Fabrizio Martire interviews Laurence Lock Lee on PMI & E 2.0

L'Enterprise 2.0 international forum, per me, quest'anno è iniziato qualche giorno prima.

Mi chiamo Fabrizio Martire (su linkedin http://it.linkedin.com/in/fabriziomartire) e da qualche anno mi interesso di Enterprise 2.0 e social media, sia per passione che per lavoro. Da sempre affronto questi temi focalizzandomi sulla PMI (SME) riportando a questa dimensione molti degli spunti e delle idee discusse per i grandi gruppi aziendali multinazionali. Raccolgo tutte le mie impressioni, i case history che mi hanno divertito di più e racconto i workshop ai quali partecipo sul mio blog: http://www.virtualeco.org.

Grazie al supporto ricevuto da Openknowledge sono entrato nel "blogger selected program" grazie al quale ho avuto la possibilità di intervistare in anteprima alcuni degli speaker che saranno presenti il 9 e 10 Giugno! Le mie prime domande, che intendono anch'esse approfondire il significato di E2.0 per le PMI(SME),  sono state rivolte a Laurence Lock Lee, che ringrazio molto per la rapidità e lo spessore delle risposte.

SME 2.0

In Europe 99% of businesses are SMEs and 81.1% in Italy (according to Istat (2007): 46.5% of enterprises are micro, 22.1% are small and 12.4% average). In regard to content creation and participation, the online community complies with the principle of 90-9-1. Focusing on these two data: how can a SME have the culture and the strength to produce enough content to keep alive the interest in a 2.0 system? Does innovation start from the bottom for SME, too? 

I think the global data would support that more and more people will be employed in SME's as large corporations actually reduce in numbers and rely more on SME's as supply partners. I have spend most of my career with large corporations, initially BHP Billiton who is the world's largest resources company and Computer Sciences Corporation, which is a top 10 global IT services company, but I am now running my own SME. Large corporations have their own internal ecosystems that include "internal SMEs". I recall the results of a global SNA study I did in BHP Billiton in the 1990s which exposed this ecosystem within their global engineering workforce. Some of the more remote mining sites were indeed acting like SME's, appreciating their limited resources and therefore actively reaching out and trying to engage in knowledge sharing with the organisation at large. The larger units, in contrast, tended to be inward looking, expecting that the answers to their problems could always be found internally.
In terms of the "principle of 90-9-1" as posted to the wikipatterns site I refer you to the study we did on that community in 2008 where we mapped the community evolution into social network maps using the electronic communications data from the site. The data supported the 90-9-1 principle but I think we need to explore why this is so? It was clear to me that the basic principles of community formation dictate that a level of trust building is generally needed prior to action. Therefore in the wikipatterns community the core drivers for its formation were all personally known to each other, and mostly working for Atlassian at the time. As we reach beyond the close personal relationships and 1st degree connections to 2nd and 3rd degree connections the drop off in trust and therefore influence can be quite dramatic, as evidenced by the 90-9-1 observation. So a corollary law to the 90-9-1 observation I would coin the "Networking law of diminishing influence". I was recently reminded of this effect as the organiser of an on-line innovation competition using the Spigit ideas management platform http://ausinnovation.spigit.com . In the first week of the launch I contacted my close associates to participate and was thrilled by the strong uptake. In the next week we then contacted hundreds of contacts expecting an explosion of activity, which really didn't eventuate. Again lots of viewers but much fewer idea contributors .... alas the 90-9-1 and the networking law of diminishing influence!
The other strong finding from the wikimining and mapping study was from the survey we ran on the participants in conjunction with the mapping activity. What we found was that those participants that took the trouble to participate and engage with people that they previously didn't know, in fact rated these connections as the most valuable to them. This is encouraging news and by promoting this we can at least get to say 90-20-7 :)
To the second part of your question, my research has shown that there is a difference between how SMEs and large organisations might thrive in the networked world. In my talk at last years E2.0 Forum I spoke about the fact that being connected externally was much more important for SMEs who do not have the "brand" advantage of the larger organisations. In fact their use of E2.0 technologies should be focussed externally with less attention to its internal use, in contrast to the current practices for larger organisations. SME's do need to engage with "bigger brands" to achieve some level of "reflected reputation" to help build their own brands. The other warning from the talk for SME's is that good people and financial responsibility are the other elements of corporate social capital that are critical. I believe the trend for large organisations to increasingly look to SME's as their source of innovation is clear. SME's need to position their business strategies to provide unique innovations to the larger corporations. They need to do this through the intellect and passion of their key staff. Promote their people, ideas  and their capabilities actively across the net to their target markets. But at the same time they must not overstretch their finances in achieving this. For large organisations, the biggest risk in engaging with SME's is the fear that they may not be around for the long term. 

Will the difficulty for SMEs (see The Impact of Web 2.0 Informal learning Portuguese SMEs for example) in implementing Enterprise 2.0 solutions create a divide between the countries at the macroeconomic level? Will different speeds in communication and information sharing cause different speeds in business too?

Referring to my earlier comment, we need to think differently about Enterprise 2.0 use by SMEs as opposed to larger organisations. SMEs by definition are likely to be co-located and therefore likely to be better internally connected anyway. The power or Enterprise 2.0 for SMEs is by focussing it externally. While bandwidths around the world will differ to some extent we only have to compare an organisations' focus on intranets and extranets to see the potential effects. Large organisations tend to focus on their intranets more so than their extranets and therefore need to invest in internal infrastructure. The opposite should be true for SME's. The Internet is a true leveller in this regard. Its cheap to access and bandwidth has mostly an inconvenience factor if its poor, but not a complete loss of access. I notice on our web site some of the most active viewers and downloaders can come from the more impoverished countries.

What basic skills are required to young people, in order to succeed in the 2.0 sector (KM managers, social media marketers, wikigardener, community manager, etc...)? Higher education and a good cultural level  are necessary and sufficient?

I think one of the advantages that young people have today in the networked economy is they tend not to be as daunted by traditional hierarchies as we more mature workers had been. They appear not to be too frightened to tell the "big boss" what they think the problems may be and of course the technology of E2.0 actually can facilitate this. In my book on "IT Governance in the Networked World" I devote a chapter to "Personal Network Competencies". The main message from the chapter is that despite all the technology we have now to enable social connections we are still dealing with people and their behaviours. There is a lot of educational support for understanding people and behaviours, but nothing beats experiencing it through the "school of hard knocks". So study and practice will both be required. The roles that you mention are  21st century roles, with little prior experience to go on. For young people just starting out in the work force, this is a wonderful opportunity to become a leader in the field well in advance of the time it takes to achieve a similar standing in the more traditional fields like engineering, medicine, law etc..

The social business has "destroyed the illusion" that Enterprise 2.0 and social media marketing can be separated. Can a draft of Enterprise 2.0 implementation launched today on various business branches survive without one of these two components? Is it time to stop and rethink?

I personally have difficulty separating Enterprise 2.0 and the use of social media (though you do mention social media marketing, which I see as just one application of social media). Its a little like implementing an ERP system without a data base. It can't be done, they go together. I guess if we view Enterprise 2.0 as a "strategy" and social media tools as implementation tools, its possible to implement anything without a strategy, but we know that unfocussed technology implementations usually contribute little in the long run.
In the future of social business, will large business have to work to spread culture to their network of distributors and suppliers, so the entire chain will be able to move dynamically, responding to the needs of demand? Otherwise, are we going to create private social networks and closed systems of knowledge? Will every worker have to manage multiple accounts in different business systems?
I think that for large business to operate a successful external network, they will need to be responsible for promulgating the culture of networking to their distributors and suppliers. But when I say this it needs to be the "right" culture. Much has been written about the difference between the way Toyota engages with its supplier community, in contrast to the US motor manufacturers. Toyota actively engages with its supplier community by sharing with them their famed Toyota Production Systems knowledge in the realisation that if their suppliers are efficient then the benefits will flow through to Toyota. In contrast the US manufacturers were more likely to adopt a "survival of the fittest" culture where suppliers are played off against each other to gain the lowest price, with little thought to engagement communities.
In terms of technology I can see that we are gradually moving toward public IT infrastructure (i.e. the cloud) and publicly hosted applications (SAAS). This won't be a quick process and I expect to see different flavours of "open networks" until organisations can effectively identify how to differentiate and compete in such an environment.  We will have to manage multiple accounts for a while yet, but those heavy users of social media will have noticed that some of the more forward thinking application providers are now piggy backing on facebook or linkedin sign-ins to minimise the need for multiple sign-ins.