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Implementing Enterprise 2.0 for the Federal Government Part Four: More Obstacles

Posted by on April 7, 2011

This is part four in a multi-part series on how the federal government is implementing Enterprise 2.0.  This was done through extensive interviews with Booz Allen Hamilton who has led many of the efforts for various Government agencies. The full series on Enterprise 2.0 for the Federal Government (which includes additional information and specific examples) can be downloaded(registration required) for free.  I recommend that you start with the first post: Implementing Enterprise 2.0 for the Federal Government Part One: Business Drivers, the second post: Implementing Enterprise 2.0 for the Federal Government Part Two: Who Drives the Tools?, and the third post: Implementing Enterprise 2.0 for the Federal Government Part Three: Obstacles.

Today we are going to continue our discussion on obstacles that the Federal Government must overcome to successfully implement Enterprise 2.0

Traditional corporate culture does not lean towards adopting new technologies easily.  It is difficult to embrace and adopt a new way of doing things in the midst of managing and driving previous methodologies.  Senior managers are not interested in new “toys”, they don’t want to experiment with their productivity.  Andrew McAfee has gone as far as saying that “many organizations are scared to death of Enterprise 2.0 ” pointing out the hesitation is around the lack of control in what people may say or talk about in such an open technology.  Education is needed in most organizations to show the value of E2.0 tools – from junior interns to senior members it is important to show exactly what value these new tools bring to the table.

After some basic education around the opportunities of E2.0, the idea of new communication and collaboration strategies and tools becomes a more legitimate reality.  Another standard push-back from traditional corporate culture is with the user interface: gone are the days where users are willing to put up with push-down content; platforms which are simple to use and model existing social networks are more likely to find a wider adoption.

A testament to the validity of E 2.0’s value is that this year’s Gov 2.0 Expo had around 2,000 people attend whereas two years ago you couldn’t have filled a room; we have gone from trying to convince people that Gov 2.0 exists to actually leveraging and implementing Gov 2.0 within our client organizations.

Realistic time management practices must be considered in adopting a new tool.  Employees are already overwhelmed with their current workload, and both they and senior management have concerns about their ability to learn and adopt a new platform.  Email has become the defacto chat messaging tool, many employees find they are busiest answering and writing emails.  You send an email and within a few seconds you already have a response, the next thing you know you’re spending a good portion of your day having “conversations” in your Inbox.  Enterprise 2.0 seeks to decrease this ridiculous amount of time spent in email by providing users easier access to experts and answers through searchable and shareable platforms.  E2.0 tools enable staff to have more of an impact in their organization by allowing employees to build public knowledge and share expertise easily while providing easy and intuitive access to that same data.

Again, perception is the biggest problem here.  As new tools find critical mass users often find themselves struggling to keep up with the amount of time it takes to use them and more importantly they struggle to define how they can effectively use them.  E2.0 tools do not solve communication and time management problems alone; what they do is remove the traditional information gatekeepers (book publishers, TV producers, etc) that force users to struggle to find information – users must now learn to filter content become their own gatekeepers.

It’s about the business drivers and content, not the technology.  The most important thing to remember is that organizations can’t focus on the technology; they have to focus on the business drivers. When deploying an Enterprise 2.0 platform one of the most critical strategies to remember is to loading relevant valued content in the platform.  If there is no relevant content, then users are not going to continue to use the solution.  Technology needs to support the business cases, but content must be relevant to the users and motivate early adopters join in and add useful information before pushing the platform to the masses.  It is much wiser to have innovators and early adopters on board to add content so the platform is ready for the second and third wave of users.  In most cases there is already a blog or wiki that employees have started internally, so capture and move that data to a new tool or platform that you select; employees already using internal social tools usually have a few followers and readers who are excited about their experience.  Organizations should leverage these innovators and early adopters and let them invite a few other people (the Google model) to join the rollout.

Technology is never “done”, it’s only stable to use, but it still needs to be agile and to have the ability to evolve.  A general idea of success can be gleaned after 2-4 months of implementation for a very simple project or 4-6 months for a complex project.  However, adoption success may depend on the type of structure the organization has already set up and even then user adoption may be a blip on the radar with only around 10-20% of the organization using the new platform.  The existing culture and the workplace or business environment can dramatically affect these numbers.  Organizations have to build a system that has the ability to scale if usage takes off.  Integrating video will likely be the next big play both for communication and for information (even the boring stuff).  Empower users to give feedback and work closely with developers to figure out what comes up next. The technology must be flexible and the organization must listen to the constituents.