On Wednesday at the OReillly's Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, I joined Ross Mayfield, Joe Schueller and Michael Lenz at a panel titled Web 2.0 for the Enterprise: What Corporations Really Want and Use.
It was an interesting discussion, reported on by InfoWorld and InternetNews, and the questions indicated how much companies are hungry for practical guidance on adopting these modern tools within workplaces that might be, well, resistant.
When we were discussing the propensity of people to purchase wiki software with their credit card to begin collaborating without corporate approval, it was widely hailed as positive. The question is, how do you strike a balance? Ross, of course, didn't mind the credit card purchases. Michael, on the other hand, said he wanted to encourage people to use new tools, but instead of charge their credit card, it would be better to put it towards a common pool so IT could fund the right solutions to the problem.
That seems to put us back where we started, doesn't it?
When we were discussing Ensemble with an IT executive recently, he was intrigued, saying that he loved it at the same time they hated it. He desperately needed to wrap his arms around all of the rogue web applications in his enterprise without changing the way his people worked, and he was thrilled that it could do just that. After all, the minute you try to control people, they will find another way using consumer tools. But he worried about the air of legitimacy Ensemble would give these tools. In other words, while he was very pro-wiki, there were other rogue efforts he was trying to constrain, and having Ensemble made it harder to argue against them. After all, they were safe now, weren't they?
I say let your employees do what makes them productive, just give yourself the tools to govern and manage it. In other words, don't prevent people from misbehaving, but make sure that they are accountable when they do misbehave. Because in general, people surprise us in positive ways, especially when we do what we can to make their jobs more fun, or at least... less frustrating.