partyLately I’ve been spending time with several IT teams from global Fortune 500 enterprises who are charged with fostering collaboration, innovation and the other hoped-for outcomes of Web 2.0.  It’s been a fascinating experience – plenty of good news, but some aspects I find frustrating.  More importantly, I believe these are things that are slowing progress in exploiting Web 2.0 et al in the enterprise context.

For most companies, the necessary infrastructure, while mostly in place, is not fully there.  Desktop software may not be at the right level.  Videoconferencing capabilities are first or second generation, and need to be upgraded to tap the full potential of today’s telepresence and high definition video.  Instant messaging, previously banned as a perceived “renegade, redundant and dangerous technology is now seen as a useful tool, but the IT infrastructure must now be tweaked to embrace it.  Early implementations of SharePoint that served as interesting experiments, must be updated and redeployed to take advantage of the latest release and goodies.  More complex initiatives such as virtualization, unified communications, shifts from perimeter-based to asset-based security take time, energy and investment to sort through.  Collaboration strategies tend to be emergent rather than holistic,
IT- more than business-centric, push rather than pull, infrastructure rather than application focused.

The good news is that for the more forward-thinking companies, these infrastructure initiatives are funded, resourced and underway.  The people leading them are the best and brightest from the IT infrastructure ranks – they know what they are doing, and move assuredly through this complex space, checking off important milestones, and celebrating successes along the way.

The more frustrating, and ultimately limiting aspects are around the demand management (especially, stimulation/seeding) and application (especially value capture) of Web 2.0 – how to ensure that the emerging collaboration infrastructure is actually used, and used productively and creatively.

A couple of points.  Without the right infrastructure, Web 2.0 doesn’t work, or doesn’t work well enough to sustain itself – it is the table stakes.  But, a shyness in addressing the broader landscape of collaboration and innovation across the enterprise and its ecosystem ultimately limits the value of the infrastructure.

I use the word “shyness” with some thought – there is literally a shyness about getting into things that are thought of as “really needs to be in the business.”   The Catch-22, however, is that without IT leadership in demand shaping/management, you might not have the exact infrastructure you need to really tap the power of the emerging collaboration capabilities.  And I’m taking “infrastructure” quite broadly to include all the shared components and services that support Web 2.0 and its inevitable implications (e.g., Cloud Computing).

So, my recommendations to these teams typically include:

  1. Keep going with the infrastructure plans and deployments!  Celebrate the infrastructure, market its capabilities, keep up the great work!
  2. Step back and look at your broader collaboration strategy.  What other projects or programs are underway that impact or are impacted by this initiative?  What other projects or programs are needed to ensure success?   What does success look like?  How would we measure it?
  3. Add a demand shaping/demand management perspective to the collaboration initiative.  Wrap it into the overall collaboration strategy and plan.
  4. Expand the collaboration initiative team and brief/charter to bring in the business and customer/user perspective, and some “Net Gen” people or really understand how the Web 2.0 world works in the social/consumer space.
  5. Foster adoption from the grass roots up.  Think “chaos theory” and “emergence” – but don’t lose sight of the fact that we are human and ultimately, political and social animals.