Organizational change experts stress the need to develop agile companies. Major Enterprise 2.0 theorists say that new-generation technologies can turn inflexible companies into agile and efficient organizations. They praise social software for optimizing management and overall company activity.
To start with, why is the word “agility” so popular in management nowadays? Every year, new technologies, markets and competitors emerge at a rapidly ascending pace. Future threats and opportunities become harder to predict, and emerging challenges include increasingly novel elements. Today’s businesses are affected by globalization processes, and enterprises often become bigger, therefore more inflexible and bureaucratic. As organizations grow into huge corporations, it gets more difficult for them to react to constant market changes fast enough. This results in an ongoing agility gap.
So an enterprise needs to be agile to be ahead of competitors; have leading market positions; exploit possibilities enter new markets; respond to new customers, partners and regulatory demands; launch new products successfully.
I’ll explain what I mean by agility here. First, to be agile means to be able to recognize important changes in the business environment or realize the need for changes and innovations in your own business. Second, it means to make decisions rapidly to react to these changes. Third, it means to adjust your company’s goals, strategies and tactics to possible changes faster than your competitors. But prior to taking any actions in response to rapid changes one should possess information. Quick access to information and rapid information exchange are key factors that make companies agile and competitive.
Enterprise 2.0 technologies, such as blogs and wikis, for example, are able to fill in the agility gap for organizations. They can provide quick access to information and improve external and internal communications.
Enterprise 2.0 in external communications
Enterprise 2.0 has great potential impact from an organizational and revenue prospective in the customer-facing areas. Thus, it is making companies agile in their customer relations. The new-generation technologies offer new ways of contacting and engaging new customers. These technologies provide easier communication with present and potential customers in two ways. An enterprise can get ideas for product improvement and new product launches from consumers. Customers’ ideas are likely to be much more successful than any of ideas based on in-house research. In addition, they make organizations more transparent and trustworthy to customers. They also help customer support and satisfaction. For example, many companies now have on-line support services and product discussions on their Web sites. It’s not only easier for a consumer, but also a lot faster. A user’s question can be answered in seconds, and he won’t need to dial any numbers or get annoyed holding on the line.
Enterprise 2.0 in internal communications
Enterprise 2.0 has even greater influence on communications inside of a company. Enterprise 2.0 tools give employees a chance to exchange information and collaborate more effectively. People enter new information that can be helpful to their colleagues. Information becomes more accessible. The most important element is that an Enterprise 2.0 application contains the latest information that Andrew McAfee says “employees think other employees should know about.” If we take a corporate blog as an example it gives people freedom of operating information. Employees can search across posts, tag articles, subscribe to blog feeds or link to articles, if they want to extend conversation, prove something, show resource of facts or just highlight information.
Enterprise 2.0 technologies can be a powerful starting-lever for innovations in a company. A company, that introduces these technologies and gives its employees information exchange freedom will take leading positions and leave its competitors far behind.
As an example let’s take two competing organizations Company A and Company X. Both of them are important corporations with multi-stepped hierarchical structures. Company A uses Enterprise 2.0 to improve communications among its employees. Company X is too busy to think about the implications of new technologies. Both companies hire two outstanding employees. Both of them come up with billion-dollar ideas for launching new products. Each young man’s idea is advantageous for the company and is able to move it to leading positions in the market sector.
In Company X, the bright employee wants to share his idea and contribute to the company’s development. He goes to his boss, who says: “Yeah, that’s great, but it’s not what our company needs right now” because he is busy at the moment or probably is just too lazy to communicate the idea to the upper management. The excellent idea dies without even a chance to be brought to the CEO of Company X.
The idea-generator in Company A wants to share his thoughts and tell the top-management of the company that there are great up-coming opportunities for the business. He publishes his idea on the corporate blog. This idea gets common attention, and it is supplemented and expanded by other team members. Company A’s top management takes it into consideration and finally brings it to life. The result is Company A is ahead of its main competitor, Company X. It launches a new product and gains more customers. Company A turned out to be more agile and open to changes.
The human mind remains the center of a company’s growth and development, each company needs creative staff and innovative managers to move the business ahead. But new-generation technologies can help a great deal. Enterprise 2.0 should be properly applied in the way that allows businesses to best avail themselves of these tools.
My conclusion is that Enterprise 2.0 tools are just tools after all and without the right application they will be useless. But if you know how to apply them, they will enhance your business agility and make the business easily adaptable to impending changes.