Category: Enterprise 2.0

The ‘Me’ Firewall

Being a digital media consultant I have an interest in how Web 2.0 can mesh in companies; Enterprise 2.0. Although it’s natural that companies (I’m talking non-Web 2.0 or internet companies) would want to take advantage of the great Web 2.0 products and services that have captured the imagination of consumers all over the world, there still has yet to emerge any assemblence of widespread adoption. Why? Because it’s not a technology issue, it’s about ‘me’.

Last year company execs wondered what all the Facebook fuss was about. Then they were told that people love social networks, they should have one for their employees, and that future employees of Generation Y will need one since they’re growing up on Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, etc.

Well, I beg to differ. Much of what we’re hearing about the internet generation is what was said about hippies in the 60s – they’ll change the workplace! Well, hippies became yuppies, and yuppies are the CEOs of today…did the workplace change? Not really.

Work Life vs. Me Life

Some people spend almost all hours of the day and night at work, others pull a 9 to 5. Unless someone is in the enviable position of loving their job so much it doesn’t even feel like work, most people have a separation between work life and Me Life: what they like to do and are not asked to do because they’re livelihood depends on it.

Me Life is that less stressful time when you live how you want to live: T.V., friends, family, gym, surfing online, etc. It’s not work and you don’t want it to look, feel, sounds, taste, or smell like work. It’s a deliberate separation to keep you sane.

My theory on why hippies didn’t change the workplace, and why Generation Y won’t is based on a few principles:

1. Business is about the bottom line. The company has a way of doing things that made it successful. They like that way because it works. Billions of dollars can’t be wrong.

2. People join the company because it’s successful and they want to be successful at the company. They do what the company tells them to do to ensure success (evidence is the hopeful wide-eyes of university recruits during on campus job interviews; it’s almost sad).

3. Company outings are work. If given a choice, people don’t want to hang out at the company happy hour, it’s usually boring, fake, or both (even if the boss is paying). You go because you have to show you’re part of the team but you’d rather be at a happy hour with your real friends.

3. Most people have things they do in life other than their jobs. They can’t wait to get away from work so they can enjoy these activities (their Me Life).

People want to separate work and life. If there is no separation then everything feels like work and life is miserable.  To keep things separate and have some sanity we put up our Me Firewall – making sure our work life doesn’t take over and destroy our whole life.

The Me Firewall is a necessity and presents a huge problem for Enterprise 2.0. Sure, it would be great to bring the benefits of Web 2.0 to the workplace. People would be more social, collaborative, and happy. Problem is, Web 2.0 is Me time. People love social networks like Facebook and MySpace because you can do and say what you want and not get an email from your boss saying something is inappropriate (just don’t add him/her as a friend). You can blog and not have to worry about corporate guidelines. You can mash things up and not have to think about IT compliance. Follow me?

Enterprise 2.0’s Sweet Spot

People aren’t going to use a social network at work if they see no benefit in it (I’ve seen it fail). Promises of connecting with your colleagues, reading blogs of co-workers, etc. are doomed to failure because:

In Work Life people compete for positions, work with people they have to, and do things they need to .  In Me Life people connect with people they want to, do things they life to do, and compete for fun are personal rewards.

There’s a place for Web 2.0 inside the company. It’s not trying to take advantage of the social dynamics and needs that exist in Me Life, but to provide tools that make work life better; helping people work better, smarter, and faster so they can succeed at work and leave the office to have more Me time.

Tools that let you work from home, spread ideas, manage projects easier, work with others on tasks better – call them innovation and productivity tools – this is where Enterprise 2.0 can stake it’s claim as a true benefit to people at work, enjoying adoption because people see the value, and ultimately changing the fabric of how work gets done. Business likes them because they bring down cost and boost productivity, people like them because they give more Me time.

This is why I think solutions like Intel’s SuiteTwo will have a tough time while 37Signal’s BaseCamp will keep succeeding. There’s a lot of companies jockeying for position and all would do well to remember the Me Firewall.

IBM brings Social Networking to the Workplace – will it fly?

History shows us that IBM is not a sleeping giant, its eyes are open wide.  From the mis-step on copiers (in the 50s IBM chose not to invest in copiers, Xerox became huge), to recognizing and jumping in on Linux, IBM attempts to not be passed by.

This doesn’t mean they are pioneers, quite the contrary.  Instead, IBM represents a good example of an entrenched corporate giant waiting for innovation to gain traction and validation, and only then investing in the new technology.  This time it’s Social Networking.

No, you won’t be seeing a anytime soon.  Instead, it’s what IBM is calling social software for business.  Through the new software called Lotus Connections, the company brings the all the common web 2.0 social network features such as profiles, blogs, comments, etc. to the corporate world. The aim is to connect like minded individuals inside a company and allow them to share ideas and collaborate.IBM’s VP for social software, Jeff Schick, says the idea is not only to improve productivity but also to “unlock the latent expertise in an organization.”

Lotus Connections has five components — activities, communities, dogear (a bookmarking system), profiles and blogs –aimed at helping experts within a company connect and build new relationships based on their individual needs.

The profiles component, for example, lets users search for people by name, expertise or keyword. The program then not only provides contact information and reporting structure details, but also lists blogs, communities, activities and bookmarks associated with the person.

Inside IBM, employees have been using a prototype of the profiles feature for the last few years, and today 450,000 profiles of IBM employees are stored there. 

When IBM makes a move, the industry takes notice and this move is powerful in two ways.  First, it provides, needed it or not, corporate validation of social networks. MySpace and Facebook are insanely popular…with 12-21 year olds…everyone other than those in the corporate world.  It has been long overdue for companies to realize the benefit of harnessing the power of collaboration and open exchanges of ideas inside the company.

Second, if employed correctly, it gives the employees the ability to discuss and develop ideas. IBM has a lot of smart people.  I venture to say some have great ideas swimming in their heads and all they do is think, “I wish I could quit and develop my idea. It would change the world!”

Well, social networking in the workplace lets people connect to those that share or see potential in their ideas. The guy in the middle cubicle on the 5th floor might have an idea for the next killer app for which the girl in the office might see the value proposition to make it a monster hit. Whether they approach the CEO with the idea or quit and create the next great start-up we can’t know, but fostering connections enables ideas to get developed and will create some great things in the future.

But corporate social networking could go wrong fast.  Social Networking is about meeting those that have like interests and being free to express yourself. It is based on openness. If a company deploys an in-house social network without respecting this fundamental aspect than the experiment will be short lived.  Here are a couple of corporate control type disclaimers that will spell doom…

“solutions or services resulting from ideas or communication facilitated through this social network is the property of Big Corp. and Big Corp. retains sole rights to…blah blah blah”


“communication on this social network is the property of Big Corp. and any information exchanged is the property of Big Corp. and can be used…blah blah blah”

My hope is that a social network inside a company will not be compromised by a company’s needs for corporate control, privacy invasion, etc.  Of course, their should be safeguards for non-appropriate behavior, but not at the expense of giving the little guy in the cubicle a voice.

It’s usually the people on the ground floor not those in the penthouse that have the ideas that change the world.  Done right, corporate social networks could allow the ground floor to be groundbreaking.