As he points out, internal and external are often disconnected. Clearly, different tools are appropriate for different kinds of collaboration. As Phil acknowledges, "external collaboration ... has usually taken the form of activities such as blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, Flickring, YouTubing, etc. with customers and communities outside the firewall".
In advocating unification, Phil appeals to the following two facts.
- Both internal and external collaboration are based on relationships.
- Each kind of collaboration should contribute to the organization’s collective goals.
Phil describes a scenario where he thinks there is a plausible case for some kind of collaboration spanning internal and external.
- A business unit that is gearing up for a new product development cycle.
- A list of possible product enhancements is maintained in an internal E 2.0 tool.
- The organization uses the E 2.0 tool "to seamlessly expose the top 50 internal product ideas to customers and receive feedback and reactions".
- The product management team analyses the customer feedback and initiates further investigation into features identified as high customer priority, including internal search for relevant R&D as well as focused research on competitor products.
- Following this investigation, they set the product strategy and start building a marketing campaign.
Frankly, I don't think this is a very good example. It looks to me like a highly conventional product development process, with a narrowly constrained chunk of customer consultation in the middle. I'm guessing that the customers are not given seamless access to all the internal product ideas and issues, merely to a top 50 list which is a separate knowledge artefact, possibly constructed solely for this purpose. In which case, the word "seamlessly" here merely refers to the fact that the top 50 list and the full list happen to reside in the same software tool. (A tool, by the way, which looks suspiciously like the one Phil's company sells.) A paper questionnaire might have been more trouble to administer, but it might have been just as effective in terms of customer feedback and customer relationships.
In order to create a more convincing example, one should start not from the desire to sell a particular software tool, but from the business desire to collaborate more intelligently and intensively with the customers all through the product development cycle. The product management process would probably need to be radically changed, and we might not even need a separate marketing campaign. We probably need to think about organizational unification (radically new kinds of collaboration) long before we bother with platform unification (Phil's Social Knowledge Network).
Places are still available for my Organizational Intelligence Workshop on December 8th.