Enterprises Not One Dimensional – Technology Not the Only Influence on the Future Enterprise

Enterprises Not One Dimensional – Technology Not the Only Influence on the Future Enterprise

From the Future of Work blog, January 2008

Stop with Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, etc. I’ve said it before and I will say it again and again. Analysts at Gartner, Forrester, Ovum, etc. continue to beat the drum of change with only technology in mind. If that was the case, Enterprise 2.0 happened when the computer first showed up in big overly cooled rooms, and 3.0 occurred when PCs grew from hobby devices into computing support for distributed human networks that empowered people to take control of their own information and analysis, and 4.0 took place when networks connected these devices, and then the web, and then…we aren’t in manufacturing and our conceptual frameworks don’t need version numbers. Today’s reality is today’s reality and then there is the future. Putting names and version numbers around the totality of our organizations or technology doesn’t help managers make better decisions. We will never go back to previous models for maintenance and support so let’s get real and stop selling concepts that don’t map to what is important.

It is  important that we accept and recognize that technology is just one element of change. Organizations exist in a complex mix of global politics, tensions between hierarchies and networks, regulatory environments, changes in demographics, integrated and distributed supply and value chains, scientific breakthroughs that redefine our perceptions of the planet, life on Earth, our place in the universe (and perhaps our place in the multiverse) and a whole list of uncertainties that may invalidate any short term trend because the pressure points may accelerate, derail or radically alter something that we currently believe to be a solid bet. 

Where does Enterprise 2.0 enter into all of this? It is an attempt to simplify the world for the technologically bound – without historical or social, economic or political context. Organizations deserve the best guidance they can get, but the guidance from our gurus needs to be truthful and contextual, not pithy and ephemeral. Go find some trade magazines from 15 or 20 years ago and see the list of conceptual frameworks that have fallen away like DB25 serial networks, green screens and drum memory. I’m all for mash-ups, social networks and open innovation, but let’s talk about how those relate to what businesses really want to accomplish – because as those ideas die off or morph into something else, Enterprise 2.0 and Web 2.0 will look like naive labels glimpsed only in the shadows of even more radically transformative notions that will loom large five years from now. I hope by then our gurus will guide us sensibly through complex conceptual interactions by consciously not collapsing what is really important into a overly trite monikers that mislead rather than inform.

P.S. – still hoping 9/22/2010

Daniel W. Rasmus

Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.

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