September 13, 2011 1 Comment
We all know what happened to the dinosaurs. Due to a changing environment, supposedly caused by a few meteorites here and there, these large animals were not able to adapt and eventually changed into fossil construction parts for natural historical museums. Compared that to MRSA, or ‘Methicilline Resistente Staphylococcus aureus’. This germ, millions times smaller than the average brontosaur, rulez the way it adapts to the environment. It was smart enough to fool most antibiotics, unfortunately with lethal consequences for some people.
But what have dinos and germs to do with Enterprise 2.0 platforms? Well, quite a lot actually. We were at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston and explored the exhibition floor for dinos like Microsoft and IBM, and how they keep up with MRSAs like Podio and Blogtronix. Admittedly, these startups are way less lethal than an average MRSA-infection in a hospital, but bear with me here. It’s about the metaphore ‘adaptation’.
By now we should know the drill: use social media to conversate and engage and have a more loyal customer. Most companies realize the importance of this new communication channel and soon it will be as established as Kotller’s five P’s. But what about the employee? How do you connect and engage with your ‘most valuable asset’? The employee who 1) has become more tech-savvy due to the personal use of digital appliances in his/her daily life, and 2) will become more and more wanted in the market due to the aging working population. Small start-ups have specialized themselves in developing online services based on Web 2.0 technologies to help these employees to do their daily work better, and more efficient. Mind you, all based on services popular at consumer-level. Yammer for example plays nicely as an internal Twitter, and DoubleDutch has been looking closely to FourSquare for location-based status updates. We even saw a Facebook lookalike to be used within the firewalls.
The dinos have realized that Enterprise 2.0, also called ‘Social Business’, is booming and thus Big Business. Usually Big Business involves Big Bucks and that makes an average dino move faster than a Stegosaurus being chased by a Tyranosaurus. Now Enterprise 2.0 is getting mainstream (as we could witness at the conference with participants like Disney, Eli Lilly and Lowe’s) dinos also present online solutions that should make the employee a more productive and happier person during working hours. But the question remains if these big companies are smart enough to understand which functionalities of their platform can actually provide added value to the working process of the employee. And providing that in an intuitive way so that employees understand the tools and thus actually use it. With an average dino brain the size of a chestnut, it doesn’t look good. For example, this is what one of the dinos explained to us after we questioned him about the usability of their platform: “Well, employees can follow a training whereby we teach them how to utilize the functionalities in the best way possible.” Uhm.. since when did I have to follow a course to put a blog post in WordPress online, or share a picture on Facebook? Of all 650 million Facebook users, only a few I think. And that is exactly where I believe the meteor will be hitting the dino-heads: the modern employee is used to Facebook and Twitter interfaces, easy to use and almost no learning curve. This is the Golden Standard. Neglect it and feel the warm and fuzzy feeling of extraterrestrial rocks changing your habitat forever.
Of course, dinos do have one big advantage: they are already present for quite some time and everybody knows them. Especially IT-departments that have been trained and educated for years in dino-technology. ‘Nobody was ever fired for buying IBM’, was once a well-known saying in business. Small startups need to fight against the status quo, and that ain’t easy. Understandable in some way, because no doubt some startups won’t make it in the evolutionary digital battle and will cease to exist. That is a bummer if you’ve just transferred your entire company to this new cool technology, to say the least. Other startups will be acquired by the big boys, and yet another group will form partnerships with other startups and even with dinos, thus strengthening their value proposition. Quite a number of new platforms have interfaces with SharePoint because they realize this is the 800 pound gorilla in the field (or 30 tonnes Diplodocus). Not the most loved dino, SharePoint, by the way, given the fact that a spontaneous session was organized at the unconference titled: How To Make SharePoint Suck Less’ (note from author: no solution was found).
In my opinion innovation will still come from startups for a while. The big dinos are really trying, but seem to be stuck on terms like ‘User Interaction’ and ‘User Friendliness’. We’ll await the first dino that does understand this, and ducks for the meteorite. What’s your take on this? Do you believe the established platforms can innovate against the small guys and girls? Will corporations embrace these innovations? Share your thoughts, please, and let us know your ideas.