This summer Broadvision CEO Pehong Chen travelled extensively around the world and met with more than 30 CEOs, CIOs, and other senior executives exchanging ideas with them about the impact of Enterprise 2.0 on their business.

What he found out in almost all companies was a widespread dissatisfaction with their Enterprise 1.0 intranet and extranet portal projects. The universal sentiment was this: “We’ve spent so much time and money building our portals, why do they remain so underutilised?”

In this post Chen explains where people are going wrong and presents a simple solution to the problem…

Last week at Silicon Valley, Steven VanRoekel, CIO of the US federal government, unveiled a “future first” strategy (see report here) designed to minimise the delays that routinely sentence government technology projects to early obsolescence.

Quite often, hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars get wasted in the government’s mega IT initiatives due to uncontrollable complexity and cost overruns.  The Obama Administration’s new strategy promotes a cloud-centric, “modular IT” approach, with the goal of modernising our government with more agility.  To paraphrase: we need to get more with less.

Whether the target audience is the workforce internally or partners/customers externally, the going-in assumption as always been “build it and they will come,” but the actual outcome cannot be farther from the original goal.  It is a classic example of “more” degenerating into “less” in a hurry.

Why is that?  The answer is quite simple.  Under a company-centric, one-to-many communications paradigm, Enterprise 1.0 users are merely passive recipients of information, with the portal serving as their document repository.  These users are not true participants in the portal because the system is fundamentally optimised for document management and not for the sharing of ideas by the users.

Consequently, the users don’t have any engaging relationships with the portal and certainly not with each other collaboratively through it.  A typical user’s mentality would be: “It belongs to the company and it’s too complex, so I use it only when I must.”  In short, complexity turns people off.  Plus, when users don’t have a stake in it, utilising it is simply not an essential part of their daily routine.  No wonder most 1.0 portals are underutilised.

Solution?  “Let’s go social!” — Many companies might conclude.  Good answer, but how?  Unfortunately, the kneejerk reaction tends to lean towards a “salvage operation” — adding a so-called “social wrapper” around the existing Enterprise 1.0 portal, hoping it’d be a short cut to the 2.0 transformation.

After all, it is human nature to protect what we’ve done and got — specifically in this case, so as to accrue better return from the original, typically very big, investment and to leverage the massive amounts of documents piled up in the repository over the years.  As CEO [of enterprise portal developers Broadvision], I can certainly empathise with this reasoning.

However, having been through our own Enterprise 2.0 transformation over the past three years with resounding success, I am really glad that we did not take that short cut by employing the salvage approach.  By the end of 2008, we had operated our various 1.0 intranet/extranet portals for over 10 years.

While very tempting, we were very sceptical that we would be successful in teaching our old dogs the new trick.  So we took a radical approach by adopting an entirely new and integrated ecosystem of 2.0 portals across and beyond the enterprise and began our social transformation with a commitment to change how we do business completely — amongst ourselves internally and with our partners/customers externally.

To be sure, we kept our 1.0 portals running in parallel as a safety net, thinking people might need to go back for stuff frequently.  Meanwhile, we also made a conscious decision not to spend any elaborate efforts on systems integration or data migration between the old and the new.  The underlying philosophy, which we call “Enterprise DIY (do-it-yourself)”, is simple and effective:

(1) People would much prefer the superior collaborative experience under the new social platform, especially since they now have a true stake in its success and prosperity;

(2) Things that are important would get moved to the new environment via the user’s own initiatives without any intervention from the company.

Indeed, six months after we launched our 2.0 transformation, daily usage of our 1.0 portals dwindled down to such a trickle that we all agreed that they be shut down, leaving everything to an offline archival basis.

In reality, the piles of documents we put away in our 1.0 portals are reminiscent of the boxes of stuff we’ve saved in the garage from our last move two decades ago.  My wife and I were afraid we might need them someday, but that day never came.  So when we moved to a smaller house two weeks ago, we took a deep breath and threw away more than two containers of stuff, much of them in boxes, untouched in twenty years or longer.

More importantly, when it comes to complexity, “more” will not reduce to “less” by patching things up.  The 1.0 portal is document-centric; it’s about “knowledge stocks” — stockpiling and safeguarding documents — with its design center being the complex management workflows on document locking, approval, storing, retrieval, etc.  No window dressing by any “social wrapper” can make that complexity go away.

In contrast, the 2.0 portal is people-centric; it’s about “knowledge flows” — sharing and fusion of ideas— with its design center being social connectivity and ad-hoc collaboration amongst all participants, empowering them to work more productively together as a team.  Due to its DIY nature, a true 2.0 platform would be far less complex to set up and operate, and much easier to adopt.

[When confronted with such a situation] … don’t panic or overreact — stay calm, break it down, and keep it simple.  When the problem is 1.0 portal underutilisation, you are not alone.  Resist your instinct of salvaging it using any social wrapper short cut, for you’ve already overdone it once; more likely than not you will end up overdoing it again in an otherwise unsalvageable situation.

The simpler approach would be to start afresh with a true 2.0 social platform of engagement.  All your 1.0 portal assets can stay on as systems of record for document repository purposes — the way they are designed to be used — for as long as needed, or be decommissioned if necessary in due course.

Source: FourFiveOne

Related Posts:


Comments are closed.