This year’s Boston Enterprise 2.0 Conference highlighted good examples of how companies are tapping into social technologies to empower their employees. For example, Mitre Corporation showed how they have successfully developed a collaboration community using open source technology. The platform they developed enables them to deliver secure access to ideas, discussions and content for employees and guests. Meanwhile, CSC showed how they have driven greater collaboration across 49,000 of their employees in just 18 months, with a strategy focused on connect, communicate and collaborate. (Those of us in the audience even witnessed the in-field promotion of Claire Flanagan, CSC senior manager for knowledge management and enterprise social collaboration, to director – congratulations Claire!)

Among a number of great speakers, JP Rangaswami, CTO & chief scientist at BT Design, opened the conference with a powerful speech that was supported by an innovative approach to real-time animation of content – alas, while the speech was good, the visuals were distracting for many in the room. JP suggested that the age of the locked-down desktop is coming to an end, “enterprises must design for loss of control.” Re-iterating a refrain from George Colony, who suggests “bits want to be free,” JP advised, “if you don’t want it shared, don’t put it on a computer.”

Technology vendors highlighting how customers were adopting their technology to solve complex collaboration challenges dominated the conference. Cisco talked about Quad, which looks set to go head-to-head with Microsoft and their Unified Communications & 2010 Sharepoint/NewsGator push, while Jive’s new CEO, Tony Zingale, put Microsoft SharePoint squarely in his sights. IBM, meanwhile, did their best to stay above the fray while promoting Lotus Connections. Of course, there were many other great software solutions and some promising new entrants to the market – too many to go into here (see also Forrester Analyst TJ Keitt’s blog and event posts from Sameer Patel, Oliver Marks, Thomas Vander Wal, and Bertrand Duperrin).

Despite all the new technology, the shared wisdom from the deployment perspective seemed to distill down to learning how to manage the human side of Enterprise 2.0. Distilling down three days of insight isn’t easy, so I thought I’d share my top 10 tips from the conference no particular order:

  1. Do not underestimate the enormous value there is in developing a more open and collaborative culture – the organizations that are already moving down the E2.0 path cite tremendous intangible benefits – even if they cannot always show bottom-line benefits (though many can).
  2. We are at a tipping point in the design of social enterprises. As Enterprise 2.0 goes mainstream over the next few years, many CIOs will be challenged with delivering technology to empower employees but …
  3.  … Do not start with the technology – instead start with examining what you are looking to achieve from a business perspective and define a clear strategy for success.
  4. Changing the way people work is not easy. Unless the technology in use is easier than picking up the phone or shouting over the cubicle wall, we will not be successful in changing behaviors. Doing work in less time is key to success, but people have a limited capacity for change, so make small changes and give them time to adapt.
  5. CIOs will be pressed for showing quantifiable benefits as a gating mechanism to size the investment required. The reality is the benefits expected at the outset are going to be very different from the ones achieved. Start out with focus on how changes in collaboration impact areas like sales force productivity and the organization’s ability to attract and retain talent; examine the value of eliminating wasted time by knowing what has worked or failed before; look at the value of improved problem solving and idea generation.
  6. Opening up your collaboration environment to partners makes for richer conversations and fresh ideas/approaches. It is possible to be open and secure.
  7. Plan to market your successes. Bring evangelists on early, but don’t look for evangelists based on the org chart – find them based on their passion. (Eeyore wouldn’t make a good evangelist!) Dedicate resources to driving adoption and get senior management on the platform.
  8. Add “social” as a layer in enterprise architecture to avoid mushrooming application silos. (Do you need a Social Business Architect? Many companies will need this role.)
  9. Social collaboration and training platforms are a powerful tool to reduce onboarding time for new employees, increase sales force productivity, and harness the wisdom of recently retired employees – but only when deployed successfully and adopted widely.
  10. Start today to re-think how to re-engineer your business process around social collaboration. The real advantages will accrue to those companies that figure out how to tie social collaboration (and associated technologies) into the design of their business process and core supporting applications.

The most re-tweeted line from the conference is likely to be a quote from JP Rangaswami that highlights the speed of change in the technology industry:

“It took 40 years for IBM to become evil, 20 years for Microsoft to become evil, 10 for Google, 5 for Facebook and 2.5 for Twitter.”

What are your top tips for deploying E2.0 successfully? (If you attended, what are your top takeaways?)

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