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16 responses to “Heretical Thinking: Enterprise 2.0 is Dead”

  1. Esteban Kolsky


    Good reasoning, sensible quotes and well written.

    I disagree, but don’t think you’ll be surprised there. Let me summarize your position — actually, you did in your last phrase:

    “Quit trying to automate the water cooler, quit trying to change the culture, and figure out something genuinely new to do besides copying Facebook!”

    What I am not sure is why are you against automating the water cooler? the world of work is going virtual, in 10 years time we will mostly work in virtual teams from virtual locations. The E2.0 software that is in its infancy today will be common place and well implemented (you know as well as I do that Lotus Notes failed, in part, due to the proximity of the collaborators — why collaborate online when you can talk to your peer and share a real-life document), and will be used to collaborate on work. We need to go through the transition from academic endeavor to business tool – I am with McAffee on this one — although don’t share a lot of his thoughts.

    Facebook has proven successful not because of outstanding innovation, but because it serves a societal shift, also reflected in the paragraph above. Replicating facebook for business is replicating the way we communicate in our personal lives into the corporate world. Is it the right way to do it? probably not, and i would love to see that tool disappear. But we cannot figure out really what we need to use or do unless we adopt it and fail with it — or have limited success.

    I hate facebook (well, hate may too strong a word — but not by much), dislike intensely most of the tools we have today for the enterprise related to e2.0 and collaboration, and think we are not spending enough time focused on the culture issue (Dennis has something there) — but I know these are necessary steps for the corporate world to figure out, bumping through, what they need to do in the next 10 years or so.

    I may be wrong, wouldn’t be the first or last time, but I think we are right on our way to build the collaborative enterprise, and these are the first steps.

  2. Dennis Howlett

    Oh Bob – I wish you had not used the spreadsheet as your closing metaphor. 90%+ spreadsheets show fundamental errors. Been going on since 1979.

  3. Bob Warfield

    Esteban, color me skeptical that the water cooler ever can be automated, but if it were possible, indeed, if the majority of work were going to be virtual within 10 years, then that is a short enough time that we should see Fortune 500 companies today dismantling their offices in droves.

    Yes, they do have more virtual workers than ever before, but dismantling in droves? Not even close. Once again we have Faith-based Marketing, this time in favor of the world winding up with nothing but Virtual Teams.

    Sounds great, except if Notes failed because the teams were too close together and it was easier to collaborate otherwise, that is the argument for why the world won’t go virtual. For many kinds of activity, there is no substitute for face time no matter what tools you may be using. To think otherwise is to think that a Facebook “Friend” is the same as a real friend. Not even close.

    You are again relying on the culture changing mightily, this time to a pure virtual environment, in order to justify E2.0. The culture won’t do that. It never does. The history is repleat with examples, and technology won’t change that.

    Successful technology will figure out how to add value without forcing the culture to change. And that, really, is the proper summary of my post.



  4. Esteban Kolsky


    The culture is changing, that is the point. Like it changed two generations ago, one generation ago, and in 30+ more years again. The water cooler did not exist two generations ago (maybe 3) and won’t exist in 2-3 more.

    Advocating to impart technology in a shifting generation just because we are used to it is wrong. I am not saying you are doing that 100%, but you are heading in that direction.

    And, yes — organizations are changing their systems and infrastructures in droves. First step is not to dismantle the building, but change the underlying infrastructure to support remote and virtual — working on that (cloud, virtualization, connectivity, etc.). Gartner did it successfully 10 years ago, but with lots of pain. They learned that worrying about the building and the home-offices was the easy part, but infrastructure to support a remote team, global in nature, and scale it demanded infrastructure first, So learned JetBlue, OfficeDepot, and many more. The people doing it now, learned from that and are doing it better — at least I hope so (learned that adoption of best practices is not indication of success some time ago).

    I like your post, it is well reasoned and can see where you stand and why — just cannot agree with it.

  5. Bob Warfield

    Esteban, I can’t believe you said “The water cooler did not exist two generations ago (maybe 3) and won’t exist in 2-3 more.”

    The water cooler has been with us for as long as people have walked the Earth. We have always tended to gather in groups for collaboration and when we do, we communicate. This didn’t have to wait for literal invention of a refrigerated water cooler.

    E2.0 is NOT going to eliminate that tendency in people. Not even close. With luck it might somewhat mitigate the cost of not being able to communicate any other way due to distance.

    When you say, “First step is not to dismantle the building, but change the underlying infrastructure to support remote and virtual”, that sort of flies in the face of arguing Notes failed because people were too close together, doesn’t it?

    But Esteban, you are in a fabulous position to live your dream and learn while doing it. Cancel all of your appointments. Quit taking new ones. Tell your clients they must discuss with you online. Quit attending tradeshows. Go virtual. You of all people, and your profession of all professions should be well suited to that. Think of the case study you would have after just 6 months of living that way to write about. Even if you experienced no ROI and wanted to revert, you would have a much keener understanding of what it will take than those who haven’t tried to operate that way.

    I am certain you will counter with the many reasons why you can’t do that. If nothing else your clients may expect you to put in an appearance and you have no control over that. Vendors and others may choose not to talk unless it is face to face. You may even decide yourself that you will have a higher bandwidth conversation face to face, and that the extra effort is therefore warranted.

    Welcome to the water cooler. It’s been with us forever and will be with us, forever. The rumors of its demise have been greatly exagerrated



    PS Always interested in ROI case studies. Let’s see some from JetBlue and OfficeDepot for E2.0. What ROI did they measure and where did it come from? Dennis says there are no such studies. I confess I have seen ROI for Social CRM, but that is not E2.0.

  6. Esteban Kolsky

    ok, let’s argue semantically — yes, people gathered around a fish, a tree, a something for as long as there has been life most likely.

    but we are talking about something different here. we are not talking about people gathering to exchange news of their town, these are people who gathered to exchange news of their work. their jobs put them in a position where they did not have to be. you don’t like 2-3 generations? take it 5-6 then. 10-12. don’t care the time to when work does not force people to work together and collaborate.

    that has changed, and the water cooler is the euphemism for that thing.

    and, again, the shift in society is taking away the water cooler, as an euphemism, and replacing it with an automated, electronic one that behaves differently. you don’t agree is 1-2 generations in the future? make it 5-10-15 or whatever number you want.

    fact is, it is another evolution of our society that affects our work lives as well as personal. and the automation of that water cooler, or whatever euphemism you want to use for it, is what is driving all these baby steps. it is different, but it is another evolution we have to go through.

    as for my job, there is no way i could’ve done what i did in the last year or so without the automation. even before that.

    i have been working from home for 15 years. many different jobs. all virtual. when i was at gartner i did not go to the office for anything after the 1st week of training. most of my work, 80% or more, was done over the phone and email and collaboration. i interfaced with fellow analysts in person only once or twice at year at conferences, most of which were done for the benefits of our clients. even more, once a year they had an analyst meeting where we all met, and the level of productivity at those were deplorable — they were simply euphemistic water coolers.

    what i am doing now? the very vast majority of my clients came from twitter, blog, internet connections. some of them i have never met in person, only talking over the phone and even did a couple projects exclusively over skype and email. i am very seriously considering moving to shangri-la (my own version, of course) and continue working form there — only to be held back by my wive’s work that requires person-to-person (at least for now).

    but that is just more evolution, more proof that automation is giving us what we want and need. my work-life balance while i was working at an office was non-existent and now i can design work around my life. we got here based on an evolution of technologies that allows us to be virtual and remote, and we are going to let the new generations lead us into collaborating through those same technologies. this is the way the world is going, with a water cooler or an e2.0 deployment.

    finally, i am going to let the ROI “thing” go. there are maybe a handful of people in this world that can really calculate an ROI. none of them are in corporate america driving either SCRM or E2.0 projects. what we call ROI today is simply CYA using the formula costs-benefits=i get to keep my job.

    but that is fodder for another time, the fact of this one is that society, technology, and collaboration are evolving together with the need to be more virtual and more remote. and that is the what is driving the adoption of all these “technologies” and “tools”.

    PS – I am working on documenting a few implementations that went well, talk about both tangible and intangible benefits, costs and issues, etc. as soon as legal clears them, glad to share… the common thread, none of them bother to calculate whether they would keep their job.

    thanks for the good and engaging conversation.

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  8. Chris Lockhart

    I like this article so much I read it twice, then once out loud.

    I attribute the widespread consumption of the social koolaid to be a direct result of its becoming totally subsumed by marketing. The Ad and PR industries have totally co-opted social in order to push product for their clients. When it works, it works so loudly that more and more koolaid is consumed. Soon everything good in an enterprise is the direct result of said company’s Foursquare campaign. The business of business is lost, things like capabilities and rationale and cost benefit are tossed aside in pursuit of the latest hipster social thing.

    I don’t think web2.0 or any of the social tools underpinning it have changed our culture. They’re tools. Not revolutionary means of thinking. Human nature didn’t change suddenly in the mid nineties because we could talk on mobile phones and chat on ICQ.

    Not saying at all that social or its related tools are useless. But it is entirely overhyped and oversold (not unlike Portal which was a great analogy) and totally misunderstood by the enterprise.

    Great stuff. Well thought out.

  9. Anthony Nemelka

    I think y’all need to leave the valley and go out and talk to some customers!!

    Over the last 2 weeks I’ve met with State Farm, Fidelity, Merck, and the USDA. And the last day of the E 2.0 conference provided in-depth studies of Charles Schwab and Cisco.

    All of these companies are way past the justifcation phase of E 2.0. It has become a core part of how they operate. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the consumerization of IT. They’re using this stuff because they are geographically dispursed (ie, lot of people in India) and can’t afford to fly people around to have meetings anymore. It’s really that simple. And now they can’t function without it. Dead it is not.

  10. Bob Warfield

    Tony, what’s “dead” isn’t E2.0 precisely, but rather the things I called out:

    – “Me Too” products arriving late to the party.

    – Adoption because its a “good idea” without any thought of the real business value or ROI to be delivered, let alone an actual business problem being solved. Helping distributed groups communicate is obviously a real business problem with a real ROI.

    – An assumption that the mere introduction of E2.0 tools will magicly transform any culture, completely turn upside down the power structure, flatten everything out, and taste good like Apple Pie.

    That’s all just another way of putting the concluding line of the article. Nothing wrong with Social in general, but the sub-sect called E2.0 has been very late in dealing with those three challenges.

    It doesn’t sound like your examples fly in the face of those observations, but who knows, maybe a Wiki and a forum or two and the inmates really can run the asylum.



  11. Anthony Nemelka

    What I am saying, Bob, is that your points would not resonate with any of the orgs I mentioned. Feature innovation has shifted to integration innovation, adoption has already happened, and adoption was driven by necessity–not evangelism.

    For large enterprises, the evangelical period is over and the benefit of evangelical debate long passed. The debates have shifted to things like activity stream standards and whether or not social collaboration should be part of the UC stack.

    I’m far less confident that any of this applies to the SMB market however. They may be stuck in evangelism mode for quite some time. In other words, things are getting back to normal. And that’s probably good news for enterprise software companies and their investors.

  12. Bob Warfield

    Tony, there are almost certainly some organizations at the stage you suggest, both large and small. The crossing of the chasm is uneven, but the evidence that the entire industry or even a majority of players in any particular vertical have crossed is nonexistent.

    Hence we get summaries like RWWeb’s:

    I suspect even for organizations willing to stand up and be counted, if you dug in, you would find the process of adoption is far from finished. As Sameer Patel says in that article, we’re just now starting to get past the stage of going behind IT’s back.

    While it is tempting for practitioners and vendors to want to declare the evangelical period is over for obvious reasons, doing so requires a leap of faith and one not all that many are taking.

    But let’s assume it is all true, and everyone is rushing in because the water is fine. In that case, the enterprise software companies and their investors should expect to see solid financial returns from multiple players in the space in the form of liquidity very shortly, so you’ll be vindicated one way or the other before too long.

    My own prediction is that we’re far from done innovating, because there is a lot more that can be accomplished by moving away from tools and onto solutions that still requires innovation. We’ve barely scratched the surface of what’s possible there, and when we really dig in, it will turn everything upside down once again.

    This wave probably is done, and has accomplished what it can. Hence it has entered consolidation. But the first wave on something this complex and nuanced never really gets it right.



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  14. Anthony Nemelka

    Bob, it looks like there are widely divergent views on the current state of the Social Business Software market. One suggests it’s tapped out and aching for revitalization, and the other suggests it has mainstreamed.

    Michael Fauscette of IDC, who, like me, attended most of the conference sessions and met privately with most of the vendors at the conferenc, seems to support the latter view as well. His excellent summary post is here:


  15. Bob Warfield

    LOL, Tony, we may even be in “violent” agreement depending on definitions.

    I know Mike as a fellow Enterprise Irregular and don’t disagree with what he has to say there at all, nor do I find it incompatible with my post. I do think “external” Enterprise Social (SocialCRM) is a completely different animal than E2.0. It has obvious immediate ROI impact and is debated far less than “internal” (E2.0) Enterprise Social. That’s one reason I suspect many pure E2.0 vendors are rushing to embrace the Social CRM side.

    The E2.0 space is also much more competitive than the SCRM space, at least for the time being. I met with the Cubetree folks just before they were acquired by SFSF and they mentioned over 40 vendors were in the E2.0 space. I have talked to many on the investor and entrepreneur side who worry it’s just too crowded and hence consolidation is underway. The valuations on these companies have not been all that great except at the very top of the heap.

    I think the combination of a crowded “me too” market with a less obvious ROI is problematic. Is a market that is headed for consolidation “tapped out and aching for revitalization”? Has it “mainstreamed?” It depends on how you want to think about it, and on what you’re trying to accomplish.

    You have to remember the discussion started with Andrew McAfee’s sense that E2.0 could completely re-engineer the entire cultural command and control structure of a company. That’s a much different beast than helping people in the US communicate better with Indian teams.



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