Boston at five in the morning before I had to take off on Friday.
This past week, I was on a panel at Enterprise 2.0 in Boston with Bob Bickel of Ringside Networks and Jeff Whatcott of Acquia, the commercializer of Drupal. The topic was open source options for delivering an Enterprise 2.0 Experience. Both Bob and Jeff are excellent speakers and bring a wealth of experience behind new companies. I think that Kathleen Reidy at the 451 Group did a very good job of covering the panel, so I will move on to my impressions of the conference.
On the panel, we spent much more time talking about open source and less about Enterprise 2.0. However, this doesn't mean that there was a lot of clarity on the meaning of the term Enterprise 2.0 at the conference. Although Web 2.0 had no less than Tim O'Reilly and John Battelle to define what that term means (barely), Enterprise 2.0 has no such authority. Consensus says that it is just Web 2.0 for the enterprise. However, researching the concept a couple of years ago, E2.0 is about taking the social aspects of Web 2.0, collaboration, social networks, user contribution, wisdom of crowds and social tagging and voting and applying it to information, documents and content in the enterprise. There are no fixed patterns for how to do this, although popular Web 2.0 sites, such as Facebook, Google Maps, Digg, YouTube and Wikipedia, provide at least paradigms for how these can be accomplished in the enterprise. It is very difficult to describe Enterprise 2.0 without drawing analogies to these web properties.
On Wikipedia, the topic "Enterprise 2.0" redirects to Enterprise Social Software. In August 2007, a "Ruud Koot" permanently redirected it from Enterprise 2.0. The last direct version of an Enterprise 2.0 article in Wikipedia extolls an Alan Wurms as the person who apparently coined the term in 2001. That is the power of Wikipedia, it can get rid of the rubbish. Most people's problem with the term is that it does not describe what it does and it sounds like it is just riding on the tailcoat of the Web 2.0 phenomenon. Is this really a new version of the Enterprise? I sat in a session with Carl Frappaolo where he equated Enterprise 2.0 with the evolution of Knowledge Management, but made the point that enterprises have not fundamentally changed as a result.
Some people believe that Enterprise 2.0, like Web 2.0, must be delivered as a whole hosted platform on the internet in order to be Enterprise 2.0. For some people this is absolutely true, but a majority still look to keep this information under enterprise control for bandwidth and security reasons. The majority of vendors in the exhibit area provided Software as a Service solutions. Most likely they used open source in creating those solutions.
I apparently missed the highlight of the show, which actually occurred on Monday before the opening. This was a shoot out between Microsoft SharePoint and IBM's counter to SharePoint, Connections. As an IBM product manager at the IBM booth said, "We don't fuck up demos." Everyone seemed to agree with him. Poor Lawrence Liu of Microsoft was not so lucky. The Microsoft demo did not have the business process coherence in which IBM is very well versed. There was a lot of hand-waving about how various Enterprise 2.0 features were supplied by partners. The performance issues that Lawrence faced may very well be related to the terrible internet connectivity provided by the Westin Hotel. Imagine an Enterprise 2.0 conference where no one is connected. Both companies are talking more about Social Software, Social Computing and Social Networking more than Enterprise 2.0, so my feeling is that this emerging market will be named more along those lines rather than E2.0.
Peter Fields of Wachovia
There were three customer presentations on their usage of Enterprise 2.0 and these present probably the best understanding of what these collections of technologies are, what they are trying to accomplish and what market is forming as a result. Despite the fact that he was using Microsoft SharePoint, I really liked the presentation from Peter Fields of Wachovia. Peter seems to think about the business problems and technology solutions the way I do. (Or probably the other way around.) He described the need to empower employees as a way of tapping into the intuitive sense of employees and he is the only other person I have ever seen that has uses Myers-Briggs to describe this paradigm shift. In a session just before, I got shot down in flames for daring to suggest that the change in enterprise software is the result of shifting demographics and a new, incoming generation of worker - the Millennials. Here Peter was backing it up with data that suggests that in less that five years, this generation will move from 25% of the working population of the US to 41% of the working population. He discussed an imperative that I had not really considered as well, which is that the baby boomers are retiring and this will represent the single largest loss of implicit knowledge in industrial society. Enterprises MUST facilitate capturing what the baby boomers know now and lower the barriers dramatically toward capturing that information.
Simon Revell from Pfizer
Peter is roughly my age, but Simon Revell from Pfizer, who looks a lot younger, presented a view of what the new generation wants - seemingly both Generation X and Generation Y. Pfizer has created a couple of sets of slides describing life in a networked world. Pfizer does use the 2.0 word and even describes a "Doctor 2.0" as a female researcher who also seems to spend a lot of time on Facebook. But rather than trivializing what that means, Simon presented a set of tools that Pfizer is using (open source by the way) that allow researchers to collaborate. Pfizerpedia is a mediawiki implementation modeled on Wikipedia and used as a single instance. Its primary purpose is to capture best practice in an informal way, which Pfizer codifies and controls after the process is discovered or developed. The result is actually a knowledge base of information that can be used for many other purposes. My sense has been that wikis that are single, highly interconnected instances rather than many team or project wikis. Bob talks about one wiki, Peter is hoping for 10,000 wikis. My take is that we need two words for what is now described as a wiki.
I wish I could have seen more the conference, although many of the break out sessions didn't add a lot. The subject of wikis and blogs have been covered better at Web 2.0 conferences. Some of the sessions on community didn't really say anything at all. Neither did a session by Mark Woollen from Oracle CRM. Mark is a good speaker and there was some good content at the end. Too bad that the beginning didn't say much except that social networking will probably be important in the future.
The direction that Oracle's Mark Woollen's presentation took
Enterprise 2.0 is not just about wikis, blogs and forums. These do not make communities. A whole bunch of the vendors in exhibit area are likely to be gone in a couple of years if not sooner. Open source, although played down in this conference, will likely be one, if not the, major driver of this new market. Companies are actually using this and it is those that hope to attract and retain not just a younger generation of employee, but also customer. The smart ones are also recognizing that they need this stuff to make sure that critical knowledge is not retired when their baby boomer employees have.