While at TIS, I was running a project related to Enterprise 2.0. As part of the process, we wrote a questionnaire to understand the paths through which information flows internally between teams and groups. At first, we asked all the employees things such as "if a customer asks you who's' responsible, at your company, for a particular project or technology, how do you find out?" or "if you need a particular know-how internally, how do you search for it?". What we found out from these and other similar questions, is that when employees need to find a solution to this kind of problems, they mostly go to their boss. This upward delegation works on the assumption that the boss knows everything and this knowledge, if possible, would be acquired during meetings with the leaders of the other teams. This upward delegation makes the boss a bottleneck and the teams silos of information. We tried to look for a scenario that would describe easily what was going on and what was causing this situation. Here it goes.
When you're a startup, in the early days, you're all in the same room. Information spreads quickly and easily inside that room. When things go in the right way you grow, the team is split in two. Now the members of the teams have meetings with their leaders where they report the advances of their projects, the development of their know-how etc. The team leaders later meet and exchange this information. The team leaders can now report information about team A to team B and vice versa. This mechanism solves for the physical constraints of logistics, for the fact that teams are in different rooms, basically. Sure, people still meet in the corridors or at the coffee machines, but as the company grows this gets more and more difficult and soon you don't know what the members of the other teams are doing (and the bosses can't help there). So you do more meetings, with the hope that more information can be exchanged, but we all know how people react to frequent and lengthy meetings. They are expensive: often they turn into a set of direct conversations between each member and the team leader. Which means that the people waiting for their turn just idle while they could be doing something productive. Also, most probably they just don't listen to these direct conversations, maybe regretting it later (but can they be blamed?), when they'll be working on a different project that might depend on one of those conversations. To sum up, the content of meetings is unsearchable and not persistent, which makes it extremely costly.
Now, this is a simple example, but just imagine what this means if you take a big company and replicate this phenomena for many levels from the employees at the bottom of the pyramid to their boss, the boss of their boss all the way up to the president. Enterprise 2.0 advocates for an horizontal organization, at least for information management, where employees are provided with a platform, something similar to the well known Web 2.0 tools (HA! guess where the 2.0 in Enterprise 2.0 comes from…) where they can post information about their projects, about what they do and like, they can answer and pose questions etc, upload documents, share links etc. All this information would be easily searchable and what not, you can imagine easily what you could do, just take your favorite social network and imagine it being a tool used inside of your company with a specific purpose. Of course it's not all roses and chocolates, so I'll get back to our previous questionnaire example. In the second part we asked questions such as "when you want to buy a new digital camera, would you ask for advices on Facebook?", "would you use a wiki or google docs to help organizing your holidays with friends living elsewhere?".
I guess you know where I'm going: what emerged is that they successfully acquire information, for which they don't have the right know-how, from their peers not to mention they are already efficiently using search engines to locate information on the web. So, if they already happily use these tools in their free time, why shouldn't these tools and paradigms being used inside of the organizations to improve information flows and management? These are the basic principles of Enterprise 2.0, as means of breaking those physical walls dividing the rooms, bringing the information flow back to the startup condition. More clearly, it's a way of breaking the bottlenecks, the silos effects due to upward delegation and dependency.