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While anybody agrees on the fact that social media adoption in the enterprise requires a cultural change, there is for me a large underestimated factor which will be difficult to overcome: the lack of synchronism of Web 2.0 tools and services.
Most of interaction and collaborative work takes place inside companies on a synchronous track: informal conversations, physical workgroups, meetings, phone calls, instant messaging, video conferences, are all part of the day-to-day business life. Social media, on the other hand, is by nature asynchronous, with a typical adoption curve which goes through generalization of a “give to get” attitude. This kind of attitude, easily adopted during a meeting in the constrained world of the enterprise, is quite more difficult to adopt in an open community.
Up to now, the only asynchronous communication tool used in business is email, which did a great job allowing people to share knowledge and tying people inside every company. But the last few years have seen the massive adoption of mobile email in the enterprise (according to AOL, 16% of users check their email, private or professional, from a mobile device) which is rapidly transforming the way people work with email, from asynchronous to synchronous (49% of mobile mail users check their emails as soon as they arrive).
As the primary mobile tool to check and interact with email, the Blackberry is changing our mindset. But where the iPhone is enhancing the user experience with an immersive asynchronous environment, the Blackberry is aiming at a complete synchronism, therefore keeping the business world away from true Enterprise 2.0 behavior. New surveys from NetApps and ChangeWave Research underline the fact that the typical iPhone user accesses the web through their primary browser roughly 40 times more than the typical BlackBerry user. If a BlackBerry user accesses the web from their device for 5 minutes a week, the typical iPhone user accesses it for 200 minutes.
While Google Wave intends to bring real time conversation to the inbox, it is clearly not targeted at the mobile internet, and these new, synchronous, emailing behaviors might not be a good sign for social media adoption in the enterprise.