Posts Tagged ‘Andrew McAfee’

The Death of Salesmen with “Power to the people”

June 26, 2008

How we buy things and how they are sold is continuing to change. Remember before we had Amazon, Ebay and forums to review and rate stuff. We used to talk to salespeople but now we are increasingly listening to each others opinions and buying on-line. We are now moving into a time where consumers (retail consumers and business users) can directly control the product design and features they want. This change has significant economic and organisational implications.

For many years on-line communities have been operating in the background. In 1998 Before Microsoft crushed Netscape in the ‘Brower Wars’ Netscape gave birth to the Opensource Mozilla project, which produced Firefox, now the most downloaded software in history. Against Microsoft Netscape’s browser marketshare went from 90% to 1% and today Firefox sits at 18%. Fundamentally consumers want choice and value products which they can have input into producing. Opensource is destined to grow much further with this user involvement.

Another example of this change is from the renowned innovation academic Eric von Hippel of MIT who believes the Threadless business model has “tapped into a fundamental economic shift, a movement away from passive consumerism” and he goes onto say “everything is moving in this direction”. In the Threadless model the customers design the products and serves as the sales force. Customers opinions tend to be trusted as they are real and honest.

The tables have turned with suppliers no longer gradually driving innovation but communities of consumer’s actively pushing innovation forward through participation. The idea of the ‘Wisdom of Crowd’s’ argues that groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them. This theory is supported by academics such as Andrew McAfee of Harvard. Web2.0 is a another example because it has lead to Enterprise 2.0 which in turn is putting a spotlight on current management practice limitations and should result in management innovation to a more open structure.

With 1,407,724,920 Internet users the rate of change is increasing, however many of our existing firms organisational sales and marketing structures are unable to keep up. Firms generally understand the need for product, process and management innovation, however organisational hierarchies are not like consumer communities they are slow and careful. And so new organisational structures are formed within fresh new companies, that if successful, grow to become dominate forces. This is classic entrepreneurial economic innovation, however a point which really struck a cord with me at the Boston conference from Don Burke of the CIA was ‘at no other time has the rate of technological change been so rapid within a life time.’

The latest evolutionary organisational form seems to be a firm with no sales force and a marketing department focused on community building and relations rather than advertising or branding as discussed by Umair Haque of Harvard. Most importantly this new structure moves innovation out of R&D and puts it in the hands of the employees closest to the customers.

“Power to the people” – Citizen ‘Wolfie’ Smith

Today’s innovation challenge for many firms seems to lie with too much power with too few people. Perhaps the answer is in trusting employees to make and take the decisions, who are not afraid of making mistakes along the way. Some old wise firms will make the jump into the new model, however many won’t and the faces of our leading companies will continue to change at an even faster rate than in the past.


The customer is still King in Enterprise 2.0 supplier convergence

June 3, 2008

Today the Boston Enterprise 2.0 conference organisers TechWeb issued a vendor press release announcing new product versions to be released at the conference. The event is a great time to maximise the PR opportunities of a new product within a target audience.

However, in all the excitement of supplier convergence at the conference, we can forget the most important party in the equation, the customer! What the Enterprise 2.0 vendors think of each other is really not that important, what matters is what potential customers think and believe. We should not forget that the customer is king.

The war like mantra of competitive products and suppliers can very easily distract our thoughts away from the real and evolving customer’s problems and needs. Fortunately, with the likes of Andrew McAfee, we have an objective view which keeps the big picture in focus. McAfee is firmly focused on the customer’s problems, needs and objections to Enterprise 2.0. McAfee’s excellent interview at the Tokyo Enterprise 2.0 demonstrates this and I highly recommend watching this 40 minute video:

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As my firm’s new product is not within the conference announcement I’m going to plug my company press release on this blog. Like McAfee my firm is also dedicated to understanding and responding to customer needs and problems. When researching the Enterprise 2.0 emerging trend, my co-founder Simon Oxley and I found information on this market fragmented and we have made our start-up mission to build a centralize Enterprise 2.0 informational site (

This site is primarily aimed at customers new to Enterprise 2.0 to highlight the benefits and value that Enterprise 2.0 can bring. It is also a place to find various Enterprise 2.0 resources and whats going on, thus our tag line ‘Everything Enterprise 2.0’. From a vendor point of view the site will be an opportunity to bring new customers into the market and grow the market.

Screen Shot of beta is currently in a closed beta and due for public release on the 8th of June 2008, however if you can’t wait until then drop me an e-mail ( or blog comment with your e-mail and I’ll give you an individual user name and password. The site has its own blog, so my personal reflections on Enterprise 2.0 will remain on this blog to keep the portal views separate.

Turning 2.0 potential into mainstream reality

April 15, 2008

Andrew McAfee of Harvard University provides an excellent example of effective blogging to a target audience. In 2006 McAfee coined the phase ‘Enterprise2.0’ when he published an article which ring fenced Web2.0 technologies adapted for business to bring real organisational value. Tools such as Wiki’s, Blogs, RSS, Tagging and Search enable users to Search, Link, Author, Tag, Extend, Signal collective information and knowledge. Since 2006 McAfee has taken the mantel of these new business tools and work methods to spread the word of a better way of work together in business.

Being an evangelist you would expect McAfee to be a good Blogging example, however I’m astounded by the sheer volume of hits on his site (6.5m) for such as niche area and the position the site has propelled him to. Ziff Davis Enterprise has ranked McAfee at 38th in their list of ‘the 100 Most Influential People in IT.‘ ,to which McAfee attributes his blog as the ‘main reason I made the list’.

Two years since McAfee’s report Enterprise 2.0 tools remain in the mainstream sidings only offering the potential to bring value and benefits to firms. The most important party in this equation, The Customer, sees the potential but many remain hesitant, unsure and in some cases unconvinced. Here are some thoughts on E2.0 from US CIO’s in February 2008 (CIO Magazine):

Industry consultants and market researchers have found objections to implementing E2.0 tools include: resistance organisational cultural change; the need for an integrated set of E2.0 tools; integration with existing applications and cost. Many E2.0 tools originated from technical innovators, for example Wiki’s (Wiki, Wiki means very quick in Hawaiian) was originally used by software developers for easier documentation and has evolved into business use overtime. These tools have now moved beyond innovators to visionary users who can see the potential business benefits. Reflecting on Geoffrey Moore’s book ‘Crossing the Chasm’ the point of change from the Early adopter (Visionary) to the Early Majority (mainstream), Moore describes the early majorities need for industry specific references, experiences from know relationships, a competitive market and low risk decisions to buy from a reliable provider with a quality, integrated and well supported product set.

Innovation does not stand still and these current E2.0 tools will evolve and change to meet customer needs and problems. As the big boys of the software industry such as IBM, Microsoft and Oracle start to sit up and take notice of the user interest these tools are generating they will start to introduce new offerings. The hyper activity on McAfee blog is perhaps evidence of the potential business users see from E2.0 tools, with suppliers following the potential demand, keen not to miss out on a new wave of innovation.

It remains to be seen which of these tools in their current form will go mainstream and what exactly they will evolve to become over time. One thing we can be sure of is that the underlying problems E2.0 products are helping to solve such as effective team working and information / Knowledge management will not go away. It is highly likely that current problems, such as our increasingly overflowing in-boxes, will continue to scale the priority list until the problems become totally unmanageable and solutions must be found.