Why CEO’s must care about Enterprise 2.0 as a Strategic Imperative

One of the strongest and most misguided arguments expressed online and in many companies we speak with about Enterprise 2.0 is that it is not strategic.

That this collection of tools, technologies and ideas is not yet mature enough, lacks proven ROI, introduces a myriad of security and governance issues and even if successful is not a priority in today’s soft economy. It is too often delegated to IT managers to experiment with and report back in a few years.

Here’s where the difference is: Enterprise 2.0 is not a technology. It represents first and foremost a new way of thinking, interacting and communicating that includes attitude and cultural changes, empowered by IT. Is there anything more strategic than that and more important to a business future success?

It is arguably the biggest opportunity for IT driven cultural change facing organizations since the introduction of PC networks more than 2 decades ago.

One of the C suite most important tasks is to shape an organizational culture that will make their company innovative, competitive, efficient and successful not just now but in the future. Embracing Enterprise 2.0 now and guiding their employees through this transitional period should be one of their top priorities.

While in a few cases adoption started from the bottom up, a change of this magnitude usually needs to come from the top accompanied by the matching set of values and actions that prove the seriousness and commitment to change.

It requires leadership that is able to see that transparency and increased visibility into activities throughout the company will finally enable them to know what is really happening and will create a culture of trust. That openness and exchange of ideas will lead to innovation and efficiency. That collaboration will enable a diverse workforce to work together in emergent ways while being physically and geographically dispersed.

In short, it requires vision that will set a future path and will ask managers to overcome the obstacles in the way. The type of vision CEO’s need to provide and not delegate to IT managers.

The challenge and opportunity is that not many chief executives have realized yet that embracing Enterprise 2.0 is a strategic imperative and are focusing the discussion around short term ROI.

Dion Hinchcliffe at ZDNET provides a comprehensive review of the evidence and opinions regarding ROI and adoption challenges, and adds his own interesting model of collaboration cause and effect chains that while clearly provide benefits, make them harder to pinpoint and measure.

He also concludes that

an accumulating body of knowledge is pointing to potentially dramatic business returns with Enterprise 2.0. If these continue to be borne out, it will affect the competitive and financial positions of the companies that are proactive and therefore their long-term marketplace success

And wonders what it will take to break the current status quo?

His colleague Dennis Howlett on the other end thinks the ROI is still years off and concludes

As always, the secret to long term success depends on management’s ability to maintain a sustained commitment and all that goes with it. The difficulty today is that same management is wondering where the next sale comes from or how cash will be generated.”

The good news is that Enterprise 2.0 does not require large capital expenditures but mostly thorough organizational commitment. There has rarely been an opportunity for businesses to gain so much competitive edge by investing so little.

As in many cultural revolutions, by the time Enterprise 2.0 related changes start translating into business differentiators, organizations that have not made the transition will look as outdated as an organization resisting getting these useless PC boxes or adopting email.