implementing an ERP system is probably a simpler task since the part that is really crucial is setting the right business processes and workflows – input, process, output; but going about with an enterprise-wide 2.0 social collaboration or KM system it may not be the same. Another difference between the usual business functions and KM is the role that each employee plays in completing the scope. Each person is an equal part of the large pie of the enterprise2.0 function, not just as a consumer but as a contributor, connector and catalyst – which makes the whole system extremely complex as it’s no more just about fixed processes. It’s about a free-flow, dynamic situation where people perform an action and processes get created on-the-fly and workflows are not set but are formed in an unstructured route solely by the people involved in it. And these things are dependent on the various aspects we discussed above.
There was a reason why I compared the HR function with that to KM. HR is one of the functions that has made its mark in today’s businesses and more importantly because they deal with humans too! In fact there are a lot of areas in which HR & KM complement each other. In fact one can correlate KM to various other functions as well, such as Innovation/R&D, Sales and few others, but maybe it is something I will try to cover in a follow-up post.
So why am I saying all of this? Is Enterprise2.0 / KM really a business function? It all stems from the fact that, in today’s technology-heavy world, we really need to be reminded that in the end we all still deal with humans in whichever context / business. And the next-gen enterprise will be able to be successful if it can really comprehend this human element and the social constructs that play a crucial role in our businesses. HR as a concept probably started back in 1970/80’s and as we know has evolved a long way to support the organizational objectives. Enterprise2.0 is a similar function that is taking shape; evolving rapidly and will provide benefits that traditional KM had set out to, but it will do it in a fresh avatar and with innovative means.
So if your business is on a journey to 2.0 and want to leverage all the 2.0 tools that companies are trying to sell, be prepared to invest time, effort and money (& a little management support too) in planning, formulating a strategy and executing all things prior and post-deployment, before you even start thinking about any tool.In fact, these thoughts could assist you in your tool selection too; since you’ll know that “one size fits all” is a myth. As I end this post (maybe cliché but) remember KM / Enterprise2.0 is NOT about the tool but about a concept, a philosophy, a set of practices, and more like a business function!

Nikhil Nulkar is a knowledge management consultant within Capgemini and is passionate about web2.0, specifically in enterprise2.0 & social media. Want to know what he is up to? Follow him on Twitter