As you know, I had the opportunity to attend the Enterprise 2.0 Summit in Frankfurt last week.
It was a great experience and I was delighted to meet a bunch of people whom I knew online, but had never met. And even better, I met some great people I had not met online before! ;o)
It was also for me a bit of a kid’s dream come true as I was able to meet some of the brightest minds in this field. People whom I sometime have been following/reading since up to 5 years now!
There’s been some heavy blogging already of summaries of what was said at the conference, so I won’t cover that here and now (I will give you a list of links at the end of this post though).
Recurring rant? ;o)
As I have written here before, I believe that SMEs could benefit from the concept of Enterprise 2.0 and that due to some of its inherent characteristics (easy setup, “low-cost” opportunities, …) SMEs could join the bandwagon at the same time as larger corporations and not after some years when the market has matured as it has been the case for ERP, CRM, LSS, … Hence benefiting from the competitive advantage that E2.0 can bring at the same time as their larger competitors!
So, I thought that it would be nice to reflect a bit on that in regards to what I’ve learned in Frankfurt …
Generally speaking, I still believe that SMEs could tremendously benefit from E2.0, but there are some barriers that I had not envisioned before.
Let’s have a look at them.
It was again quite clear from all the presentations that an open, collaborative, trusty culture is the needed foundation for the implementation of the E2.0 concept in an organization. And even if many SMEs give such a picture to the outside, in my experience the reality is usually not quite so in the inside …
Many SMEs are still very much in a “command and control” mode, with the boss/founder at the helm … And both opening Keynote speakers (Richard Collin from the Grenoble school of Management and Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, CEO Sony Music Entertainment) were quite adamant about it: the boss has to show and live the way!
Now, asking a SME’s boss to let go and leave his collaborators to freely exchange, take decisions, etc is probably going to raise a few eyebrows!
There’s also maybe the fact that many senior positions in SMEs are held by people who are present since the creation of the company or at least since a long time and they might feel threatened in their position if the expertise of underlings suddenly gains visibility through the social platform …
These cultural barriers can very well be removed through discussions, training and coaching, but these will raise the overall cost of the project.
And this leads us to a second barrier when it comes to outside help!
For a consultant, it takes as much efforts signing a large corporation as a SME! And once the contract has been won the work could well prove as “hard” in the smaller companies as in the larger ones.
And last but probably not least, the chance of a recurring business is probably close to zero in a SME, and few consulting companies are interested in one-shot projects.
Also, the level of fees that I have heard from a few E2.0 consulting firms is quite simply out of reach for most SMEs unfortunately …
The « 3 feet high instead of 30,000 feet high » syndrome
In most SMEs I know, people are so utterly engrossed in their daily duties that they can’t (afford to) raise their head and take the time for some reflective/strategic thinking.
This means that having them thinking about changing the way they work and about ways to motivate their crew to collaborate better will be quite challenging.
And if you come across its cousin syndrome « We’ve never done so », then you’re up for an even more challenging project! ;o)
The bright side of the story
OK, we see that everything is not as sunny as I thought in the realm of the collaborative SME, but these barriers are merely that … barriers, and most barriers can be climbed over or passed through.
So is the Enterprise 2.0 concept still an opportunity for SMEs? Hell yes! It will only need an adapted approach both on the evangelization and the implementation!
If you would want to go further
As I’ve said at the beginning of this post, many participants have already blogged about the conference, and I’m sure that some are still working on it.
But I would point you to the following resources.
First of all, let’s recognize the work of some of the Belgian participants :
- Jean-Yves Huwart has, as usual, made several video interviews that he’s posting on GlobeCorp. He has also written a blog post on Entreprise Globale (FR).
- Frederic Williquet has summarized some of his notes in a popplet
You might also want to have a look at Lee Bryant’s ending keynote « Enterprise 2.0 : beyond adoption » on Headhift’s blog. It’s rather long, but worth reading!