Many years ago, I worked for the CIO of a $2 billion corporation. I was pretty enthusiastic about implementing new technologies, but a lot of the staff seemed pretty cynical.
There usually was good reason for their cynicism. If you believe the frequently mentioned statistic that more than 50 percent of all IT projects fail to meet their goals, you can see part of the reason. For a lot of operational IT people, a good day is when nothing breaks. Doing something new or different often breaks things. So if you combine the limited chance for upside success on most projects with the pretty strong downside potential of breaking things, cynicism starts to look like a helpful survival trait.
I remember many times when a business stakeholder would come to IT full of enthusiasm for some new technology. Often he or she had done lots of “research” and were ready to buy! In many cases, it was my job to be between this boundless optimism and the hardened pessimism of an IT professional who saw it as a train wreck.
So what does this have to do with Enterprise 2.0? The answer is in the “Cynicism Checklist.”
The Cynicism Checklist was my way of testing for the real business value. An IT person can have a good day (can even get a promotion) by implementing a successful technology, so many IT folks are actually open to ideas that pass the test. Right now, a lot of business stakeholders are exploring Enterprise 2.0. If I were having the conversation using the Cynicism Checklist, I would expect the conversation to go something like this.
Me: What’s the problem you’re trying to solve?
Stakeholder: E-mail is just not working for us. We’re buried in e-mail. We need different ways to communicate and collaborate.
Me: How does this Enterprise 2.0 stuff solve that?
Stakeholder: Well, it gets the stuff out of e-mail that shouldn’t be there – collaboration happens in collaboration tools and information, and notifications get nicely organized and distributed in RSS.
Me: Why will this be successful? Why will people use this instead of doing things the same way?
Stakeholder: Well, the thing is, half the members of my staff are already using these tools. The latest college hires came in knowing them and shared them with others. But they are using tools that are running outside the company, and those tools don’t do some things, and I don’t think IT would like it. But the ease of use and success of these tools are just too compelling to ignore.
If the business value was clear and believable after these three questions, the cynicism from the rest of IT was greatly reduced. The cool thing that I’ve been seeing over the last year is that, at many companies, the project to implement Web 2.0 technologies inside the company is being driven by IT. These innovation teams see the same thing as my business stakeholder above – the ease of use and benefit of these technologies is bringing a lot of business value (and a chance for positive recognition).
A little cynicism is good. I’ve seen plenty of technology ideas that couldn’t make it past my Cynicism Checklist. Enterprise 2.0 passes the checklist. It’s taking a lot of different forms at the many companies that we work with, but it always includes an Enterprise RSS component. And it is generating a lot of well-deserved optimism!
Vice President of Project Management