[A long-overdue post on the New Enterprise]

I’m deeply interested in the potentially disruptive effects of “social media” on the enterprise as we know it.
I’m also an enterprise architect – into governance, imposing some discipline, big-picture strategy, technology roadmaps, and the like.

How do I reconcile those two interests?

Some context:
Harold Jarche speaks about some of the changes in work in the 21st century, and notes that knowledge and learning in enterprise are now group pursuits, because …

Individual learning in organizations is basically irrelevant because work is almost never done by one person. All organizational value is created by teams and networks. Furthermore, learning may be generated in teams but even this type of knowledge comes and goes. Learning really spreads through social networks. Social networks are the primary conduit for effective organizational performance. Blocking, or circumventing, social networks slows learning, reduces effectiveness and may in the end kill the organization.

Sounds disruptive, and it can be, especially for businesses still mired in Taylorist thinking, seeing one right way of performing jobs, and the incumbents as fungible and replaceable resources. But some proponents of Enterprise2.0/Social Business forget the alligators/draining the lake problem – before you can get Enterprise2.0 working, you need to have sorted out Enterprise0.0 and 1.0, or you will be too immersed in those problems to make the cultural changes required.
Enterprise 2.0 needs the “earlier” layers to be sorted, as Alan Patrick suggests:

  • Enterprise 0 – the non IT stuff – the processes, skills and culture of a company – the bedrock layer – will scupper any attempt to add higher layers if it isn’t a strong enough foundation. In all our work we have found you have to strip back to the processes and skills as a minimum.
  • Enterprise 1 – the ERP, CRM, EDI, SOP and all the other TLAs that manipulate, manufacture and move base information around the enterprise. If the underlying data is crap, and the ability to see it correctly is non existent, then the Social Business layer will fail.
  • Enterprise 2 – as in the supporting Web 2.0 systems that support the Social Media modules – crap webpages, poor real time performance, inflexible CMS – these are only as good as the systems they sit on top of.

Which seemed to mesh with a presentation from Dave Allen (the Getting Things Done ® guy) about the whole GTD thing: it’s not actually about “getting things done”, it’s about freeing up cognitive space so we can do more interesting things. Now GTD is at the individual level, but the same principles hold true at the enterprise level: enterprise architecture (EA) is about making sure that the background stuff stays there, and allows an organisation to concentrate its collective cognition on the functions and capabilities that make it different and better and agile and a whole lot of other goodness (fill that in with whatever your organisation sees as important). One way of finding and focusing that cognition is to use social networking tools to surface and amplify it.

But if you’re too busy trying to balance the general ledger, you won’t have time to figure out what new changes are on their way, and how you might adapt to them … so EA is like GTD for companies.