Thursday, March 26, 2009

Emergent vs Deliberate, Push vs Pull

The Web 2.0 "Emergent vs Deliberate" struggle for control is not new, the discussions are at least a couple of years old. However, it is still very applicable inside the enterprise due to the lack of Web 2.0 features in business applications. Add to this that Information Architects - strongly supported by document and records management experts, prefer controlled vocabularies over social freeform tagging for knowledge management. Imagine enforcing a centrally controlled taxonomy, instead of just suggesting tags to users based on the wisdom of crowds. The suggested tags are emergent, their quality driven by all users that have tagged the resources.

The "Push vs Pull Systems" by John Hagel is a broader model that describes the transition from centrally decided and pushed tools and applications into a decentralized pull-based model where users themselves find and combine software to solve the business problem at hand. Companies will want to try to harvest the benefits of the freeform, emergent social collaboration tools, while being able to govern these tools and processes. The problem is that most business applications today are not designed to combine "deliberate" with the "pull model". As stated by Dion Hinchcliffe:

"The challenge will be learning how to apply these new models effectively to business while not strangling them with the traditional aspects of enterprise software that can greatly limit their potential and have led to poor outcomes and excessive structure in the past."

Typically, a central business development unit supported by a well-known management consulting company will decide on SharePoint for collaboration and management of knowledge and then use the push-model to drive the adoption across the company. I've seen this strategy in practice lately, and I can tell you that it takes a lot of effort to deliver something close to a "consumer web" experience. This combination of SharePoint, deliberate and push-model to enable Enterprise 2.0 poses several challenges as described in "Sharepoint and Enterprise 2.0: The good, the bad, and the ugly". Compare this approach with Excel, the most successful long-tail application ever inside enterprises, that empowers business users to create self-service situational software solutions.

You need to relax the idea of central command-and-control taxonomy and governance if you’re to leverage emergence in the information and people ecosystem of your company, partners and customers. What's more important? To enble users to solve business problems or to enable them to store gold-standard records of those problems?

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