Panel moderator and Harvard Business School professor Andrew McAfee sized up the problem by challenging a group of enterprise 2.0 users to explain "why this stuff hasn't taken over."
The panelists, all fervent supporters of the new technology, agreed that adoption of enterprise 2.0 is still in its early stages, but they had different ideas about why many organizations are resistant to it. At the same time, the several hundred people packing the auditorium were evidence of a growing interest in Web 2.0 technologies in the enterprise.
Noting that enterprise 2.0 tools are gaining some momentum, McAfee asked the panelists -- all of whom have successfully launched tools in their respective organizations -- for ideas on how organizations and their management can be moved "over the hump of learning and using" the technology.
Edward Lerner, director of tools and technology at Sony Computer Entertainment America, had a relatively easy time convincing the programmers and technologists at Sony's gaming operation of the value of enterprise 2.0. The gaming staff already knew how important wikis, blogs, e-mail, and forums can be in developing new products.
"The challenge," said Lerner, "is to get legal, finance, and HR departments. Often you'll see one champion in a department [who] brings it to the others. Find the right person and the right project to champion." He noted that game developers usually work together as a team, while lawyers, for instance, don't.
Other panelists had similar stories of pathfinders and missionaries influencing others to join the march to enterprise 2.0.
Don Burke, an official at the Central Intelligence Agency's Intellipedia project, noted the dilemma faced in most organizations -- usually older management people lag in the adoption of high technology, while younger "Gen Y" staff are not only knowledgeable about a new technology tool, but often are expert in the use of many tools. While placing no blame on any generation, Burke pointed out the challenge of the "accelerating change" presented by enterprise 2.0 and its impact on different generations working in an organization.
Simon Revell, manager of enterprise 2.0 technology at Pfizer, indicated that enterprise 2.0 tools can bring sometimes uncomfortable but important truths to top management. He observed that companies often hire expensive outside management consultants to deliver difficult insights that employees are reluctant to mention.
Management understandably can hesitate in adopting enterprise 2.0 tools, said Revell, adding that many managers will embrace the tools over time. "You have to take people on a journey," he said.
Revell cited the case of a security manager at Pfizer who surprised him by not resisting the new tools, and even working to see them adopted "safely" in the company.
Sean Dennehy, another CIA officer, wrapped up the session with the advice: "Start with yourself. Gradually others will follow after they see the success."