Thursday, June 17, 2010

Is Enterprise 2.0 Just A Toy?

One of the things that bugs me about the current state of E2.0 is that even its advocates don't seem to take it seriously.

I just had a fantastic time at the E2.0 conference in Boston, but I noticed some worrying trends. I offer my thoughts in the spirit of tough love and constructive criticism, but I'm not going to apologize if you find them provocative.

I keep hearing that the benefits of E2.0 initiatives will take a long time to accrue and are difficult to measure, but that it's still worth adopting because the cost of experimentation is so low.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is bullshit.

Let's say your IT department came up with a major initiative, and when you asked about ROI, they replied, "The benefits are hard to measure, and you probably shouldn't expect anything good for at least 6-12 months." How long would it take you to give it the thumbs down?

Why should we treat E2.0 differently than any other part of business?

Furthermore, if you're going to claim that the costs of E2.0 are low, the implication is that it doesn't touch any core business processes.

Because let me tell you, if you're monkeying around with core business processes, it's impossible for the costs to be low. Mistakes will happen, and they will be costly.

A few years back, Salesforce.com went down for most of the day on the last day of a quarter. Every one of their customers got on the phone and bitched them out. And this was a great sign for Salesforce.com because it meant that its application was truly mission critical. (Note: Do not crash your own systems to perform this experiment. You might not like what you find out.)

Or think of the outrage when your email system goes down. Plain old boring, inefficient, old-school, obsolete email. Yet it's critical to every business in the modern world.

If an application is to be truly important, the potential cost of failure has to be high.

Right now, Enterprise 2.0 is being treated like a toy, even by its advocates. We treat it like the school system treats a struggling student, damning it with faint praise and boosting its self esteem, even as it keeps failing to turn in its homework.

I'm a huge fan of E2.0 and all the people trying to make it work. But that doesn't mean we couldn't do better.

It's time for E2.0 to grow up. E2.0 has to be concrete and measurable, and it has to be expensive, and that means we need to get the people in the organization with real IT spending juice (the VP Sales, CFO, or VP Eng) to buy into the fact that E2.0 is core to what they're bonused on.

Chris Yeh is the VP Marketing for PBworks, which does its darndest to make a product that its customers can count on for mission critical processes like selling and serving customers. He hopes this post doesn't cause people to cancel their E2.0 Player's Deck orders.

2 comments:

Ted Blosser said...

Chris, good article and I agree with you. Consumer web always leads enterprise web, and Enterprise 2.0 will become a meaningful reality, it's just a matter of when. Reminded me of the great article that Marc Benioff put out in Feb - Benioff TechCrunch article . Hopefully more major enterprise software vendors will follow SFDC's lead, but we need constant reminders from experts like you to whip the industry into gear.

Chris said...

Thanks for the note, Ted. I do think E2.0 has incredible promise, I just don't want its own advocates to sell it short.