I enjoyed reading Oliver Marks’ piece “Demilitarizing Collaboration: Designing Rules of Engagement” in ZDNET, where he defines the state of play for collaborational technology in the enterprise as a Demilatrized Zone above and beyond the siloed potential warzone that surrounds it.
There are five areas of tension in the argument:
1) Oliver argues that a level playing ground is needed to protect and keep vibrant the collaborative community. However, due to the stakes at play, Enterprise 2.0 can be the maelstrom and centre for political power play and control. This is rarely level.
2) The technology of 2.0 is in constant flux, and as example, smart mobile technologies will transform the space.
3) The Business is in flux too. Depending on the sector this will be at varying speeds, but nonetheless the Business will change and 2.0 will accelerate this change. 2.0 operations need if not quite at the centre of this activity, needs at least a clear line of sight to the business strategy to maintain relevance and cohesion.
4) Although the core collaboration is inside the firewall, the firewall is regularly crossed in terms of cross-enterprise and team collaborations – e-mail, web 2.0, chattering clients, TV, the meeting.
5) People will change, not only in terms of churn, but also the roles and expertise will change as all the factors listed above come into play.
In what Oliver calls the brutal world of running a 2.0 DMZ it’s essential to ensure that:
Longer term strategic needs for a scalable, coherent collaborative backbone which connects silos and units on top of existing BI and associated infrastructure is tough in a world of quarterly results targets, and where staffing may completely change over time.
So how do we achieve this? In some way the argument calls for something above and beyond yet within and part of the business fabric. The nearest concept I can think of is some sort of Habermas type Public Sphere.
For Habermas the Public Sphere is an essential part of democratic society (he draws heavily on Hannah Arendt’s working on the Ancient Greek Polis) and is a space that exists for politics and discussion and is not subsumed in business or personal life. But here of course we are talking about Business and nothing but Business.
Maybe there’s something here to be learned from Corporate Social Responsibility. This is maybe a Cultural issue for the business, which can no more transcend the drive for profit than it can the market which defines it, (there being no such thing as a free luncheon after all….)
The question then comes down to this, how to be both part of and above the storm? Oliver almost calls for priests or at best non-partisan civil servants to manage the collaboration.:
Weaving collaborative workflow intents into the way you want staff to work over time is essential to realize the relevancy and power of collaborative 2.0 technologies without exposing the people tasked to run it to the realities of business political border disputes and fault lines.
The problem here though, is this role doesn’t seem to match those evangelizing in the enterprise today…For the tales I hear, the ones I have seen, means working and evangelizing on precisely those fault lines and around those disputes. Of that there seems little escape.
“Demilitarizing Collaboration: Designing Rules of Engagement” ZDNET
“The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere” Wikipedia, so take it with a large pinch of salt.