What I learned this week at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston

Posted by Gina Rosenthal in conferences | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

This week I attended the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston. Today I was on a panel about social learning. In the spirit of that presentation and #lrnchat, I wanted to share the biggest thing I learned at this conference.

No matter what anyone tells you, no one really has a clue how to “do” social in the enterprise.

Here’s why I say that:

There is way too much posturing and selling from vendors

There seem to be two vendor camps (which are pretty traditional tech camps I think):

  1. Buy one application to rule them all. Let it sit on top on top of all your current business apps, and create social using this one application.
  2. Pay a consultant to create apps for a custom social layer between social apps and business apps
    My take-away is that there seems to be a gold rush going between vendors and consultancy firms to gain mind share about the best way to create and manage this social layer.

No one is talking about practical ways to architect social solutions

No one talked about existing legacy applications, in fact many vendors mocked and belittled existing business tools. But content live in these tools. Relationships, histories, cultural breadcrumbs live in these tools.

What are vendors and consultants doing to help companies leverage current long-standing applications in the enterprise, such as email, LMS, and CMS? What should people be thinking of when architecting a social solution? Its not enough to show a loud snazzy video and tell us how sexy a community is, and how we should have that instead of stodgy, old-fashioned email.

Give the digital native crap a rest. Seriously.

I’m not a boomer. I’m not a so-called digital native. I’m a gen-xer. I get this technology because of my  credentials:

  1. Education: BS Information Science, minor in sociology, MS Instructional Systems
  2. Paid experience: technical trainer, technical training developer, build and release manager, web administrator, systems administrator
  3. Volunteer experience: f2f and digital community building in college, for parent organizations, for local environmental and disability organizations

People in my generation have been building and refining these digital systems for about a decade. We understand the technical, political, and social challenges. We are the practioners who are actually getting this work done. Want us to trust you? Stop forgetting we may actually be the key audience you need to reach.

Even worse, look at this from a social community vantage point. By focusing on the 20-somethings, you leave out the older generation who are perfectly able to use social networks to share their life lessons with the rest of us. This whole sharing and learning idea is not just for these yuppie kids right out of college, we should be able to harness 2.0 power to connect the world. Seriously people, think bigger!

What I’d like to see…

I’d like to see a Web 2.0 conference for practioners. I want to get down in the weeds about psychology, ethonography, sociology, APIs, build vs buy, customize vs wait for a platform change, etc. I want these technical details to be able to make more informed decisions.

I’d like to see a support matrix for current business applications and social software. I know I’ll be doing lots of reading about open social, I’m hoping part of this open movement is having vendors be open about their roadmaps and inter-operability with other business applications.

10 Responses to What I learned this week at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston

  1. Kin Lane says:

    Nice! Love the straight talk. Need a booth at e2.0 just saying….its a crazy volatile world….know some good coders…understand APIs.

    Get your ass to work!!

  2. Ryan Tracey says:

    “No matter what anyone tells you, no one really has a clue how to do social in the enterprise.” – That’s gold.

    I’m so glad to hear someone say it how it really is.


  3. Alistair says:

    Completely agree. There’s an interesting conflict here: younger people are supposed to be more comfortable with technology, and that’s fair. But two other factors don’t get considered much:

    – Technology is getting easier, because we have compute power to spare. Look at touch interfaces, or larger, easier-to-read displays.
    – Older folks have politeness and wisdom. Often, empathy and patience trump youth and arrogance, particularly in online venues where flames can erupt quickly. There’s something to be said for community managers that know how to commune.

    I’m sure the E2 folks will steer this towards practitioners and case studies in coming years. Conferences always go through this cycle: “What is it?”, then “why should we do it?” and finally “who should do it and how?” We see the same thing — earlier in the process — in cloud computing.

  4. Jay Cross says:

    My colleagues at Internet Time Alliance would also like to see a Web 2.0 conference for practitioners. How can we make it happen?

  5. Jon Husband says:

    This will seem or be a bit pedantic, probably .. but I keep thinking that by and large we do know more about doing “social” in the organization than we want to believe.

    But .. the rub is that such guidance would be coming from the OD (organizational development) field and its principles and methods .. and that’s not where the E2.0 “discussion” or market got started.

    OD has always been a weak cousin, a nice-to-have but optional initiative, spending when it’s affordable.

    I suspect that many of the core principles of what will come to be seen as effective implementation of new ways to work and the “management” of networked knowledge workers will be drawn from OD principles, approaches and practices.

    By and large, the conversation(s) about that POV are just starting, I think.

  6. hanks for the summary. I like how you use “practical”. It’s difficult to implement new tools without addressing legacy systems. Even if you don’t want use them, you have to understand the current state so that you can recommend a solution for a new.

    Legacy systems often have many important tentacles that need to be understood before decoupling.

    A practioners workshop sounds good!

  7. gminks says:

    thanks for the comments everyone – I’m always surprised at the reactions I get when I just state the obvious. 🙂
    Jay and Dennis, how do we get the practioner thing going? And Alistair you are a good example in patience. 🙂

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