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Michael Idinopulos recently published an article encouraging companies to “skip the pilot” and adopt social media at company-wide scale. While I agree with him saying that providing a global environment for social initiatives inside Enterprise is the right way for companies to embrace the real power of the tools (provided they can afford the sometimes hefty price tag), launching E2.0 tools at company scale raise crucial issues about strategic management and governance which cannot be easily solved in most companies.
To highlight some of these issues, let us imagine a firm where collaborative and social software has been implemented everywhere, and look at different scenarios:
In most of our objectives-driven companies, social initiatives will be kept out from business processes outcome, and although employees might be encouraged to participate in several ways (from requirement to incentives), they will have to do it apart from their day-to-day tasks. Results are easy to figure out: collaboration and positive sentiment will decrease with time, leading to failure. Expecting to leverage collaboration and interaction without implementing them directly into business processes and allocating work time accordingly is a mere utopia.
The regalian enterprise
Implementing social behavior into business processes is not sufficient. I wrote about the need to enable consensus rise directly into networks, as it is directly related to enterprise governance. Separating collaboration from decision taking is of course an easier path to follow, especially when dealing with large scale initiatives. This, of course, flattens the whole hierarchy, as control steps and feedback loops can easily be rationalized and simplified in processes. But far from being an evolution, such a governance model is a regression from present structures, reinforcing a small group of decision takers and isolating it from the base. This somehow reminds the paternalist model from XIXth century industrial era or, in the worst cases, the monarchic model.
Failing in implementing decision taking in a strategic way at the right level, and on the right time, may also lead to a less obvious, but equally devastating situation. The output from networked-based processes, if not correctly monitored and channeled, quickly leads to information overload, thus to a lack of necessary agility, and ultimately to paralysis. The wider the scale, the more overwhelming the effects. Frustrations, loss of company’s culture, lack of competitive advantages, inability to innovate, are among the most probable results from letting this situation taking over.
Avoiding these pitfalls, and adopting the right model for 2.0 governance, are a true challenge, but never forget that tools are only tools, and that only people have the power to successfully embrace today’s business evolution.