A lot of people are dreaming about driving a Ferrari one day, unfortunately only a few are privileged. So what do you do if you are a car nut? You start with a Fiat Grande Punto, later on upgrade to an Alfa Romeo, when you get that promotion you go for a second hand Maserati and maybe one day you’ll have budget enough to buy that Ferrari.
I don’t know ANYBODY that takes the public transport for 25 years just to wait for the moment that he/she can buy that car. Why? Well you do need to go from point A to point B, so you just need something that does that job if your budget is bit limited. You settle for a solution that works NOW, something that does the job, gives you value for money and you settle with the fact that it is a little less glamorous than the Ferrari…
Over time, when you start to settle down and kids come there is a chance that you value other things in life, like a big house with a garden. The Ferrari is off the plan.
It sure does, so why don’t we take this very simple life approach and apply it to adopting Enterprise 2.0 systems in large global corporations then?
Awaiting the Walhalla
I’ve seen large global corporations not having a business collaboration platform because they have a hard time aligning all their business units who are each using their own tools. Or there are so many different views of what needs to happen that it takes ages to reach consensus. The larger the company, the more widespread and the more independent the different business units, the more likely this will happen.
What would you prefer?
- Not having a business collaboration platform at all for three years, with the risk that after three years you get something that only partially fits your needs, or
- having a business collaboration platform now, that has a high value add to your particular business unit, with the risk that in three years there will be 6 to 8 different platforms in your 100 000-people company?
Or let me rephrase it: do you want to drive a Fiat now, or don’t drive a car at all and wait several years for a Ferrari that might never come?
Gimme a Fiat please
“All good and well, but Lee, didn’t you say earlier that we should also focus on platform consolidation as a good manager?” – I hear you rightfully saying. Yes, my suggestion to go for the Fiat, does have the implication that over a couple of year’s time we might end up with several platforms. From a pure IT cost point of view a dreadful option because it will cost much more to keep eight different platforms up and running instead of one to rule them all.
But how much business value does it bring you? Or rather, how much do you lose each day by not having a proper collaboration, communication and knowledge platform? I’d say that in most cases the business benefit of having multiple platforms that work, outweighs the higher IT cost.
It’s only a problem if you let it be one
And there is even better news: multiple knowledge repositories/silos don’t necessarily need to be a problem. What do you think that Google is doing? They are indexing a gazillion knowledge repositories all over the web and trying to make sense out of it. In my previous post I’ve argued that we should start to rely on smarter software and better hardware, well here’s exactly why. With the proper software from vendors like System One, Inquira, Autonomy and some others, we can index those knowledge silos and take it to a whole new level.
These search++ (++ because it is SO much more than just search) solutions index everything and cross-link all the data in your organisation and do tons of voodoo things: entity recognition (it recognises dog, but also that Labrador is a dog), similar content (ideal for searching for instance similar contracts or project initiation documents), enriching content (mashing different internal and external data sources), translations, etc
So, shall we just give up?
Does that mean that we can happily give up the ideal world scenario? Not at all! Keep in mind that I urge you to strive for Walhalla, however in my posts I try to point you to some (temporary?) solutions that will help you bridge the time needed to reach Walhalla. Solutions that might sound inefficient or weird at first sight, but that will give you direct business value.
An approach you could take is to identify which ones of those 6 or 8 platforms are really successful, identify the usage patterns and user stories. Run some workshops and do some stakeholder interviews. Genuinely understand what our business users need and want. Then see if you can consolidate systems, move communities to other platforms, migrate data, etc.
Be careful with this: pick the right battles, on the right moment. It makes sense that if you have an extremely successful platform and community, that you don’t just migrate them away for the sake of migrating. Also, focus on good opportunities like when you need to upgrade to a newer version of the particular platform.
It’s a never-ending story
So when is your job finished? Most likely if you are working in a large knowledge-intensive organisation, I’d say: never. Nowadays, everything changes at such a rapid speed, that also the needs of the people in your organisation and the organisation itself changes at a rapid speed. The perfect solution you are adopting today might not fit your needs anymore in two years.
Knowledge management, collaboration and communication are not an end-goal. They are just supporting you in doing your business more efficient and effective. Your business changes over time, and so do your Enterprise 2.0 systems.
Need some help in a pragmatic approach in starting with business collaboration or Enterprise 2.0 solutions in your organisation? Drop me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.