The Sea Change and Enterprise 1.5

July 26, 2011
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“Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.”

Thomas Carlyle

The Sea Change is an oft-used metaphor connoting transformation. Its origin stems from phrase in the song “Full fathom five” in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. In this post, I take a look at the sea change taking place in many organizations.

“Man is a tool-using animal. Without tools he is nothing, with tools he is all.”

Thomas Carlyle

The Sea Change is an oft-used metaphor connoting transformation. Its origin stems from phrase in the song “Full fathom five” in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. In this post, I take a look at the sea change taking place in many organizations.

During the age of Enterprise 1.0, many organizations began:

  • provisioning hardware
  • granting email, Internet, and VPN access
  • handling security and administrative issues
  • assisting with the deployments of ERP and CRM applications
  • implementing dashboards or some type of business intelligence tool
  • embracing the basic tenants of governance
  • dealing with more stringent regulatory requirements, such as those stemming from Sarbanes-Oxley

Over the last three to five years, many organizations have made significant strides in modernizing their applications and IT departments. This sea change has involved:

  • provisioning mobile devices
  • building apps or connecting to different application programming interfaces (APIs)
  • working with different lines of business (LOBs) to deploy collaborative tools
  • handling vastly increased amounts of both structured and unstructured data
  • moving legacy apps to the cloud

In other words, they seem to have moved beyond Enterprise 1.0. At the same time, though, they have fallen short of Enterprise 2.0. Many organizations are works in progress, no doubt hurt by The Great Recession and attendant budget cuts.

Where are we now?

While we are not out of the woods yet, IT budgets have reversed their downward trend. However, let’s not overstate the importance of being able to hire a few people or upgrade antiquated servers. Organizations cannot embrace this brave new world that easily. In fact, many continue to struggle getting their arms around clouds, social business, and mobility–something pointed out by observers at the 2011 Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston, MA.

The average organization is somewhere between Enterprise 1.0 and Enterprise 2.0. Call it Enterprise 1.5. And that’s alright.

Simon Says: Getting to Where We Need to Be

Foolish is the organization whose leaders get stuck on monikers such as Enterprise 2.0. Does terminology really matter to the store manager in a large retail organization trying to make better decisions? How much productivity and revenue is lost when organizations force employees to do things manually when a mobile app would automate a key process?

Focusing on priorities, objectives, and bottom-line results should be the goal of every employee, department, division, and organization. It’s all fine and dandy to deploy social and cloud-based applications equipped with the latest bells and whistles. Maybe a software vendor will publish a flattering case study about your company’s proactive and visionary management. You might even speak at a conference in front of a bunch of people. But does any of this ultimately matter to your employees, colleagues, and shareholders?

The quote at the beginning of the post is apropos: We need tools to survive and do the work. Don’t lose sight of the fact, however, that the tools are a means to an end, not the end in and of themselves.

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