A Tool, A Tool, My Enterprise for a Tool


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This week I’m at the CITE (Consumerization of IT in the Enterprise) conference in San Francisco where I’ve been able to have some interesting conversations with collaboration and IT leaders at various organizations around the world. I always learn something new from these events and it’s always great to see friends such as Kevin Jones again and people like Dan Ponterfract whom I’ve been speaking with for quite some time but have never met in person.

After having several conversations at CITE I walked away with what I was hoping to be an extinct mindset. But alas I was somberly proven wrong. That mindset is one of the tool-centric approach to collaboration in the workplace. I naively thought that we were starting to move past this type of thinking but we’re not there yet. I had several conversations with mid and senior level managers at organizations who are tasked with making emergent collaboration successful at their organizations yet in many of these discussions I find that these managers are to act as Roman gladiators. They are thrown into an arena with a tool and are told to “make it work” while many spectate without providing support. It’s a losing battle.

Now there are certainly some companies out there who really truly believe in making collaboration work such as TELUS, Unisys, Motley Fool, EA, and several others, but these companies are in the minority. I suppose this makes sense since most companies associate ERP with technology, CRM with technology, ECM with technology and pretty much every other type of enterprise software deployment as being about technology. But I can tell you that assuming enterprise collaboration is all about technology is wrong…dead wrong.

Sometimes I wonder if leaders at companies really care about collaboration, do they? I’m not always so sure. If they did then perhaps we would see more “serious” deployments that focus on changing behaviors, values, strategies, thinking, and design around how our workplaces our created, but we don’t, why? Is it an education problem? Maybe. Are leaders scared or waiting to see the value proven for these efforts? Perhaps.

One thing I know is that if you’re going to half-ass something then you’re better off not doing it at all. That means that if you’re hoping you can hire an employee to oversee collaboration, throw a tool at them and assume things are going to work, then you’re better off not going down that road at all. The true collaborative organizations are re-engineering the very core of their companies and look at tools as simply enablers to facilitate this change.

I’m passionate about changing the world by building collaborative organizations and it’s upsetting and saddening to hear stories of how companies focus on a piece of software while ignoring all of the human and real-world changes that need to happen in their organizations before that software can provide any value.

Companies are built by people are made of people and are run people; which means you should focus on your…tools? Now that doesn’t make much sense does it?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jacob Morgan
I'm a best-selling author, keynote speaker, and futurist who explores what the future of work is going to look like and how to create great experiences so that employees actually want to show up to work. I've written three best-selling books which are: The Employee Experience Advantage (2017), The Future of Work (2014), and The Collaborative Organization (2012).


  1. Jacob, I’m surprised that you’re surprised. You write a lot about “emergent collaboration” AKA Enterprise 2.0 which is technology-enabled collaboration. Take away the Web 2.0 / social technology, and there’s no new news, because collaboration is not a new idea.

    You’re describing a repeat of CRM history, which is technology-enabled “relationship management” — but relationship actually means “revenue” for most companies. Take away the technology, not a new idea either, because “relationship marketing” was a concept developed in academia in the 1980s.

    With CRM, the most successful companies attended to non-technology issues (strategy, people, process, metrics) which accounted for 80% of their success. But followers just focused on the technology and wondered why their success was limited at best.

    In the case of Enterprise 2.0, it’s not surprising at all to find a similar pattern. But if you look at all the commentary and conferences, technology is in the spotlight, so why would you expect companies to focus on something else, like people?

    There is some good news, however. For the rare 5-10% of companies that look at collaboration more holistically, they can get a competitive edge vs. others that take a tech shortcut.


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