And they’re off… Postcard from Enterprise 2.0 Boston

From the mood here at the Enterprise 2.0 conference, you’d never know we were in an economic recession and still lingering financial crisis.  Most folks I’ve met are upbeat and optimistic about the prospects for business in the sluggish economy.  Of course, the conference has not yet officially kicked off yet, but judging from the tenor of the well-attended workshops yesterday and the wall-to-wall social events that have dominated the experience here, I’d say this mood will probably continue all week.

There are some news items breaking this morning that I want to get out, although I don’t have time to go into a deep dive on them.  Some interesting news out of SAP and Jive includes and OEM agreement where Jive will integrate its business intelligence software into Jive’s “social business” platform offering community analytics to Jive’s customer base.  The new software will offer a means of capturing and understanding the behavoirs and content that flows through social communities in order to make intelligent decisions.  The rumor, of course, all week was that SAP was buying Jive, but that appears to be unfounded.  This new venture, however, marks a clear initiative by SAP to (finally) take social software seriously, and likewise, it provides a grownup capability for a social software platform like Jive to deliver some clear business benefit.  I’ll be taking a look at the new happy couple later in the day in the demo area.

Secondly, Socialtext has finally announced its long-promised SocialCalc which was developed by VisiCalc’s co-creator, Dan Bricklin.  Additionally, the company is offering free use of its social software platform for the first 50 users aptly called, “Socialtext Free 50.”  The move to a freemium model for Socialtext follows on the heels of Socialcast‘s similar free offering for its social software.  In my experience, once folks are exposed to working socially and encouraged to do so by their peers, social software grows virally.  The freemium model is probably a smart move to take the edge off early adopter user resistance.  I will be curious to see how this move impacts adoption for Socialtext and others experimenting with the model.

Finally, my alma mater, nGenera has made some announcements this week at the conference.  The company launched four “Collaborative Enterprise Management” solutions for Enterprise Collaboration, Collaborative Selling, Customer Experience, and Talent Management.  nGenera is hosting a small event tonight in the hotel (Hancock Room) at 5:30 and will feature well-known author and speaker Tammy Erickson.  If you’re curious about who nGenera is and how they fit into the Enterprise 2.0 landscape, I encourage you to attend the session or talk to the nGenera folks at the show.  The company is uniquely positioned in a high-end slice of the market.

Also, if you’re here at the conference, please consider attending the unconference/barcamp sessions I’ll be participating in on Wednesday afternoon with Ross Mayfield and Brian Magierski.  There has been a lot of talk recently about framing the market and establishing a universal view of the semantics that surround the space.  I have a slide I’d like to invite the community to perhaps validate and improve on that I will be presenting Wednesday afternoon.  Barcamps are fun and interactive.  The best part is if you’re bored or a session’s not interesting, you can get up and walk out at any time.

Ollie Ollie Oxen Free!* Boston is Home Base for e20 Evangelists this Month.

picture-4Well, it’s that time of year again. The Enterprise 2.0 Conference is once again gearing up for an interesting week in Boston. All e20-loving fans and friends will be coming from all parts unknown to proselytize, share war stories, and re-energize for the year ahead.

The keynotes are exceptional this year. I’m really pleased we were able attract Matthew Fraser, co-author of one of my favorite 2.0 business books this year, “Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking will Transform Your Life, Work, and World.” We also have favorites from last year include Evening in the Cloud, OpenEnterprise09, and one of the stars of last year’s event: the Lockheed-Martin case study duo.

I’m particularly interested in a few sessions. (In fact, I gave up all my speaking slots so I could attend other sessions!) One that I don’t want to miss is Lee Bryant’s “Transition Strategies for e20 Adoption.” Headshift is one of the really innovative boutique consultancies out there focusing nearly exclusively on introducing 2.0 to the enterprise. Another one I’m interested in is Amy Vicker’s “The Sharepoint Factor.” I helped Amy get this on the program, and I’m sure she won’t disappoint. If y’all don’t have a Sharepoint strategy, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening if you’re serious about large enterprise. I think Mr. tell-it-like-it-is, Peter Kim, is going to surprise with his “Does Social Media and Marketing Matter?” panel. That one will probably break Twitter. To be honest, there are so many great sessions this year, it’s difficult to narrow down my must-attend events. I asked Steve Wylie how the registration is going. Surprisingly, the conference is holding up very well against the economic downturn. Steve said the numbers of customers are consistent with last year’s attendance too.

Once again, I will be pitching in on Enterprise2Open. This is a barcamp-style event where everyone gets a chance to present or share their own experiences. Brian Magierski, my former colleague at nGenera will be there, along with Ross Mayfield of Socialtext. Both companies are sponsoring the barcamp and have serious street cred in discussing the challenges and opportunities with making 2.0 in-roads in large enterprises. Last year’s sessions were well-attended, and I think everyone got a lot out of the group discussions. If you have something you’d like to present, sign up at the Enterprise2Open wiki and promote your event.

I’m still waiting on details for the social calendar (parties, dinners, etc.). But, I saw the first tweetup today. About two dozen people have already signed up. You may want to sign up early for the social network associated with the conference at MyE2. This is also where you’ll access the back channel that was very useful last year.

*”Ollie Ollie Oxen Free!” is from the children’s game of hide and seek where the “it” player summons everyone back to base (essentially because they’ve given up, which is kinda how I feel this year…) 🙂

SXSW through the Enterprise Prism

There was something about SXSW that reminded me of trick-or-treating. It’s an amazing opportunity to travel around in groups (in various costumes) and collect delicious bite-sized morsels of innovation. But it reminded me of something my (once) 3-year old son said after he flopped into bed after his first Halloween night, “Let’s do that again tomorrow!”

SXSW is a once-a-year phenomenon, but a great harbinger of trends. Much of the conversation is about web-related design and measurement, politics, the social media revolution, and every-possible-thing-that-could-ever-be-possibly-said about Twitter. In the mix of fun and frolic, there were a couple gems that I picked out that would bring value to the enterprise.

Pepsicozeitgeist

One of the best, IMO, was Pepsi’s sponsorship of the PepsiCo Zeitgeist Twitter Visualizer. This eye-candy visualizer was created by Amy Hoy and Thomas Fuchs, two Ruby on Rails/Javascript knighted heros and the brains behind Freckle and Twistori. Pepsi turned to NY digital strategy stealth firm Undercurrent to link its brand to SXSW. Pepsi had a number of initiatives at the show, but the zeitgeist effort was really interesting to me on a number of levels. Before I discuss how enterprise could make practical use of such a visualizer, I want to highlight how courageous it was for Pepsi to get behind the zeitgeist project. I spoke briefly to Pepsi’s Josh Karpf, Manager Digital and Social Media and Bart Casabona, Sr. Manager, Communications/New Media about it. “It was a leap for us; it hadn’t been done before,” said Casabona. Jordan Berkowitz, Group Director at Undercurrent pointed out that when they designed the application, there was to be, “No filtering based on content.” The PepsiCoSXSW team was integrated into the social media scene and knew there might be objectionable content broadcasting at the event and online, but wanted to create an authentic, digital experience with the Pepsi brand. Even though we were in bluedot Austin, where weird rules, it occurred to me a corporate brand like Pepsi had a lot at risk attaching its logo to random tweets. What I loved about that, however, was the giant brand was willing to move outside of its comfort zone. And the brilliance of the zeitgeist project is Pepsi integrated its brand into the customer experience of SXSW in an authentic and subtle way. “We’re social media folks,” said Karpf. In other words, they get it. Even though the community acknowledged Pepsi was behind the visualization, Karpf pointed out they were saying, “This is a brand, but it’s still awesome.”

The complete visualization can be seen in a series of one-minute videos on the Pepsicozeitgeist YouTube page.

For enterprises, it’s easy to see how this live-pulse tracking visualization could be used during a large Enterprise event such as Oracle’s OpenWorld or SAP’s Sapphire and ASUG events (providing, of course, everyone was a faithful Twitter user). But even beyond live events, the visualization could be customized to monitor conversations among key customers and fed to field sales forces. The location-based data could provide some very interesting G2 for key accounts. HR and internal communications groups could use the visualizer to monitor employee sentiment, as well. The uses go on and on. Worthy of some exploration.

Apture

Another impressive tool was Apture. I ran into CEO Tristan Harris at one of the sessions. Harris himself impressed me because he pitched me while waiting in line from his iPhone. He had his demo-to-go all queued up (presumably, in case he ran into, say, a reporter). In the blogger’s lounge, I signed up. I had a little trouble signing onto the demo with Apture because I don’t manage my own blog server files, but it seemed easy enough to install once you got past that hurdle. Apture is a free blogging tool that lets you instantly find any type of media and link them in-place. It’s used by the Washington Post, BBC News, and since SXSW, The New York Times. I see an enormous potential for this product inside the enterprise… again, providing we can get the Enterprise onto collaborative 2.0 platforms.

Check out Apture’s Twitter demo.

iStockPhoto

I also really appreciated a discussion I had with Marketing Manager, Yvonne Beyer, at iStockphoto. picture-1Here’s a tip for iStockphoto fans: CopySpace (TM). Check it out under Advanced Search. It enables you to “grid” your search by the area where you need room for copy on an image. GREAT tool for those large image slides. Not sure everyone is using iStockphoto in the enterprise, but you should definitely add this to your DIY toolkit. Some quick stats on iStockphoto include the company adds 40,000 new images and other media products a week that are vetted by 100 inspectors around the world. It has paid over $1.1M in royalties to artists, and many members of their community are making more than six figures with iStockphoto. Not really a pure enterprise product, but a great service for business folks who want to create their own visuals coupled with a strong business model that depends on community.

Even though SXSW is in Austin, I’m debating on going next year. There really wasn’t a lot of good enterprise content to be found. My plan is to liven up the Enterprise 2.0 conference (June, Boston), so we have a pseudo-sxsw of our own. I made a recommendation to the Advisory Board that we actively solicit sponsors for more parties and fun venues. Zoho sponsored a cruise a few years ago that was a lot of fun, for instance. Even though the sessions are always great, the best reason to attend events is to network in the traditional sense– meet and greet and share war stories face to face.

Hope to see you in Boston. Pack a lampshade.

UPDATE: Yvonne Beyer pinged me with a staggering correction: iStock pays out around 1.1 million in royalites a WEEK. She also added Lise Gagne from Montreal is one of the iStock contributors disclosing she makes 6 figures with well over 830,000 downloads to date. www.istockphoto.com/lisegagne

SXSW: What Happens Here Doesn’t Stay Here

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I’m sitting outside the press booth at the famed SXSW waiting for the kick-off panels to begin.  Interestingly enough, I was scheduled to come here in 1989 with my  musician boyfriend.  Something came up at the last minute, and we were derailed.  Even then, SXSW was a mecca.  It was the must-attend event on the planet for the creative, the cool, and the kooky.  Of course in 1989, music dominated SXSW, not the Internet.

I’ve lived in Austin for over a year now, but this is my first SXSW.  The scene here is exponentially more vibrant than its scruffy beginnings, yet its pull on the avante garde is magnetic.  I’m here attending SXSWi (the Interactive conference).  The hundreds of developers, designers, and visionaries who are creating the energy and new application of digital behavior flock here to learn, teach and inspire.  What’s so interesting about SXSWi is that it’s not New York and it’s not Silicon Valley.   Ideas that are generated here in Austin will export around the world.  The emphasis is on sharing and connecting.

I will be on the lookout for enterprise application of some of the concepts and tools I see here.  If you’re here, please DM me; I will be attending sessions all weekend.

Reality Check 2.0

Over the past month, I’ve been wrestling with blogger’s block. A number of items have kept me from blogging, but the key agitator is the current economic crisis. I’ve attended conferences; I’ve participated in discussions on social media; I continue to Yammer and Twitter, but in the back of my mind a blaring alarm is sounding off. It seems so many in the 2.0 community (who still have a job or have clients) is either in denial or is missing the bleak macro picture here.

This weekend I was watching the Sunday morning news roundups, Former Secretary of State James Baker, speaking on “Meet the Press” reiterated what we’ve been hearing for weeks now, “…it is very serious. It’s far worse than the downturn that we saw back in the 1987 when we had a stock market collapse when I was Treasury secretary. That one was much less broad and severe, but even that took us two years to come out of.”

Now, no disrespect to my late GenX and GenY readers and friends, but Boomers have some experience here that may prove helpful. Those of us who were engaged in the technology workforce in the late 80s and early 90s had to move fast to help our customers cut costs and work smarter. For me, that meant the birth of Business Process Reengineering and Outsourcing. For others, it meant the birth of Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP. Now, you could argue whether any or all of these initiatives actually delivered the results intended, but the fact remains: lots of software developers and consultants made a huge market in downtime adversity.

This recession/depression is poised to eclipse any downturn we’ve seen in our lifetimes. As I canvas the Enterprise 2.0 landscape, I find myself wondering: what is our killer economic crisis app/movement? Twitter? Facebook? Will we save the U.S auto industry by social networking?

Really?

I can assure you, there will be no Federal bail outs for 2.0 startups. Some startups will stretch their life expectancy with VC funds, but at the end of the day, it’s show time. How will you help your customers and future customers grow or at least sustain their business through this economic downturn?

The Enterprise 2.0 Advisory Board is convening in an online forum to discuss themes for this year’s conference. The conversation quickly migrated beyond the soft benefits of social collaboration to the hard, measurable benefits businesses need when navigating through tough times.

Mike Gotta of analyst firm Burton Group contributed this remark:

“Some of the phrases I keep hearing: 1. Efficiency (cost containment/avoidance, streamlining, etc.) 2. Execution (all-things-lean, process refinement) 3. Effectiveness (process and people performance, measurable productivity) 4. Rationalization (of budgets, of projects, of platforms) 5. Governance and metrics to support the above. Operations (run the business) and investment to protect top/bottom line engines (grow the business) are still ok – transformation unless it maps into some of the above areas is more discretionary – a good strategist will not cut to the bone… but overall – it’s a run/grow the business more than transformation. Business transformation (at least in my head) is more than just changing a process. Anything “soft” is getting a hard look – sure – some savvy execs will keep a portfolio perspective and still invest in some long-term areas and not slash things to the point that when the economy rights itself they are strategically behind but they (1) may not have any choice and (2) may not get broad agreement from their peers.”

Even Stowe Boyd, who coined the term “social tools” back in 1999 had this to say:

I am one of the biggest advocates for ‘social’ in the world, but I think it is too limiting for E2.0, and perhaps off message in the econolyptic times we are in.

I think the right theme is something more around ‘making the web work for business’—some blendo idea that allows E2.0 to mean
a/ the adoption of web tools and culture within the enterprise,
b/ the use of the web to better connect the enterprise to the greater world, and
c/ most specifically, the use of web 2.0 IT principles to reinvent enterprise IT, (like cloud computing, AJAX, web services, and so on).

The bottom line is: focus on the bottom line. We are collaborating for survival.

Update 12/01/08:  McAfee blogs on ideas for saving Big Auto.

It’s a wrap– Office 2.0 ’08

The following is a wrap-up of mostly what went right at this year’s Office 2.0 conference.

The “Unconference,” Wednesday

Photo credit: Azi Photography

I arrived in San Francisco late in the morning, but early enough to join several sessions at the unconference. The turnout was impressive. The room where Keri Pearlson and I led a discussion on “Barriers to Adoption in the Enterprise” was very full. The conversation moved swiftly, generated by the participants. Lots of energy, nice flow. Key themes included the usual: cultural, awareness technology choices, security, generational differences, but we added a few including the ever-increasing business case/ROI challenge, incentives, legal issues, and a lack of retention.

Somewhere midway, Ross Mayfield, Socialtext interrupted the general group therapy pain-sharing about the causes of slow adoption with the observation that adoption is not slow in companies where you introduce a 2.0 way of working for collaboration that improves a business process. He explained that when a clear benefit could be demonstrated to the work group, the usual hurdles fall away. It was a good point and further separated the popular community-building/socialnetworking trend from more straight-forward collaboration where benefits are more readily measurable by business outcomes. You can see notes from the session here.

I was pleased with the unconference over all. In the sessions I attended, there was a lot of great insight and open discussion. I highly recommend anyone planning conferences to include at least a half-day to this type of freeform discussion and info-sharing. Although, it seems you could easily extend this format over several days and take away a lot of value.

Day One, Thursday

The first day was a challenge. As an organizer, I was conflicted about my obligation to be loyal to the conference ideals and Ismael’s vision, but as a participant (who genuinely has loved this show for the past two years) I was feeling the same disappointment as many of my fellow attendees. On Twitter, a lot of chatter was dedicated to disapproval with too many vendor commercial sales pitches, the mismatch with the conference’s heritage for certain sessions including David Allen‘s keynote and the following Google presentation by Matt Glotzbach. Although Allen is clearly a productivity expert, there was a disconnect when he started promoting Lotus Notes as technology choice for increased productivity. And Glotzbach, through no fault of his own, was another setback on the agenda. The truth, which I suspected, but later confirmed with Ismael, is Google was supposed to announce Chrome at the conference. But, the news was leaked early, and Google was forced to make the announcement early, leaving a hole in the agenda for what would have been a huge shot of adrenalin to the conference on the first day, clearly overshadowing any shortcomings we faced that day. And, then there was the HP Mini-note. The device turned out to be much more complicated to set up than originally anticipated. I saw very few people using them during the show. A highlight on day one was the GE case study by Dr. Sukh Grewel. The participants were very eager for solid case studies, and the GE case study delivered (although I will have more to say on this in a later post.).

When a number of us who’ve attended the conference every year tried to analyze why the “magic” of Office 2.0 seemed to be diminishing, it became obvious that the industry itself was maturing. For the first two years, there was an unbridled enthusiasm for the inquiry into new ways of working and new technology alternatives to office and knowledge-worker productivity. In 2008, especially for the loyal attendees, the focus had shifted away from the shiny newness and more toward a traditional focus on proof-of-concept, success stories, and genuine demonstration of the application of these ideas in a business context.

Photo Credit: (CC) Brian Solis, www.briansolis.com and bub.blicio.us.

What did not disappoint, however, was the fertile opportunity for in-person networking and initiating business relationships. The conference was small enough to strike up conversations that could potentially lead to new opportunities. The demo pod gallery and the launch pad suite providing a nice backdrop, as always, to speak directly to founders and developers who were demoing new software or devices. For the enterprise irregulars, it was an excellent social opportunity to get together. Several of us were there, including Phil Wainewright, David Terrar and David Tebbutt who flew over from the UK.

Day Two, Friday

Shazam. Everything changed on Friday. Even though we had few attendees, the sessions were outstanding. I was micro-blogging (okay, Twittering) sound bites from all the sessions I attended and followed the conversation for all tweets on Summize (now Twitter Search) and Craig Cmehil’s Eventtrack.

The Twitter conversation had turned markedly more positive, as session after session delivered insightful, meaningful content. Adobe’s Matthias Zeller launched the content-turnaround with an impressive unveiling of Adobe’s new Genesis desktop platform. The presentation and demo revealed a simple to use, customized workspace environment that could be configured to meet any executive or knowledge-worker’s interest in viewing any combination of legacy and/or online apps in a dashboard-type, personalized configuration. You can see Zeller’s slide presentation here on slideshare. One of the greatest features of Office 2.0’s “we aim to please” philosophy was the video capture produced by Veodia for every session (available moments after each session completed). You can catch the Genesis presentation here.

Next up for me was a “straight talk” VC panel featuring VCs from SoftTech, Mayfield, Storm Ventures, and Opus Capital, and moderated by Sam Angus of Fenwick. If you want to take the temperature of a technology movement, VCs are human mercury. Another great session. Watch the video here. Favorite quote from the panel? “Apps have to deliver value inside an enterprise for an exit.” Ryan Floyd (Storm Ventures). See the VC Panel here.

I’m not sure if truly was prepared for the power of the next speaker, Pete Fields of Wachovia. For some background, I had first heard about Pete’s “incredible journey” to bring social networking and collaboration to a conservative southern bank and its 110,000 employees sometime in the winter of 2007. I tracked Pete down and unearthed his phone number and called him directly asking for an interview. Since that time, I’ve gotten to know Pete better. I saw his talk at Enterprise 2.0 which was excellent, but perhaps a little too short (twenty minutes) to relate the depth and breadth of his experience with the herculean effort. Pete is a gray-haired, polished business executive, yet has a down-home, likable, candid manner in talking openly about his experiences with bringing 2.0 to the enterprise. He speaks with unquestioned authority and grace. When I invited him to Office 2.0, I knew he would be a solid speaker for the agenda, but had no idea how much value he would add to the program. A must-watch session from the conference is Pete Fields. See it here.

The rest of day two just continued to surprise and delight. More highlights included Sam Lawrence’s panel of customers from Disney, EMC, and Chordiant. While I’m doing personality profiles, If you don’t know @samlawrence on Twitter, you might want following Sam to be the remaining catalyst spurring you to take the Twitter plunge. It occurred to me that Sam, who serves as Jive‘s Chief Marketing Officer, has become the public face of Jive. His personality embodies the Jive brand. He is just one cool dude. I guess it’s like the Seinfeld episode when Elaine dates Tony (a.k.a. the Mimbo). Sam just oozes that cool factor and draws people into his sphere, injecting cool chic into every social encounter. A blog post for another day will expand on this “brand identity linked to online personality” growing social media phenomenon. Check out the customer panel here.

The last true highlight of the day for me was the workforce panel which unfortunately (for the panel participants) was up against web-celebs Robert Scoble and Loic LeMeur who were doing the “Meeting without Traveling” on another floor. The panel was hosted by our Nick Vitalari, EVP of nGenera, and the person who leads our Enterprise 2.0 program and who also has a good grasp on the talent strategy work nGenera conducts regularly. Nick was a terrific moderator, but 15-year old Daniel Brusilovsky quickly stole the spotlight. Brusilovsky, who was apparently skipping school to participate in the panel, runs a startup for teens ( “Teens in Tech” – an online community) and has been working at QIK for seven months. Excellent perspective also came from John Vasellina of Genentech who is tasked with onboarding GenYs into the company and Dorie Cotter-Lockard who spent over 25 years as a corporate IT professional, most recently as CIO of a F100 company. Check out the workforce panel here.

Summary

So was this year’s Office 2.0 a flop? On balance, I’d say no. Yes, I would have liked to have fewer empty chairs (formerly known as the audience), and yes, I wish we could have completely avoided vendor pitches. Yet, on balance, the networking, the superior conference facilities (100% uptime on the wifi thanks to Swisscom and Covad), the rich content on several of the sessions– made it a worthwhile investment for any attendee. In Ismael’s final wrap at the end of Day Two, he made a solemn oath that next year’s conference planning would start earlier and there would be zero tolerance for vendor pitches on the session agenda in ’09. If you attended the conference, please submit feedback with recommendations on how we can improve the format. Of course, comments are welcome here as well.

Hat's off to Ismael
Hat's off to Ismael

Special thanks to my fellow volunteer, Oliver Marks, and the amazing Ismael whose vision still drives a lot of passion around a topic we are all growing comfortable with. Incidentally, for all you complainers (and you know I mean that with love), I’d like to see you try run a successful software company, raise a (difficult) round of funding, launch a startup, and pull off a first class conference — simultaneously within a 60-day period. So, if you see Ismael, zipping through SFO or on the street in Palo Alto, give the guy a pat on the back. He’s not superhuman, but he continues to set a very high bar for excellence in productivity and risk-taking and deserves some mad props.

I’m thinking David Allen should have Ismael keynote his next conference. :-

Update 9/9/08: A friend who exhibited at Office 2.0 just forwarded this comment to me from TechCrunch 50. His comment? “Looks like I attended the right conference…”