Down To Business: 2.0 Mania: The Line Between Pragmatist And Naysayer
Just because a new technology doesn't have a hermitically sealed ROI, bulletproof security, and buttoned-down governance doesn't mean it should be dismissed as trivial.
We've all experienced the type-- the self-styled devil's advocate who takes pride in derailing otherwise constructive business discussions by positing the contrarian point of view. The more intellectually deep of the lot can rise to media prominence. Think of Nicholas Carr and the mileage he got out of his "IT Doesn't Matter" thesis.
More recently we've seen the emergence of self-proclaimed "pragmatic killjoy" Tom Davenport. The Babson College professor is spreading the word (mostly in blogs, ironically) that the Enterprise 2.0 movement--companies leveraging Web tools such as blogs, wikis, mashups, social networks, search, and unified communications for competitive advantage--is only so much drivel.
"Blogs are fun to read and socially interesting and perhaps useful," Davenport allowed in a debate last week with Harvard's Andrew McAfee at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston. "But I have yet to see any major example of how capitalist organizations make more money because of Enterprise 2.0 or any example of corporate culture being transformed by Enterprise 2.0."
Besides the fact that Enterprise 2.0 is a tad more sophisticated than blogging, Davenport misses the bigger point: When we make it much easier for people to share information and ideas, within project teams and across departmental and even company borders, stuff just gets done faster and better. You don't need to punch numbers into an ROI calculator to see that, says Motorola VP Toby Redshaw, who says Web 2.0-style collaboration at the company is now a way of work for tens of thousands of employees.
Davenport thinks the 2.0 technology--all the blogs and wikis and mashups and newfangled workflow apps--is overkill. Why not just put up a suggestion box to learn what's on employees' minds?
Cute. And who needs computers when a typewriter and adding machine will do, databases when we have filing cabinets, instant messaging when we can make a phone call or shout over the cubicle wall?
I can't come down on Davenport too hard. This column has had its own doubts about 2.0 mania, and InformationWeek regularly knocks the conventional industry wisdom down a few pegs. But just because a new information technology doesn't have a hermitically sealed ROI, bulletproof security, and buttoned-down governance doesn't mean it should be dismissed as trivial--by the punditry or your IT organization.
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