Last week as I attended the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston, it occurred to me the space was growing up a bit. Instead of trying to be all things to all people, it was trying to do a couple of specific things that make it much more valuable: be more targeted and make use of all the data coming out of the social stream.

In the early days of Enterprise 2.0, it was popular to say collaboration was simply a good idea and we should all be using Enterprise 2.0 software because, dammit, it made sense. And I believe it did make sense, but you can’t change business culture with some brochures and Enterprise 2.0 fairy dust. It takes a lot more than that and the sector seems to be collectively learning that lesson.

In fact, it was apparent from the get-go.

When John Hagel of Deloitte kicked off the keynote on Tuesday morning, he set the tone with a new Enterprise 2.0 delivery strategy, describing a plan that took into account all three levels of the organization: the executives, the middle managers and the front line.

Instead of simply building a system and hoping to find a purpose, his approach was to analyze the requirements of the different levels of the organization and identify a discrete problem that Enterprise 2.0 software could solve.

Hagel’s example was a large city mass transit system. Knowing that executives were most concerned about the bottom line, he asked them what their most costly expense was. Turned out it was maintenance. He moved onto the middle managers and asked them about their biggest operational concern and it was getting buses back on the street after they went in for maintenance. Finally he asked the guys on the front line why it took so long to get buses back out and he learned they had problems tracking parts across the city’s various maintenance garages.

And that became the problem Hagel attacked. They implemented a micro-blogging solution and the maintenance guys on the front line were able to request and share parts more easily by making parts requests to their colleagues across the system in real-time.

What Hagel did, essentially, was look at the metrics at various levels of the organization and figure out what mattered to them using data–and this data-driven approach to Enterprise 2.0 is a clear sign the space is growing up.

Another maturity indicator is the application of data analytics–not only to the strategy, but to the social stream. Lee Bryant of Headshift spoke of the practical application of this data to help employees understand what they need to do. The idea, according to Bryant, is to apply analytics to social data and create a subscribe model where people can pull activity streams, consider what the data means, what they can do and finally take ownership of improved business performance.

“Nothing motivates people better than objective real-time feed back in the flow of their work,” Bryant said. Indeed and nothing motivates Enterprise 2.0 customers more than the ability to apply these ideas to practical business problems and give them the ability to measure the results.

While on one hand, the space might feel a bit stale given that there are few key differentiators among the different vendors at this point, the fact the E20 sector is beginning to see the value of a targeted, data-driven approach is a clear signal it is maturing–and that’s a good sign for everyone involved.

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