Enterprise 2.0 – some great posts on the beauty of edge-in adoption

I haven’t written much about E2.0 recently (except maybe in the Facebook sense) but I remain excited by its potential – in particular it is great to see British companies Yuuguu and Huddle continuing to do well.

Both these companies have what I call an edge-in adoption model – that is they aim to penetrate large enterprises one user and department at a time rather than with a single big sale to the CIO.  To me this is the best model for a lot of software these days.  The following passages which I read this morning have re-inforced that view.  Thanks to Euan Semple for the pointers.

First up – CIOs don’t use social software themselves.  They are by and large (and please excuse the generalisation) of a generation that didn’t grow up with social networks etc. and they are too time poor to invest the time required to get much out of them.  This makes CIOs much less likely than their employees to use and hence buy E2.0 tools.  From Olivier at Headshift:

I regularly have to explain to CIOs what is a blog, what is wiki, what’s the major differences between those tools, what is RSS, social bookmarking and social networking. I find people complaining about being compelled to block 2 hours a day reading newsletters to keep up-to-date to their industry trends, because they have never used a newsreader.

(Incidentally – I think I might be seeing a similar phenomenon at work in the way many web2.0 types form their attitudes to virtual worlds.)

Secondly – employees know best (again from Olivier):

Employees are the one who know which tools are relevant for doing their job more efficiently and we don’t have to impose and restrict them (to) a set of tools.

At FOWA last week I saw Alastair of Huddle talk about 95% adoption of Huddle versus 5% adoption of more traditional tools like Sharepoint.  By that he means that if you let users choose their own tools you will get 95% of people using their licenses, but if you try and dictate the choice of tool from the centre that number will be more like 5%.  This is the same point as Olivier’s, but made in a different way.

Thirdly – people don’t like being told what to do/use.  From a Blog on Wiki Patterns post Why the ‘one size fits all’ mentality in IT must go away:

When I visit wiki users in organizations, I often hear stories about how the wiki was brought in by someone who saw the value in using it, and began a grassroots movement to spread awareness and use of it. Not the orthodox way to bring a tool into an organization, because it often leaves IT out of the process until the use of the tool is already underway. It’s happening this way because people are choosing what works best for them, and resisting the idea that they have to use the one tool that’s prescribed as a “one size fits all” solution.

And finally – the web based tools are increasingly better than the traditional enterprise software products, and they are improving faster.  This is changing the game for CIOs (again from Blog on Wiki Patterns)

Chris Anderson wrote a post about this topic, titled The black wire and the white wire in which he describes the two network cables on his desk – one installed by central IT and the other a standard DSL connection with no firewall, and no ports blocked for things like Skype and Second Life: “These two cables are a handy metaphor for the two worlds of corporate computing: end users and the IT department. The chasm between them has never been greater, in part because the tools available on the wide open web have never been better.”

This is what creates the conflict between users and IT – and it’s not all IT’s fault either. Historically, IT’s job is to “keep the lights on” – make a set of core technology tools available to people and support them – which was fine ten, even five, years ago, but just doesn’t work the same today. The quality of tools on the web is increasing far faster than most “boxed” enterprise software, and those web tools are free or low cost, and available immediately, as opposed to going through a much more involved procedure to get access to tools on the inside, or convince IT to make them available.

For me this logic is compelling when it comes to Enterprise2.0 and to other areas as well where success of the software isn’t mission critical.  Salesforce succeeded with this model in CRM, for example.

The final factor which excites me as an investor about this trend is the likelehood that big companies just won’t get it.  Microsoft, Oracle et al have had the CIO as their chief point of contact and have successfully been basing their roadmaps over the years on what they hear from their customers – a pattern of behaviour I suspect they will find it difficult to change in a hurry.  If I am right in that suspiscion and in this post generally there is a great opportunity for startups to carve out significant businesses for themselves.