The ROI for Enterprise 2.0: Part Two: User contributions to Enterprise 2.0 – Doing a Robert Scoble


This set of articles comprise of four parts

Enterprise 2.0 ROI: Collaborative research and mobility Part One

The ROI for Enterprise 2.0: Part Two: User contributions to Enterprise 2.0 – Doing a Robert Scoble

ROI for enterprise 2.0: Part Three : Collaborative research in new product design

Part Four: Mobility and ROI within the Enterprise

In part One of this article, we introduced the basic ideas behind Web 2.0 within the Enterprise.

In this section, we cover how to get user contributions to the Enterprise 2.0 initiative

Lets me start with a personal story ..

I have long blogged about my personal philosophy (libertarian) but also about things I like (for instance cartoons – Tintin /Asterix, music of ZZ Top and Pink Floyd ).

When I recently spoke at an event in America, I had a conversation with a senior exec (originally from Europe but now based in America). The conversation started with Tintin .. (He was also a fan ..) and went off in great details about specifics and included such obscure Tintin jokes like in The Castafiore Emerald - when some movers knock on Captain Haddock’s door and ask if it was ‘Halibut’s house’.

There is often such subtle humour in many Tintins .. something you often did not get when you first read it as a child ..

But fishy humour aside .. there is a point here ..

Clearly he respected the content of my talk(and blog) else he would not have sought me out in the first place .. but he related to me more as a person ..

All things being equal, people will relate to people rather than technology and organizations ..

At a corporate/ Web 2.0 level, the earliest exponent of this was philosophy was Robert Scoble who came to prominence during his tenure as a technical evangelist (and blogger) at Microsoft.

Robert Scoble is a smart, clued on blogger(and also a good friend ).

Apart from the sheer volume of information he tracks and blogs about(622 RSS feeds! ) , the significance of Robert Scoble lies in his inherent humanity.

And that’s what Microsoft inadvertedly stumbled upon.

It’s only in hindsight that we can see the significance of the corporate blogger with a human face ..

It’s been a while since Scoble left Microsoft, but how many other companies are encouraging individual bloggers within their company? Sadly very few!

The rest are all busy implementing tools(wikis), telling their PR departments to hassle bloggers and so on ..

True, that in some enlightened organizations, there is buy in from the top management to embrace the new world of blogging and Web 2.0.

Specifically, three people I can think of (and I follow) are : Irving Wladawsky-Berger

of IBM, Jonathan Schwartz of Sun Microsystems and Padmasree Warrior CTO of Motorola.

Sadly these are exceptions rather than the rule .. as Jonathan Schwartz laments when he says that – he wishes people would stop pursuing CEOs who blog

But regardless of the top management ethos, you cannot compel people to contribute.

Further, contribution within the enterprise is not new at all .. Historically, there have been many such initiatives called by different names – Lotus notes databases, Intranets and that dreaded term ‘Knowledge management ‘ among others ..

As I discussed in the last article, tools led initiatives are mostly cost centres and not profit centres because it is very difficult to relate them to a specific product set and ROI (in other words, a sales effort) .. and many tools-led initiatives of Enterprise 2.0 and Office 2.0 may well suffer the same fate ..

The rise of the corporate individual

To recap, our question here is:

What would make people engage and contribute to a corporate entity?

Jonathan Schwartz says: Authenticity is core to leadership, and the currency of our industry – and that just about sums up the philosophy I am advocating here. However, I am advocating that this be extended to many more individuals within the company

Let’s cover some basics here:

a) Buy in from top management is not enough (although it helps a great deal).

b) You cannot compel people to contribute.

c) The existing enterprise/organization culture is resistant to change

d) The most lasting change can be fostered through a grassroots level initiative focused on specific individuals

e) Organizations must been seen to contribute themselves before they can expect external feedback

This much is fairly well covered – and most people will agree to these ideas.

However, the key principle is: people outside an organization will relate to individuals and not to an amorphous corporations

And therein lies the significance of Robert Scoble’s popularity …

This then requires the rise of a corporate individual – a person with an honest, truthful, authoritative and insightful viewpoint of the corporation – who can communicate his/her views externally and honestly.

Individuals (both inside and especially outside a company) will relate to the corporate individual – rather than to an amorphous, corporate entity (assuming of course that this person is honest, truthful, authoritative and insightful)

Some of the best organizations have individuals who are bloggers. Google takes this forward considerably when you see individual Google bloggers on the official Google blog . See ‘blogs by Googlers’ section – for example : Ego food with the strapline: Healthy, organic food for my ego, so it can grow up big and strong.

Nokia has the excellent Jan Chipchase .. – an awesome effort to really understand people at a grassroots level especially in the key emerging markets. And then there is Arve Bersvendsen of Opera software who also has a loyal fan following among techies ..

The corporate fan base

Speaking of fan followings, there are many conversations going on about an organization, there is no reason why an organization should not have a fan base!

Indeed, I would be very well be a part of a fan base of the preceding three organizations (Opera, Nokia and Google)

Who should drive this initiative? (Wrong terminology but you get the question) ..

I think an initiative like this should be grassroots initiative and will effect all parts of the organization. Indeed a ‘fellowship’ – to borrow a phrase from the Lord of the rings i.e. a loose alliance of various people within the company dedicated to an overall goal – is the best approach. And then these ideas can percolate within (and more importantly beyond the organization).

But the critical thing to note is – it is all driven by specific individuals.

Sadly, most external consultants take a ‘tools based’ approach – rather than a people based approach but I agree that some structure is needed to coordinate, manage and motivate people – and this is certainly not the job of the PR department!

So, to conclude this part; in a nutshell, people will relate to people and not an amorphous corporation.

Once they do so, and the organization is authentic(not perfect – but honest and authentic); then people will contribute at an individual level – and will be a part of the fan base of the company.

In a nutshell .. Do a Robert Scoble! Encourage the individual!

In the next section, we will discuss the ideas of collaborative research and development and new product design.

Image source: Tintin and snowy ..


  1. cass nevada says:

    Have you visited Southwest Airlines blog ( When you wonder about corporations having a fan base, that’s the company blog that came to my mind–they literally have a fan base.