Selling the Case for Accelerating Business Performance with Enterprise Collaboration - InformationWeek

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11/2/2009
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Ben Kepes
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Selling the Case for Accelerating Business Performance with Enterprise Collaboration

First posted on CloudAve

Oliver Marks and Sameer Patel - two of the leading lights in Enterprise 2.0 (that is experience in actually doing it rather than merely talking about it) presented this session. Their aim with the session was to move from "pontification to real world discussions" - a noble objective.

In discussing "the Big Idea" around Enterprise 2.0,the presenters pointed out that the ultimate sell comes from articulating the realistic business value propositions - Enterprise 2.0 technologies are just that, technologies. They''re not a holy grail of themselves and their needs to be a valid business case to sell the change. They cautioned attendees from comparing the business case for Enterprise 2.0 with the general Web 2.0 trends - web 2.0 is fundamentally a desire driven activity, whereas in a work setting people generally want to do their 9-5 and do what they have to do - no more.

People''s fundamental driver is "What''s in it for me?" - those trying to ease adoption of Enterprise 2.0 need to realize this and provide some sort of value to those making the decisions and end users. Understand the incentive structure in place, the politics and culture of the organization and the people within it.

In terms of the governance, risk management and compliance discussion, Oliver and Sameer recommended that this discussion happens early and happens openly. Discuss the issues and the plans at an early stage in order to (hopefully) get them onside. Explore the real reasons for negativity - is it really because of risk or is there a hidden agenda at work?

Oliver gave some examples of the ad-hoc shadow IT department that exists within many enterprises - where people faced with rigid and difficult enterprise grade software use cloud services like Zoho and Google docs in order to simply get their job done. It''s important to frame the context of the solution for management - help them understand the landscape within which the solution exists.

Joining the presenters before the break were a panel made up of Chris Mcgrath from ThoughtFarmer, Scott Schnaars from Socialtext and Tom Kuegler from PBWorks. Some points from their panel;

  • Scott advised looking at the other priorities the CFO may have to balance against the enterprise 2.0 proposal.
  • Chris brought up the reality that most collaborative solutions will come up against SharePoint and corporate IT will often take the perspective that collaboration happens only through SharePoint.
  • Tom suggested that the only approach that was really viable was to kneecap IT in order to get solutions moving within an organization - using a bottom up approach to prove the initial concept to the business.
  • Chris raised the point that you can build a fantastic collaborative platform within Sharepoint - but that you have to physically build it. Third party products enable those collaborative gains to be made more quickly then a complete design and build process.He also suggested that gains through social software tend to be serendipitous - as such it''s very hard to show a ROI pre deployment - how do you put metrics on serendipitous gains?
  • Tom said that the approach really needs to be one of replacement - it''s no use going into an enterprise trying to pitch a tool which is completely different to what they currently do. Enterprises prefer like-for-like comparisons and replacements.
  • Chris suggested that internal salespeople trying to pitch an idea to internal management utilize the assets of the vendors who are pitching everyday - tell them the requirements and let them help create collateral.

With getting executives on board it is critical that the requirements gathering is robust. Sameer discussed the "switching costs" involved in adopting new technology. It''s not simply the CAPEX involved in deploying a solution; there''s the business risk, the training, the deployment time etc. Ensure your proposal utilizes case studies from organizations in a similar space - make the pitch attuned to the company itself.

In terms of execution planning always be looking to mitigate the risk of the project and ensure you develop the right metrics to track expectations and actuality.

Oliver and Sameer invited Bevin Hernandez from Penn State University Outreach to tell their tale of developing sand deploying a social software offering. Their project planning document is interesting (image below and, yes, it''s the back of a napkin). For a more in-depth view - check out this post on the ThoughtFarmer site.

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All in all it was an interesting session. I''ve posted before about Enterprise 2.0 and specifically the problems needing to be overcome to ensure its adoption and success - it''s nice to spend a few hours discussing more than just the shiny gadgets but an in-depth look at what can make this stuff actually happen.

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