Update: The most up-to-date version of the typology is published on p.14 of the Interim Report.
I’ll admit that when I first read the term ‘typology’ in the EC’s tender for this research project I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. I knew it was something to do with organising things by type, but beyond that I wasn’t sure. I looked it up and found that a typology is a “classification according to general type” (http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=typology) or a “systematic classification of types that have characteristics or traits in common” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/typology). That sounded reasonable, but the thought that followed immediately was: “Is this something that can be done with enterprise 2.0 use cases?”
I came across two attempts to do something similar: a blog post by Bjorn Negelman explaining a classification of enterprise 2.0 use cases he created and an internal project at Headshift to catalogue and group use cases we had come across. I didn’t find either of these attempts completely persuasive: they both took the approach of trying to put the use cases into broad buckets such as ‘knowledge sharing’, ‘user engagement’ or ‘innovation management 2.0’. I felt that this was useful to an extent, but that a better approach would be to situate these archetypal use cases in a structure that spoke to something fairly fundamental about enterprise 2.0 tools.
After the initial research into the various use cases and a period of mulling them over, this was my first attempt at organising them:
The above attempts to define use cases by the sort of interaction they facilitate and where they facilitate them: within an organisation or between an organisation and its environment. Apart from my terrible handwriting, I didn’t think the bottom axis–degree of interaction–was quite right: one use case could contain both conversation and collaboration. The form of the representation also seemed to suggest that use cases in the bottom left are bad and those in the top right are good.
The Current Version
This representation organises use cases based on the sort of interpersonal tie they support and based on the size of the system that contains that interpersonal tie. I should point out a debt here to Andrew McAfee who first applied the idea of interpersonal ties to enterprise 2.0 (as far as I know).
I think this really does capture something fundamental about enterprise 2.0 (or at least the way I think about enterprise 2.0). Traditional IT facilitates formal processes, where the interaction is typically not person-to-person. Newer IT tools, and particularly enterprise 2.0, facilitate informal processes comprised of person-to-person connections and in so doing enable the breaking down of traditional organisational barriers.
Please do let me know what you think: have I left out important use cases? Are some of them positioned wrongly? Am I naming them at the wrong level of detail? Do you disagree with the organisation scheme entirely?
Note: I found Jacob Morgan’s collection of enterprise 2.0 case studies as well as Headshift’s own case studies useful when creating this.
We’re right in the middle of finding companies interested in being part of our research. We’ve got some very strong candidates that we think will make for some interesting case studies: more of that anon. Right now, I want to share a couple of thoughts that have occurred to me in relation to the conversations we’ve had so far.
People want to talk
The people running these projects want to talk to someone about them: they’ve been working hard trying to make the companies they work for more effective and efficient through, for example, better knowledge sharing, increased situational awareness or a more human workplace. They know they’re doing good work and they want this to be recognised, both internally and externally.
Do big companies make more use of enterprise 2.0 than small ones?
We’re trying to recruit 4 SMEs and 4 large companies but most of the companies we’ve spoken to so far are above the SME bracket in terms of size and revenue. There are a few reasons I can think of for why this might be:
- Sampling bias: We’ve publicised our research on this blog and on the Headshift blog and we’ve been talking to our friends and contacts about who they know who could be interested. Perhaps big companies are over-represented, in relation the whole set of enterprise 2.0 users, among the people who we’re connected to via these channels.
- Big companies want to talk more: Maybe big companies aren’t over-represented, but they are more interested in or have more time to get involved in this sort of research than SMEs do.
- Big companies use enterprise 2.0 more: enterprise 2.0 tools, platforms and services enable human connections over a larger scale. If you work in a small company, it’s easy to talk to the people you work with. You can bump into them in the corridor or the kitchen and chat to them in the pub after work. Perhaps as a company grows in size, these sorts of face-to-face connections don’t scale and the value to the business of using enterprise 2.0 increases.
I have no idea which of these, if any, is the correct explanation and I’m not sure whether we’ll answer this question during the course of the project. Interesting to ponder though.
As I said earlier, these are just feelings based on a small number of conversations and may be wide of the mark. If you have any views, please share them in the comments.
As I’ve just said over on the Headshift blog, we think that enterprise 2.0 has the potential to make companies more agile and competitive: it’s changing the way that people in organisations work by giving them simple software tools that support the informal processes that are part of any healthy organisation. This change and its concomitant potential for humanising the enterprise are two important reasons why we’re so interested in being part of this research.
Headshift’s contribution to the research is twofold. Firstly, we’ll be undertaking some research into what companies are using enterprise 2.0 for, both at a broad level to produce a typology of use cases and a more specific level to produce a set of 8 case studies. The case studies will be in-depth accounts of how individual companies are using enterprise 2.0 tools: what business need they’re meeting; what technology is being used; what problems have been faced and dealt with; the costs associated with the project and what the outcomes have been for the organisation.
Secondly, we’ll be investigating the legal aspects of cloud-based enterprise 2.0 use: the legal barriers or uncertainties that prevent companies from taking full advantage of the technologies available, the common contractual relationships that exist between suppliers of cloud-based enterprise 2.0 tools and their customers and whether there are common contractual considerations that are likely to impede the adoption of enterprise 2.0 software.
Right now, we’re in the process of putting together a long list of case study candidates. To make this research as comprehensive as possible, we want to cast our nets wide and talk to people we’ve never met and who are using enterprise 2.0 tools in ways we haven’t come across before.
If you’re interested in being part of the case study research – raising the profile, internally and externally, of what you’re doing – or you know someone else who is, talk to us in the comments or drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you.