I have been following the progress of FASTforward 2008 with great interest. My new project – Workstreamer – is to be a new entrant in what most now refer to as the â€˜Enterprise 2.0′ space. Very talented folks such as Andrew McAfee of Harvard University have spent vast amounts of time researching, debating and ultimately defining this nascent industry.
Now I must humbly disagree with their vernacular.
For many younger people (and I assume older ones too!) enterprise software is a big ugly word. To fellow gen-y-ers and millenials, the term ‘enterprise software’ provokes nightmares of installation CDs, dedicated servers, bloated Microsoft products with thousands of grey buttons. We think heavy applications littered with acronyms and hard copy manuals.
My opinion is that enterprise 2.0 is not about making the old new. It’s about making the new, newer. We should be talking about “fill-in-the-blank 1.0” not “enterprise 2.0” because there is a fundamental change taking place in how work gets done and our software should represent that.
Personally I see majority of current â€œenterprise 2.0â€� offerings as attempts breathe life into versions of yesterday’s software and systems. This is a problem. Old solutions are designed for old work environments and old office cultures. The notion of work understood by my generation has changed and continues to evolve. We are talking transformation; not simply innovation. Overall work culture has dramatically shifted in only the last 20, even 10 years. However, addressing cultural change from an IT perspective is difficult. For example, most major U.S. corporations are entrenched in products they have spent small fortunes maintaining over the years; system built by such iconic names as IBM and Microsoft.
For many CTO’s, instituting a new offering such as a SaaS-based product is viewed as more of threat than as an opportunity. Still, many of these same CTO’s recognize the potential long-terms benefits of web 2.0, social media and SaaS. CTO’s understand that they must – at a minimum â€“ experiment or â€˜dabble’ in such offerings. However for the majority of dabbles, CTO’s turn to extensions or add-on’s from old guard brands, rather than embracing new entrants. As a result, IBM and Microsoft continue to add new â€œ2.0â€� offerings to their existing enterprise platforms. Unfortunately businesses pursuing this startegy are simply â€˜adapting old software’ rather than implmenting something new; and their ROI suffers as a result.
A metaphor I have used recently is that Workstreamer is like the Barack Obama of its domain. While the products from â€˜establishment companies’ may be functional and competent for the moment, progress does not come from living in the past. Both end-users and CTO’s need to look beyond past successes and recognize that staples such as exchange servers and Outlook are soon to be old news.
Workstreamer, and the greater concept of workstreaming, represent a departure from old notions of enterprise architecture. But it’s also more than that. Workstreamer represents a shift in how we collectively accomplish work. It’s about people and communication. It’s about social business and social business design. The model of the traditional 9-5 office is rapidly changing and so must our tools.