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Is Free the Easiest Way to Change Corporate Culture? Or, Low Barriers to Entry Redux

I often comment on how tedious it is for folks like me with shiny object syndrome to introduce new technologies into the enterprise. Indeed, many of the posts in my other blog over the years were about the challenges and “failures” of getting blogs, wikis, and search setup behind-the-firewall.

Change by Committee

In my own experience and talking with others, even though introducing “Web 2.0” technologies was always tedious they eventually took hold or, at least, managed to hold on as they were slowly adopted. These technologies were always free — often open source — and rarely decided on officially by the company.

In contrast, the stories I’ve heard about companies officially going through the motions of choosing a collaborative technology have been costly and long to deliver.

Low Risk Change

Now, these “technologies” are simple, user-centric applications like blogs, wikis, and search rather than Morlock stacks like ESBs, SOA stacks, and other nut-n-bolts complexities. A little before-hand architecture is called for when selecting what nuts-n-bolts you’re going to use. Or, at least, it’s good to try out several and then evaluate the bake-off winner.

The key is that most collaborative and social software is low risk as far as wasting employee effort, cost, and damage to the business. Any application introduction will cause distraction, making command-and-control Scrooges think employees are stealing time; those folks probably need to shut off the ‘net.

Free Change

Back to the point though. This all begs the (rhetorical?) question: is free the easiest way to change corporate culture? If you have to pay for change, then you start thinking and evaluating change which has the potential to slow down that change.

For vendors, this means using free offerings for long term corporate change. As I’ve bemoaned in the past, vendor’s outbound product management often like to say they do only what the customer wants. That’s half of what product management should do when coming up with features and requirements: the rest of the time they should be coming up with new things customers will want once they see it.

Invention is the child and parent of desire.

And, as it goes, free is a great price for trying out change.

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Categories: Enterprise Software, Ideas, Marketing, Social Software.

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2 Responses

  1. This is assuming you can get over the you-get-what-you-pay-for mentality. After all, even though business degrees teach you a lot about the benefits of trade and the positive-sum game of differential productive capacity, most people still apply the naive, mercantilist approach when they estimate on “productivity enhancement” tech.

  2. Indeed, everyone knows that the more you spend the better it is, right?