Enterprise 2.0: Strategic or Ad-Hoc?

Use of Web 2.0 within the organization: strategic or ad-hoc? The answer is probably yes, but the question merits more comment than that glib response.

The question identifies two broad patterns of Enterprise 2.0 activity: top-down and bottom-up. These are two classic patterns of… well, of lots of things in organization: new product development, resource allocation… (My academic reflex is to mention authors such as Burgelman and Bower, but I’ll stifle the urge to add publication dates and references.)

It’s worth emphasizing that a sharp binary distinction between top-down and bottom-up isn’t the reality. Rather, it’s a distinction useful for describing two patterns of activity within organizations.

It can also serve to define two extremes of a continuum. At one extreme of the E2 adoption continuum are organizations in which almost all blogs, wikis, and so on are used because there is a corporate initiative to use them, corporate standards for tools, etc. At the other extreme are organizations in which corporate isn’t even aware that there are subunits and individuals blogging, using wikis, and so on.

The ad-hoc pattern might remind you of information technology trends from decades past. In the 1980s, PCs flew onto desktops, often under the corporate radar. In the 1990s, free/open source software started to power a lot of servers, the change being transparent to the people using the client PCs and often hidden from management.

I suspect that many organizations have more ad-hoc adoption of Enterprise 2.0 than they realize. They may discover this as they consider their E2.0 strategies.

This implies two things about strategic and ad-hoc. First, they may meet in the middle, as top-down and ad-hoc encounter each other. Second, they may be stages of a life cycle. We’re currently in the ad-hoc stage. We’re about to enter the strategic stage. The strategic challenge for many organizations isn’t to define an E2 strategy on a blank slate. Rather, it’s to manage the diverse E2 initiatives that already exist.

The above raises many issues about strategic and ad-hoc E2. For example, I’ve yet to discuss specific vendors. That post should be along later today.

The question with which I opened this post comes from the AIIM report. I have enough to say about that report for another separate post, which will probably be out tomorrow.

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