The signs are pointing to next year being a banner one when it comes to mainstream adoption of the latest digital business models. With half a decade under the belt of the Web 2.0 phenomenon and almost as long for Enterprise 2.0, we’re just now seeing the ideas spread to more traditional corners of large enterprises, medium-sized firms, and especially the public sector with Government 2.0.
That’s not to say that there hasn’t been a rather impressive run-up already when it comes to what some organizations have already accomplished. Indeed, some efforts have knocked it out of the park, such as the Netflix Prize competition, Booz Allen with its new award-winning Hello portal, or the distributed digitization of the New York Times by reCAPTCHA. But new modes of value creation based on user generated content, open supply chains, and social computing — to name just three of the major trends involved — really are fundamental game changers that require as much cultural adaptation and shifting of the business mindset as they do real on-the-ground technology deployment.
Sidebar: What’s the difference between Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0? This is always a point of confusion and to be clear, I define Web 2.0 to be the eight core principles as originally defined while Enterprise 2.0 is much more focused on enterprise social computing to the exclusion of broader digital business models like strategic data control, market size segmentation (The Long Tail), or innovation in assembly.
The good news: There has been broad behavior change across the globe — particularly when it comes to consumer adoption of Web 2.0 — and increasing acceptance of social models for carrying out personal and business activities both. Not sure about this, just check out the more than 350 million active social networking users on Facebook, just one of many important data points about how fast we’ve changed our own social behaviors. This has set the stage for serious and sustained growth and revenue opportunities for organizations that are prepared to adopt next-generation business models that can tap into and make positive use of these trends.
But if many organizations aren’t quite ready to engage in truly transformative Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 activities yet, what then are the first steps to start adopting these models? The implications themselves are increasingly clear: Organizations that want to make the transition to the 2st century successfully must 1) engage more socially internally and externally, 2) strategically open up business data and processes online, and 3) use new community-based power structures to tap into large online pools of productive capacity, innovation, and new types of customer relationships.
All of this can seem foreign and unnatural to the uninitiated at first. Yet it’s often key executives that have little immersion in the high impact, rapidly-evolving landscape of digital business that often hold the purse strings and make the go-head decisions.
But delay is no longer a viable option now that global adoption rates are as high as they are. The potential for disruption and dislocation increases the longer that competencies in this area aren’t developed and only a few industries have first-mover advantage remaining. What then are good ways to get started down the road without fully scrapping the way you do business?
Fortunately, there are some increasingly appealing ways to apply Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 ideas to your organization that will help you get a great start to the year in acquiring the full competitive advantage that these vital new approaches bring to the businesses that adopt them. Some of these are specific while others are ones that you can apply just about anywhere. Your mileage may vary and change often will not happen overnight. The usual virtues work here: Persistence, patience, and responding by learning quickly from rapid feedback loops from the marketplace. All of these factors will help you get the most out of the strategies below.
12 Adoption Strategies for Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0
- Learn: Educate – Brown bags, internal Webcasts, strategy white papers, innovation unconferences. Digital business models are evolving so quickly that keeping up can be a real challenge. Hot new topics such as Social CRM and online customer communities have become major new subject areas in the last 18 months, but most traditional businesses don’t know about them yet. There are many other emerging topics now and getting a steady flow of information into your organization about what’s happening will greatly assist your efforts. Lunch presentations, Webinars (great for large and/or distributed organizations), reports, social media, and internal events to share ideas about the possibilities are all good ways to break ground and get fresh ideas into heads. Use the attendees of these to identify like-minded change champions for some of the strategies below.
- Learn: Find out what leaders in your industry or related industries are doing. While the adoption of Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 is often very industry specific (either a big player gets way ahead or consensus is reached and adoption suddenly happens broadly within an industry), you can often find great examples of approaches in industries that are different yet closely related. Find case studies that have good measurements and data and use this to extrapolate to others.
- Learn: Discover and coordinate with what other internal Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 change champions are doing already. Use the people you met in the first strategy to find other pilot projects and resources that can be pooled. Internal success stories are always the most convincing, even if turf concerns and not-invented-here continues to be problematic. Often you can join in or combine efforts, particularly since Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 are so driven by participation that it’s virtually required by definition to get any sort of success, internally or externally.
- Prepare: Identify the likely areas where Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 can grow and/or improve your business. I covered this topic late last year as the recession began to hit. There are major areas where growth, cost reduction, innovation, and business transformation can be achieved. Understand clearly how these approaches work and provide value, what growth/cost factors they consist of, and get specific with likely approaches in your organization matched to hard data to support the strategy in the next bullet. If you’re still not sure then explore these ways to use Web 2.0 to reinvent your business for the economic downturn.
- Prepare: Build a compelling business case. If you can’t explain the benefits clearly to the business, you don’t get to do it. But this can sometimes be hard with Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 because there are on occasion long cause-and-effect chains. But more likely there is just what I like to call the “digital DNA” problem. Most businesses are far enough away from the technology itself that they have a hard time grasping exactly how these ideas actually work and can be made successful in their organization. It’s the ultimate not-invented-here problem. So don’t make decision makers figure it out themselves, provide step-by-step explanation of the specific whys and hows of your social computing strategy, open API division, or whatever it is that you’ve decided that presents the best opportunity.
- Prepare: Solicit senior sponsors for advocacy, budget, and pilots. This one is fairly obvious except that a sponsor in this case must be personally involved both in the up-front support as well as actual participation. One of the single most important adoption factors is executive involvement through personal interaction. This works best if it’s a social computing approach, but can affect most Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 efforts positively and significantly. Here are some specific tips for CIOs and CTOs.
- Prepare: Broadly socialize the potential benefits in clear, lingo-free business terms. Transmit the message loudly and clearly. Don’t become overly zealous. The bigger the organization, the longer it will take to change. Often, by the time you’re just about ready to give up, things will begin to happen. Use social tools to spread this message by example. You can try using one of the freely available enterprise microblogging tools to do this..
- Act: Initiate social media internally to drive forward internal change, under the radar if necessary. Walk the walk and start a blog or internal community that discusses innovation or otherwise drives change. Use this to support the previous strategy but if it’s done right it will broaden and can easily become viral. Worst case the change champions have a place to work together, best case it forms an early basis for an enterprise social computing strategy. It can also provide an initial demonstration of results and adoption statistics. Only do this under the radar if necessary and even so be ready to accept the consequences if this is the first of these strategies you start with (the ground not yet being fully prepared.)
- Act: Create a targeted customer community. Engagement with real customers is the only way to trigger some of the larger benefits of Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0. This can be tricky since it frequently requires much more support and approval to go outside the company. So start targeted and highly focused. Trusted customers and pre-identified loyalty groups or even trading partners are good places to begin and usually offer friendly audiences to try many of these techniques with until you learn the ropes and gain deeper understanding of the issues.
- Act: Launch a pilot that is likely to produce noticeable returns in the medium-term. Use all the strategies above to get started with a pilot that proves the ideas out. Critical mass is a frequent issue with the pilot approach however and many recommend going as big as possible (but no bigger) to ensure there is enough participation. Document everything and don’t set expectations too high or too low. I say medium term since social systems in particular are generally less deterministic and are not as predictable (though far more rewarding) than traditional mandatory engagement models.
- Act: Measure the results of any local Web 2.0 or Enterprise 2.0 effort, even if it’s not yours. Get the numbers and try to make sure they are accurate, they are ultimately hard to ignore. I’ve seen a number of otherwise terrific efforts derailed by not backing up what was done with good measurement.
- Act: Proactively manage and promulgate upsides as well as having a ready-to-present mitigation plan for any perceived risks. In the end, business leaders want something that will move the business forward but they don’t want the risk. Have answers ready for them, though you don’t necessarily need to broadcast this unless asked. There are often unstated risk, control, and trust issues with Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 and you must proactively defuse them.
While some of these may seem obvious and will be true of almost any business initiative heading into the unknown wilds of something new, there are important nuances for the Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 arena for each one of these. I’ve left out a few good strategies including acquiring your way to Web 2.0 competency, it’s just not going to work for most organizations at the moment, until there are richer targets.
While certain industries, particularly technology and media, have had a head start with these ideas, there is still a surprisingly large opportunity for the majority of businesses today to glean significant benefits and greatly improved competitive stance. Good luck putting your strategy together and have a great 2010 implementing them. Please contact me to tell me your story or if need help realizing them.
Also see my 18 Emerging Topics at the Interaction of IT and Business for 2009 to see what other areas you should be focused on in your strategic planning for 2010.
What adoption strategies do you find the most effective? Please put your thoughts in comments below.