Social(er)text: From Wiki to Wonderkind

I’ve often said that Ross Mayfield is one of the best 2.0 evangelists we have in the community. So, it’s no surprise that Socialtext recently announced a wholesale makeover this week that not only defines the company as a thought leader in Enterprise 2.0, it launches the company into an entirely new category. Known universally in the 2.0 community as “the open source enterprise wiki company,” Socialtext now crosses over to a robust, social collaborative platform player with a great deal of promise.

Socialtext 3.0 supplements its excellent wiki functionality with a Netvibes-like widgetized dashboard front end that enables individual users to personalize their enterprise interface with workspace updates, conversations (internal and public), user profiles (with LDAP and Active Directory integration), a new micro-blogging capability, RSS and life-streaming feeds, and drag-and-drop-ready external widgets. The renewed Socialtext offering is cleanly designed and offers a host of possibilities for small and large enterprises. In effect, Socialtext 3.0 has presented a “mashup palette” from which a user can customize his or her enterprise experience blending external seamlessly with internal.

The new features/capabilities are offered as a trio of applications: an improved wiki, Socialtext People, and Socialtext Dashboard. Additionally, Socialtext announced its own enterprise micro-blogging interface, “Signals” which provides context-relevant secure social messaging. Read more on Ross’ blog.

On our briefing yesterday with the Enterprise Irregulars, two major advantages for Socialtext stood out for me. The first was an extremely attractive pricing scenario. The price/seat with Socialtext is incomparable in the market with this much potential enterprise system integration and social functionality. The second was Socialtext’s approach to targeting business process-oriented LOBs that are eager to embrace 2.0 tools where material improvements with collaboration and social networking are well understood. These two advantages, combined with the Socialtext heritage of thought leadership on all things enterprise 2.0 have positioned this company well going forward. With the recent addition of Alan Lepofsky who was IBM’s senior strategist for Lotus and under its new CEO, Eugene Lee, I’m bullish on a Socialtext strong finish in a market that has become increasingly crowded.


What I-know-I-don’t-know about E2.0 and SAP from Sapphire ’08

EIs meet with SAP execsMy bad. Sapphire ’08 was an enormous field of opportunity to mine SAP intelligence on what the company is doing regarding Enterprise 2.0 initiatives. Somehow, I missed that opportunity and find myself with a lot of follow-up todos. A group of us had back-to-back meetings with SAP execs both Monday and Tuesday. To be perfectly frank, I learned more about what SAP is doing in Enterprise 2.0 from a product manager on the show floor in a half-hour (thank you Peter!) than I did from any of the executives. This was partly my fault and no-one’s fault, as well. My fault because I could have done a better job of trolling the show floor and no-one’s fault because in the meetings we had, we had a limited amount of time to speak to the executives individually. My EI colleagues had pressing issues on understanding why SAP’s mid-market SaaS solution Business-by-Design is going to be delayed, as well as other issues involving Business Objects, NetWeaver, TCO, cloud-computing, etc. To interject questions on blogs, wikis, RSS and mash-ups just seemed silly and inconsequential to me, so I mostly kept quiet.

Enterprise 2.0 is just not a burning issue on the minds of top SAP execs (with the notable exception of the CMO, Marty Homlish). SAP execs mirror the same sentiment as our executive clients: they have serious businesses to run– not a lot of time for the giddy consumery stuff. SAP software fuels the nitty gritty of hard-core business processes for most of the largest enterprises in the world. Where blogging (for example) fits into getting a raw material through the factory floor to a finished product, booked in inventory and ready to move through a supply chain is just not obvious to me right now. So the likelihood of an Enterprise 2.0 bolt-on to SAP is just as slim as it is naive.

I’m trying to choose my words carefully here because I don’t want to “open my mouth and remove all doubt” regarding my ignorance of SAP’s legacy business or its product roadmap. If you want thorough, interesting, and thoughtful commentary on SAP, please consult with my Enterprise Irregular colleagues who shine in this arena.

What I did uncover about SAP & Enterprise 2.0, however, was pretty interesting and demonstrates that 2.0e2.0 and SAP technology is working its way into mainstream SAP software, as well as delivering benefits for SAP customers. I, unfortunately, missed a terrific presentation by Andrew Cabanski-Dunning, Director of Product Marketing for SAP NetWeaver. In Cabanski-Dunning’s presentation, “Empowering the User: Enterprise 2.0 Solutions from SAP”, he talks about engaging the user, community virtual workspaces for collaboration, networks connecting peers and experts, searching all business objects, integrating 3rd-party tools and data with open APIs, wikis and web content publishing, mash-ups, flex and ajax, mobile interfaces, and user adoption. All the buzzwords and key concepts are there. I’m going to follow up with Cabanski-Dunning and see if I can get a personal briefing of this presentation and publish what I learn.

On the collaboration front, a number of gems surfaced. The community efforts are truly paying off for SAP. Through communities such as its one-million member strong SDN (software developer network) and BPX (business process expert exchange), SAP is reaping the benefits of an active and engaged co-collaborative community where collective intelligence delivers benefits for all parties. Where ten years ago, customers had to accept SAP’s view of the world, today customers, ISVs, solutions integrators, and partners jointly weigh in on enhancements and features. I heard one statistic that claimed over 50% of SAP’s enterprise services are now developed in tandem with the community. Other communities include its Industry Value Network, the Enterprise Services Community, as well as the many Industry Standards communities where SAP participates.

The most interesting discussion on the use of next-gen technology for me was a show-and-tell with CMO Marty Homlish. Homlish experimented with a virtual marketing community meeting that included 1800 people over 3 days spanning 15 time zones. Using Unisfair (which is like a Second Life for business) and a collaborative workspace called Plexus, SAP marketing employees contributed over 3,000 user-generated content items over the 3-day period. At one point during the trial, 75% of SAP’s global marketing operation were participating in the live event. Incidentally, the Plexus collaboration workspace is itself an example of a co-innovation built for the community by the community as one of the projects in SAP’s Co-innovation Lab. It is a co-development project between Jive Software, Intelligroup, Wipro, Enthiosys and Adobe.

Finally, I did get the chance to ask co-CEO Henning Kagermann about SAP’s internal social networking product, Harmony. He indicated it wasn’t clear yet what they were going to do with it. Harmony is in use by about 2,500 SAP employees including the company’s “high potentials” and select members of its U.S. community. He viewed it largely as an HR offering and indicated it was “not built on SAP technology.” He mentioned it could be a side-by-side offering in the future, but did not commit to a date for commercializing the product. He hinted that collaborative supplier management could be part of the suite, but didn’t go further.

It was clear to me that SAP was not going to be launching a killer app in Enterprise 2.0, but would rather incorporate social networking and collaborative features into its product suites where it made sense and delivered value to customers. So where IBM has Lotus Connections, Microsoft has SharePoint, SAP will be content to patch 2.0 functionality into its core business offerings, but may not uniquely focus in the discrete social software arena.

Oracle, on the other hand, is making a noisy “me-too” in this space. In the past two days, I’ve seen a lot of interesting developments highlighting Oracle’s interest in positioning itself as a player in Enterprise 2.0. To Oracle’s credit, they’ve done an excellent job in communicating the benefits and logical integration opportunities for 2.0 technologies in its core business applications. See Dennis Howlett’s interview with Charles Phillips and this post from JavaOne at the CNET blog which includes a video. I’m working on a briefing demo with Oracle and will keep you updated with what we discover.

I was complaining last week on Twitter about SAP being late to the party in Enterprise 2.0. Having been around the technology business for a thousand years, a(nother) little bird reminded me of something similar years ago in the outsourcing market. It was 1994 and IBM was seeking relief from the Justice Department about lifting its 1956 Consent Decree so it could compete more effectively for large IT outsourcing contracts. At the time, giants EDS and CSC were leading the market. My prediction was that IBM would dominate over time and the reason could be summed up in two words: installed base. IBM proceeded to trounce its competitors and is today the largest services player in the world. Over a decade later, the fundamentals still prove true. SAP may surprise us all.

Rails Rules for the Enterprise

me and Tim BrayI spent Friday afternoon with an impressive technology crowd that gathered here in Austin from Avenue A | Razorfish. I’ve blogged many times over the past few years about how these Interactive Agencies hold the keys to the kingdom on bringing “sexyback” to the Enterprise. It’s been nearly a few months since the blog/firestorm kicked up starting with Mr. Bill (Gates) fueled by Scobleizer.

What I saw with mine own eyes at the AARF gig was red hot enterprise-worthy sexy stuff– borderline enterprise porn. 🙂 The integration was downright obscene!

One of the highlights of the event for me was meeting Tim Bray, pictured to the right here with me. Tim keynoted the event and was described to me by Shiv Singh as one of the original authors of the XML standard. Readers of this blog know what a geek fangirl I am, so I rushed poor Tim at the evening before’s cocktail party and talked his ear off for about a half-hour with mostly nonsense. He kindly took this photo, so I could post it on the blog.

The next day, Tim showed a slide on PHP referencing integration challenges with WordPress and Drupal. My video interviewing skills are (UM) lacking, but I managed to ask him about it, just in case any Enterprise 2.0 hopefuls were considering PHP as their platform choice… You’ll see Tim is very much the Ruby on Rails fan here.

<a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=-jtBfgqXR0c&amp;rel">http://youtube.com/watch?v=-jtBfgqXR0c&amp;rel</a>

Incidentally, it’s worth mentioning that BSG’s web site and our e.laborate platform is all Rails, baby. It’s times like these that I wish I were more technical, but to hear a guy like Bray gush over the simplicity and ease of agile development with Rails, makes me feel proud of our apps team. I’ve been on many calls with Scott Brittain, our with customers and with industry insiders.  I always learn something from Scott and enjoy talking to the “apps guys” whenever I can. We talk a lot about how this so-called revolution is not about technology, but hey, the technology is one heck of an enabler, ain’t it?  It’s like trying to imagine the 60s social revolution without electric guitars.

Rawk on for freedom you awesome geek gods.

Enterprise Suits Up for the Ride, but Seeks a Safe Landing

This is what would happen if Santa were an Enterprise App and he tried to automagically incorporate 2.0 grooviness overnight.

Santa as Enterprise App on 2.0 house

The irony just got the better of me… I’ve been wrestling with wretched old-school health forms all afternoon that will undoubtedly be, um, input or maybe scanned into some old-school enterprise system that will carefully set up my health insurance for 2008. If it weren’t Sunday, I probably could do some digging and figure out exactly what the “business process” is that will determine my paper-input-to-digital-imprint record through the labyrinth of enterprise systems. Will an outsourced provider be involved? Probably. A mainframe? Probably. A large-scale database? Oh yeah.

Have I enjoyed this process today? No. Was I able to customize my health insurance policy and my coverage according to my particular family’s health situation? Not in a 2.0 way. Was I able to choose a health insurance company by my review of doctors online and get recommendations from other insureds about which health insurance companies actually paid claims on time and answered questions with friendly, caring concern? Well, definitely not.

While I’ve been grousing about doing this all day, clicking on web sites, downloading forms, etc., I’ve had Snitter (a Twitter stream) up and have been keeping my eye on the chatter of the day. It appears Robert Scoble dared to ask why Enterprise Apps weren’t sexy, and well, you can imagine how my Enterprise Irregularguild” reacted to that. Nick Carr even got involved. It’s only Sunday too, so we’ll see where it goes. (See Dennis Howlett, Michael Krisgsman, Anshu Sharma, Vinnie Mirchandani.) Me? I agree with all of them, oddly enough. On the one hand, I’m having a miserable experience, and I agree with Nick Carr, and I really wish the health insurance company had more consumer-y features. New York Times Design Director Khoi Vinh expressed nearly the exact same sentiment with this post earlier this fall. I agreed with him then too.

On the other hand, for those of us who are working hard to try and transform, enlighten/educate enterprises on how they need to introduce some of this radical change to leverage innovation and wealth creation, we know what we’re up against. Enterprise applications are carefully managed fleets comprised of many battleships that simply cannot turn on a dime. Nor, would you want them to.

Should my son be rushed to the hospital in 2008 because he didn’t quite land that skating trick he’s been practicing in the street, I want to make sure all systems are go and the woman at the reception desk doesn’t get a message from my insurance company like this: 2.0 error

Relationships are the Killer App and Marketing Rules.

For a while, I had this notion that I should self-limit my friends to 150 on Facebook drawing on Dunbar’s Number that states basically you can not respectfully hold any real connection to more than 150 individuals. I’ve given up on this now for a few reasons. As social networking is now taking center stage on the 2.0 roadmap, I realize the more friends/connections I have, the better my harvest for weak tie benefits. Relation capital or relationship equity as I’ve called it before, is the new gold standard that will drive the economy of the next generation Internet. We’re seeing it first, of course, in the consumer economy where relationships matter most between brand marketers and their webs of prey.* And as more enterprise vendors, including Google, get more innovative about how to apply social networking utility to the complex ecosystem of partnerships and interdisciplinary teamworks that comprise the global world of commerce, we’ll see how crucial these relationships play out. What’s critical is your nodal strength and your influence. Whether you are influencing the purchase of toilet tissue or the purchase of hedge fund strategies, you and your relationship to your community will be indexed, matrixed, monitored, and analyzed to abstraction.

As Marshall Clark commented on the Organic blog:

Regarding Google’s benefit from all this – I think Open Social is a brilliant, cost-effective way for Google to acquire social graph information which they can now incorporate into future Google search ranking algorithms.

There’s a massive amount of information buried in the personal interconnections and communications on social media platforms, but until now Google has been largely blocked from indexing this content (we all know Orkut doesn’t count).

If PageRank was big, wait until ‘SocialRank’ rolls out in 2008. Google just pulled off a major coup me’thinks.

Because social networks are easily studied mathematically, I’ve been talking to our in-house math wizards about mapping and manipulating the data in social networks for our clients. It turns out there are volumes– years– of data on this, including dedicated academic journals. I was interested to see that Google is a member of the Sante Fe Institute that George Danner tells me is one of the most prestigious scientific research think tanks.

Speaking of relationships, it seems everyone is going to Defrag… I’m not going, but I will be lurking like a demon on Twitter.

I was particularly interested in this comment from Eric Norlin on the Defrag blog Friday:

John Chambers (of Cisco) has been sounding the trumpet about “enterprise 2.0″ technologies for months now. In fact, you might remember that Cisco also acquired Webex. The purchase of an authorization management company by essentially a collaboration company tells us that collaborative tools are about to get *serious* inside of the enterprise. All of which goes back to the thesis that Brad and I have been kicking back and forth — that 2008 is the year of the beginning of the enterprise IT spending surge.

*For a long while now I’ve been harping on the role the interactive agencies will be playing in leading the charge in bringing web 2.0 technologies into the forefront of big business adoption. There are many examples throughout my blog where I’ve highlighted their critical role as ambassadors to this new promised land. A lot of these firms are companies you may have never heard of, but they are on the cutting edge of these technologies. Of course, they’re relegated to the marketing silo of enterprises, but it is a start. As I said recently in our Enterprise Irregular group, some of the best advice I can have for our IT clients is to take their CMO to lunch to learn more about web 2.0.

Here is a video from interactive media firm IconNicholson who has been leveraging 2.0 technologies to enhance the customer experience for its clients.

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Update: Hat tip from a Tweet from Jeremiah Owyang: AdAge’s ranking of the best 150 Media and Marketing blogs.