A Social Baptism for the Enterprise. Hallelujah and Amen.

About this time last month, I was undergoing a crisis of faith.  Faith in what brought me to this space: the promise of what the next generation web could be and could do to change business as we know it, as well as society at large.   My faith was shaken by a few ripples in the foundation.  I posted this short blog post on our Council Jive site:

I got some great feedback from members, but remained somewhat in a state of insecurity.  Things exacerbated when later in the month, a host of conversations had cropped up in the blogosphere on the failure some individuals were experiencing regarding adoption of social technologies inside large enterprises and critics taking delight in the “I toldya so” grand opportunity.

As the summer of 2011 was coming to an end, I found myself wondering whether I was the only one pursuing some greater purpose? Had I been completely delusional?  Blindly naive?

My crisis of faith ended on the morning of August 31, 2011.  

Mark Benioff, Salesforce.com CEO, whom I’ve been heralding as the voice of the new Enterprise generation since I saw him speak last year, killed it in his opening keynote for Dreamforce 2011 with the messaging I (and many others) have been consistently preaching for the past five years.   And, considering Salesforce’s Dreamforce is now the largest technology conference in the world, the social baptism that every one of those 45,000 in attendance and many more who were tuning in around the world received was epic.

So, with grace and humility, I have been re-energized.  You kinda either get this or you don’t.  If you do get it, I hope you’re rejoicing. I know I am.  If you don’t get it, don’t worry, it will benefit you too despite your willingness to embrace it.

If you are a believer, or just socially curious, I highly recommend you watch Benioff’s keynote.

Finally, Mr. Benioff, if you’re listening, all I can say is Thank You from the bottom of my bottomless heart.

2.0 Reality Rehab: SAPPHIRE

I posted recently on my Facebook page that I was actually looking forward to attending SAPPHIRE this year. One of my Council members questioned the wisdom of that desire. SAPPHIRE is SAP’s annual bash where SAP customers come out in droves to hear what the enterprise software company is planning for the next 12 months.  As a member of the highly influential Enterprise blogger troupe, the Enterprise Irregulars, I get the privilege of attending the conference as a blogger/industry influencer and receive great access to SAP execs to question them directly about SAP’s short and long-term plans.

Of course, SAPPHIRE is  a world-class vendor event, filling up restaurants, taxi cabs, and hotels all around Orlando’s massive convention center (as well as much of the convention center’s real estate).  Anyone with a vested interest in SAP makes the pilgrimage every year.

For me, SAPPHIRE presents a unique opportunity to re-calibrate and diffuse the hype chamber that self-perpetuates around the 2.0 phenomenon.   SAPPHIRE is the 2.0 Rehab that I voluntarily commit myself to every year for one week. Only at SAPPHIRE do I get an opportunity to see the world the way my Council members do– that the 2.0/social business hoopla is enjoyed and shared by a small minority of corporate professionals.  Through the eyes of SAP customers and the SAP eco-system, I gain unique insight into the tremendous task ahead which involves a host of issues, not the least of which is tying 2.0 transformation to the enterprise business processes that run the world’s most successful businesses.  Every year, I see small improvements, but this rational level-setting is essential to keep perspective about where Enterprise 2.0 fits in the broader Enterprise landscape.

The good news is there are SAP executives that welcome this crusade and are making strides to bring the benefits of social collaboration to business decision-making and business process.  I expect to hear a lot more “transparency” and “collaboration” themes in executive keynotes this year.

This year’s SAPPHIRE is particularly crucial for SAP, as outlined by my friend and EI compadre, Josh Greenbaum.   But for me, I will quietly go about my business, taking inventory of the progress year-over-year in embracing 2.0.   And even though I may leave Orlando, defeated and despondent (once again), I will be looking forward to next month’s Enterprise 2.0 conference which will re-energize my passion and commitment to this growing industry sector.   Until then, I’m here to take my medicine and attend group therapy.  I hope to emerge smarter, more sober, and more determined than ever.

Where Business Process Meets 2.0

The 2.0 Adoption Council is experimenting with a range of new market ideas that leverage the power of the social web.   The 2.0 thinking surrounding network effects, scale, voluntary collaboration, free (as a business model), and social performance/productivity improvements are just a sample of some of the drivers that have made the Council thrive.  Much of these attributes are present in a new concept described recently by John Hagel and John Seely Brown as, “The Collaboration Curve.” Specifically the authors point out, “The more participants–and interactions between those participants–you add to a carefully designed and nurtured environment, the more the rate of performance improvement goes up.”  Hagel also describes on his Edge Perspectives blog the move away from a transaction-based economy to a trust-based relationship economy.   He refers to as this as a “passionate community.”  His words:

In sharp contrast, passion holds the key to creating and shaping relationships that will help us thrive in a rapidly changing world. It motivates even the shyest of us to reach out and connect with others in ways that become catalysts for creativity and growth. Passion fosters a uniquely strong and productive bond that provides both the stability and stimulus needed to continue to grow and succeed in a constantly changing world.

What Hagel is describing is present in the Council today.  Simply look no further than the comments from the members themselves on my LinkedIn profile and our testimonials.  With this passion, comes business opportunity.  The combined intelligence of our early adopter 2.0 membership has become a no-brainer target for vendors interested in harvesting the group wisdom of these world class customers.   To that end, we are proud to announce today we have entered into an innovative co-creation research relationship with SAP.  SAP announced its 12Sprints public beta today.  It’s important to note that 12Sprints is not typical social/collaboration software, but rather a a SaaS-based, goal-oriented, collaborative decision-making tool that incorporates social features such as activity streams, presence, and profile data.  The objective for 12Sprints is to draw enterprise data into a conversation where it can be discussed, analyzed, and openly decided upon by geographically dispersed team members.

Although I’ve often been critical of SAP in the 2.0 arena, I’ve always marveled at the “engine” that drives global business on the SAP platform.  This first step toward bridging that gap between the core business processes that make the trains run on time and a front-end of 2.0 capability (including integration with various  popular 2.0 tools) is a welcome advancement in the maturation of the market.   Further, it’s particularly encouraging that SAP would choose the Council to partner on the co-development of this strategic new direction for its blue chip customer base.  It represents an unmistakable endorsement and recognition for our business model, the power of our membership, and the promise of innovative alliances to reshape how products get to market.

Below is a Skypecast I did informally last week with SAP SVP Marge Breya that discusses trends in 2.0 adoption and the nature of our relationship.

SAP’s Marge Breya discusses e20 with Susan Scrupski (aka ITSinsider) from susan scrupski on Vimeo.

If Social Media will be like Air, Enterprise 2.0 will be like Carbon

The year I transferred from a small, liberal State college to the ginormous State University, I started the fall semester with a bevy of difficult subjects: Chemistry, Calculus, Introduction to Philosophy, and Abnormal Psychology.  When I showed up for my first day of Chemistry, little did I know I had entered the wrong classroom.  I was seated in an Organic Chemistry class, not beginner Chemistry.  Of course, I made a good show of it– nodding with the professor at different intervals, taking notes,  looking confident.  Meanwhile, I had no idea what he was talking about and wanted to run out of there screaming.  However, I now know that 40 minutes was not a waste.  I learned something day one at that class I never forgot.  That lesson is that all organic compounds (and all lifeforms on the planet) have one thing in carbon: Carbon.

I was thinking of this random fact the last few days when I read somewhere that Social Media goddess @charleneli was recently quoted saying, “Social Media will be like air.” (Love that, actually.)  And also because there’s been a bit of to and fro from the business process stalwarts who have once again found the Enterprise 2.0 conversation to occupy their fancy.

Because (admittedly) I have somewhat of an unfair 50-yard line view of the playing field for Enterprise 2.0 adoption in the work I do for The 2.0 Adoption Council, I feel relatively confident in saying, “If Social Media will be like Air, Enterprise 2.0 will be like Carbon.”  I commented to this effect on Zoli’s Enterprise Irregulars re-post of David Terrar’s @DT‘s blog post, although I’m not sure the EI blog is drawing traffic these days.

This is a great post. Read it on @DT’s blog. Totally agree that the bridge between traditional enterprise systems/data/process is the “missing link” in the e20 evolutionary branch of life. Where social will be “like air” as @charleneli says, Enterprise 2.0 will be like Carbon (where Carbon compounds form the basis of all known life.)

But looking at the enterprise through the process prism is not the right perspective, imho. The enterprise of the future will be a social web of connected individuals and teams– innovating, experimenting, verifying, discovering, deciding. The correct view is to analyze the social layer and align process to meet the demands of an ever more productive and innovative workforce.

My friend @sameerpatel has just completed a report, “The Real-Time Enterprise.” Although I have not read this report, I’m fairly certain Sameer and I see the world through a similar lens. I highly recommend you check it out. Enterprise 2.0 is coming.  It’s analogous to trying to stop the Internet from encroaching on global trade in the late 90s.  In the decades to come, it will permeate every business process, every line of communication, every channel to every member of the eco-system of the Enterprise.  Count on it.

Jive: Keepin’ it Real

Flickr by chrissuderman
Flickr by chrissuderman

You know that feeling when you have to take a random trip to the mall and when you get there, the entire mall and every retail establishment has been magically transformed for the holiday shopping season?  Wow.  It’s not even close to Thanksgiving, you think… But sure enough, you find yourself a little excited, a little sentimental, a little anxious about the fact that the holidays are upon us.  It’s an emotional, a psychological reaction that launches a number of triggers that will ultimately lead to the consumer behavior the retailers are banking on.

That’s how I felt the first day at SAP Tech Ed, SAP’s annual education extravaganza.  I had never been to an SAP Tech Ed before, and wasn’t sure what to expect.  In the first twenty minutes after I arrived at the newly renovated, cavernous Phoenix Convention Center, I started hearing the words collaboration, transparency, and social.  And it wasn’t from the blogger’s corner, I was hearing these words from SAP executives and customers.  The event was suddenly, surprisingly relevant to me in a way that I did not anticipate, nor that I was prepared for.  It was magical.

And similar to my experience visiting the mall and being greeted by a re-themed holiday shopping bonanza, the event launched a numbers of triggers for me.  The first trigger was excitement.  SAP gets it! I beamed to myself.  For so long, it appeared SAP corporate was just not interested in the Enterprise 2.0 agenda.  As recently as last SAPPHIRE (April), SAP’s massive annual customer and partner event, I was grousing about the fact that 2.0 was all but completely absent on the agenda or the trade show floor.

The second trigger was anxiety.  At the same time as SAP TechEd, Oracle was holding its famed Oracle OpenWorld. Keeping a CPA eye on the tweet stream, it occurred to me that Oracle was “getting it” too.  As I write this, Microsoft is amassing its fan-adulating entourage in Las Vegas where it will announce the long-awaited SharePoint 2010 which has been predicted to be the e20 startup killer.  And, lastly IBM got this a long time ago which completes the MISO (Microsoft, IBM, SAP, and Oracle) four horsemen of the 2.0 apocalypse.  The combined market strength of the enterprise vendors to persuade and advance their particular offering signals an unmistakable step change in the heretofore teensy Enterprise 2.0 sector evolution.  The big boys are moving in with their big marketing budgets and massive sales organizations.  Not to be discounted either is Google whom unless you’ve been trapped floating above the earth in a homemade helium balloon, or hiding in an attic closet, you know has recently launched Google Wave: its impressive collaborative, real-time sharing platform.  The other one I suppose I shouldn’t leave out is Cisco who’ve been re-tooling their go-to-market messaging around a fluid collaboration theme for months now.

Why does this tacit endorsement of e20 by the large enterprise vendors prompt my anxiety?  Because I’m concerned they’ll dominate the discussion; maybe suppress innovation, dilute the passion that has historically fueled interest in e20.  It’s hard to predict what the effects of mainstream promotion will be for e20, but one thing is for sure, e20 is about to bust out of the echo-chamber.

I started this post on the plane ride home from SAP’s TechEd (USA) two weeks ago now.  Yesterday I was pre-briefed on Jive’s new announcements coming with its SBS 4.0 platform.  Whatever real anxiety I felt about the big boys moving into the space has now been dissipated.

It takes a startup like Jive to inject innovation, creativity, passion, and excitement to this sector.  Jive is releasing a ground-breaking set of features that will set a new high bar for excellence in the category.  I’m certain the tech bloggers will cover the announcements in depth, but in brief, Jive is announcing an iPhone app (plus an email-driven enriched BlackBerry experience), very slick MS Office integration, and a bridging capability that will unite internal and external communities.  All this in addition to the series of announcements Jive made previously that include social media monitoring and a SharePoint connector.

What’s significant about the Jive announcements is the company’s commitment to releasing timely, innovative new capabilities in response to customer feedback and requests.  I’m here at JiveWorld, the company’s first customer event.  From the energy circulating in the crowd here, it’s obvious to me Jive is customer-driven and loyalty from Jive’s customers handily delivers repeat revenue as well as product improvements.

Jive’s ability to manage the books, pay careful attention to its user base, invest in educating its partners and employees, rationally identify its target market, as well as manage its growth effectively squarely positions the company uniquely from other startup competitors in the space.  Further, it accentuates the advantage startups have over the large enterprise vendors where releases are timed in years, not months.

So, as the e20 market twists and turns to accommodate innovation, advancement, and welcome step changes in attitude and strategic direction, one thing is guaranteed—all of this progress benefits customers.  Customers have a hard enough time getting this job done, so thank goodness, vendors like Jive are making it easy to accelerate adoption and experimentation with 2.0 tools and philosophies.

The S in SAP stands for Systems, not Social

sap_sapphire_2009So, once again, SAP invited me to its annual SAPPHIRE and ASUG event. I find myself wondering if SAP will get return on their investment in me once again. The answer is, probably not. I’d like to think this is not my fault. For instance, if you search the hundreds of events SAP has listed on its agenda for customers, press, and partners for the words “Enterprise 2.0,” two sessions return. One is run by @matzeller (Matthias Zeller of Adobe) and the other is @finnern (SAP’s Mark Finnern, community evangelist), both on the last day and at the same bad time slot. (Great). Both Zeller and Finnern were with me in the blogger’s corner. If you broaden the search to “Web 2.0,” three sessions return. (Sigh).

The reality is SAP and its global customer base are just not ready for the socialization of the enterprise. It’s just not a topic that commands attention at this massive event (despite my valiant efforts to bring it up in every executive briefing). The majority of conversations at SAPPHIRE revolve around common themes such as decision-making, analysis, data, spreadsheets, databases, reports, statistics, and business processes. In other words, the real work that goes on in real businesses. Is that surprising? No. SAPPHIRE is to SAP what Disney World is to young families. (The Orlando location only reinforces my impression). With the pressure on to decrease costs and make smarter, faster decisions based on easily accessible real-time data, SAP customers and its ecosystem of suppliers and partners were buzzing with excitement and possibilities here. Extending the metaphor, Enterprise 2.0 might be considered the Pleasure Island nightclub of the enterprise (which Disney closed last summer, btw). Just an aside– whenever I was face to face with a “real” customer and it happened several times as I did some reporting-by-walking-around, I would ask the simple question: “Have you ever heard of Enterprise 2.0?” The answer was unanimous: “No.”

So, what can we deduct from this experience? SAPPHIRE may just be the best harbinger of the Enterprise 2.0 market’s maturity. Last year, if I searched on Enterprise 2.0, I’m fairly certain I would have found zero returns for scheduled sessions. That there are two this year is, indeed, progress. Further, the soft language of 2.0 has seeped into SAP’s strategic speak and hopefully, strategic consciousness. Leo Apotheker, SAP’s co-CEO and reigning commander in chief name-dropped a smattering of prevailing social buzzwords in his opening address i.e., transparency, collaboration, trust, and social communities. So, a big high-five from me to the speech writer for positioning SAP as a “we get it.” And, in reality, they do get it. They just haven’t incorporated deep social-collaborative functionality into their product suites (yet). This is about where the majority of large customers are. They “get it.” Some may be even experimenting with it (even if they’re not calling it Enterprise 2.0), but it’s not yet core to their business.

We spent some time with Marge Breya, EVP and GM for Business Objects who assured us in the next 6 – 12 months we’d see major social software additions to SAP’s traditional software, but was reluctant to say anything further. I encountered that reaction many times from even my fellow bloggers/analysts who were sworn to secrecy on SAP’s 2.0 plans. Some of the innovation may come from SAP’s innovation labs where the petri dish is hopping already with social trials. For me, the best demonstration at SAPPHIRE was by Timo Elliott, Senior Director of Strategic Markets, BusinessObjects Innovation Center. Elliott showed us Timo Elliott, SAP Business Objects labs various efforts that they’re testing in the labs including a social network analysis tool, but he too was very careful to make it clear that none of the existing experimental work was officially sanctioned as a product offering or improvement. Elliott also pointed us to a rogue, yet informative, web 2.0 site he manages where he is tracking how SAP uses 2.0 with its customers and partners, as well as explains various 2.0 projects underway within SAP.

Once again, I’m reminding that we’re still super early in our evangelism. I sensed some of the SAP employees I spoke to also felt some of that frustration and dare I say, disappointment, that the needle is moving so slowly in the enterprise. Next month, of course, I will be attending the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston. I’m sure I’ll be re-energized there, although I remember good ole’ Tom Davenport who debated Andrew McAfee at the first conference in 2007 where he pooh-poohed Enterprise 2.0 in general. Davenport was right then, and he continues to be. I understand more now what he meant when he said, “I feel like an atheist at a Baptist convention” on the day of the debate. At SAPPHIRE, I was feeling a little like a Baptist at an atheist convention. SAP may one day stand for Social Applications and Programs, but it’s not clear to me when that day will arrive. (Or– why it should, frankly. Which is a blog post for another day.)