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Avoiding the ‘S’ Word in Government 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0?


December 16, 2009

Andrew McAfee, the originator of the term Enterprise 2.0, suggests that “overuse of the word ‘social'” is not business friendly. Presenting Web 2.0 technology for companies or government as social suggests something other than work.   I commented on the blog article. This is an extension of that comment.

True: “Social” seems to imply ‘not work’. And, we know that work cannot be fun. (Except if you work for a For Profit Social Enterprise). But, social networking and communications is an integral part of business today. This is more than discussions around the water cooler – it’s about the virtual global water cooler.

Computing solutions have focused on the more structural and procedural aspects of work. Hence, the attraction of “Business Process Management” (BPM) and “Business Process Re-engineering” (BPR). “Structural”, another S word.  Implies hierarchy. We’ve described this notion of structural and social in our Government 2.0 Framework. The diagram implies that structural and social are entirely separate. Structural processes can benefit from collaborative technologies that we call Enterprise 2.0 – such as documenting why a procurement or hiring decision was made. .

Social processes involve creativity, brainstorming, seeking out expertise, outreach to employees amd customers etc. Most pre-Enterprise 2.0 tools to accomplish these functions were structural in context, about ‘command and control’. These have proven somewhat inflexible in driving innovation and improved customer service.  The notion of the Discipline of Market Leaders  recommends three approaches. Operational efficiency is one of those approaches. My interpretation of “operational efficiency” is that all processes need to be defined, standardized and improved. It is difficult to re-engineer innovation or creativity event though these disciplines can form part of a process.

Enterprise 2.0 in Operation: FreeBalance Scenario

There’s a reason why we advocate the use of Web 2.0 and “social networking” to governments. We used these tools in-house. We’ve witnessed the effectiveness of Web 2.0 tools. A case: software requirements management.  Traditional pre-Enterprise 2.0 tools were highly structured. Many were client/server. Most required training on the methodology advocated by the provider of the tool. Larger software development organizations were more likely to adopt these tools.

FreeBalance uses an ISO-9001 certified process for the entire software development lifecycle. This process was designed specifically for the government context. We needed to implement tools that adapted to our process rather than the other way around. We have implemented a number of flexible Web 2.0 tools since mid 2006 that enables the product teams around the world to collaborate. Today, FreeBalance has product managers and business analysts in Guatemala City, Washington, Ottawa, Lisbon, Pristina and Dubai. And, these people travel. Our product development is in Ottawa, Lisbon, Bangelore and Ulaanbaatar. We have project teams in customer sites providing feedback. It’s a 24/7 world that requires the use of traditional and Web 2.0 tools to achieve improved customer support and customer innovation. I can still remember 3 years ago entering some requirements into our Drupal-based system and getting an error because we’d exceeded 100MB of content – in less than 6 months. Today, there are gigabytes of vision cases, market requirements, specifications, project reports, design documents and test cases. We use numerous plug-ins, internal blogs, forums and other tools. We have been able to leverage these tools for discussions among technical and functional experts. We’ve extended this to a customer exchange. We’ve extended the tools to show market research and provide support for our sales group.

My conclusion on “S” words? Social is work that augments structure and extends beyond structure.

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Doug Hadden

Doug Hadden

Executive Vice President, Innovation at FreeBalance
Doug is responsible for identifying new global markets, new technologies and trends, and new and enhanced internal processes. Doug leads a cross-functional international team that is responsible for developing product prototypes and innovative go-to-market strategies.

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