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, and

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.


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…”

Office 2.0: The “2.0 National Convention”

So we have the Democratic National Convention starting this morning in Denver, the Republican National Convention starting next week in Minneapolis. It occurred to me that the Office 2.0 conference is like the “2.0 National Convention” for high energy attendees who are looking to shape the 2.0 agenda going forward. With nearly 100 speakers and panelists from all walks of the 2.0 experience, the conference provides a ground floor opportunity to learn what the trends are, what’s working, what’s not. What’s different about Office 2.0 from many other tech conferences is the conference exists purely for the pleasure of the member attendees. It’s designed to deliver the best possible customer experience because it’s a celebration of the phenomenon of productivity and mobility afforded by the cloud-ready second generation Internet.

In case you didn’t know, the Office 2.0 conference was conceived as an experiment, along with the meme. “The term originated with Ismael Ghalimi [1] in an experimental effort to test the hypothesis that it could be done today, that he could perform all of his computer based work in online applications.” (Source: Wikipedia). For the past three years, those of us who’ve helped Ismael, literally scramble in 6-8 weeks time to pull together a best practices agenda and a worthwhile conference experience for all attendees. The process reminds of conferences I used to pull together when I was an industry observer in the outsourcing sector last decade. I created conferences with all the right people, with all the right topics, because I wanted to go!

Because the conference is non-traditional, this year we had a late setback that will hurt Ismael. That upsets me, personally, because this effort is truly such a labor of love for those who take part in it. Despite that hiccup in an otherwise fantastic show shaping up, I’m looking forward to a number of items on the agenda this year:

  • The Unconference. If you’ve not been to one of these… make time on your agenda for this one. Ross Mayfield will once again coordinate this pre-show event. It’s your opportunity to speak, to attend, and participate in discussing the burning issues you have as you consider your own Office 2.0 journey.
  • The Surprise Keynote: Ismael simply will not tell us who it is! ITSinsider will pay an unconference admission if you post your correct guess on the discussion thread regarding the mystery guest.
  • The GE Case Study: I first saw the internal GE social network with my client, Greg Simpson (CTO, GE) early this summer. Greg was going to speak at the conference, but couldn’t arrange his schedule. Coincidentally, Oliver Marks saw Dr. Sukh Grewal speak in July at the Social Networking Conference. He moved quickly and asked him to join the Office 2.0 agenda. I’m certain it will be an excellent case study from one of the most innovative enterprise clients on the planet. See Oliver’s post on the GE social network from July.
  • Platform-as-a-Service Panel: Hosted by SaaS guru, Phil Wainewright, this panel includes leading tech platform vendors such as, SuccessFactors, Zoho, and Longjump. I’m interested to see where these panelists agree and disagree. The stability and reliability of online apps depend on them getting this right.
  • Wachovia case study: Pete Fields, who only had 20 minutes at the Enterprise 2.0 conference, will have more time to detail his experience with rolling out a social network/collaboration strategy for Wachovia to over 100,000 employees. Plenty of time for Q&A too.
  • The Changing Face of the Enterprise: Adoption in the Real Business World: The theme of this year’s show is Enterprise Adoption. Sam Lawrence, everyone’s favorite e2.0 blogger, will be hosting this panel with a great lineup of early adopter veterans.
  • Entering and Leaving the Workforce: nGenera has a treasure chest of data on this topic. Our Exec VP, Nick Vitalari, will moderate this panel which includes a retired F500 CIO and a 15-year old student!

These are just a few that I know I’m interested in… but experience has shown I generally learn more at sessions where I’m hearing the speakers for the first time. Although there will be scores of new vendors to visit in the pod demo gallery, I’m going to do my best to attend every session.

Incidentally, for small startups who (say, weren’t chosen for TechCrunch50 or can’t afford to go) want to get some excellent exposure for their products, be sure to check out the Office 2.0 Launchpad:

Office 2.0 Launchpad
You’ve started a new company developing a cool Office 2.0 product? Your company has 5 employees or less? You want to show your product to investors and media representatives? The Office 2.0 Launchpad is for you! Hosted by the Office 2.0 Conference to take place in San Francisco, CA on September 3-5, the Office 2.0 Launchpad will let you schedule one-on-one demos with over 50 members of the VC community, and more than 100 analysts, bloggers, and journalists, alongside potential customers and thought leaders from the Office 2.0 industry. If you’re interested, please send an email to ismael at monolab dot com. The first ten applicants come for free. The next get in for $995, barely enough to cover food and hotel costs. Hurry up, for we only have a limited number of spots available!

What’s included:

  • One full attendee pass
  • Listing on the Office 2.0 Launchpad page
  • Access to the one-on-one demo scheduling system
  • Dedicated page on the website for one year
  • Video recording of your demo and publishing on the website

Needless to say (but I need to say it), the conference is going to be great. I’m looking forward to meeting many of you for the first time and catching up with friends. Several of the EIs are going, so there will be plenty of socializing in meatspace. Don’t forget to wear your Twitter decal on your badge. 🙂

See you in San Francisco!

photo credit: brian solis

Office 2.0 getting into gear

courtesy Brian Solis
courtesy Brian Solis

Yep. It’s that time again. The mad dash to put together a fabulous conference is underway. Ismael, Oliver Marks, and I are working hard to deliver a first-rate conference.

The web site should be up tomorrow here. Thanks again to Jive Clearspace for hosting the conference site. Today is the last day you can get the early bird discount ($1195 vs. $1495), so be sure to register before midnight Pacific time zone.

This year’s groovy gizmo giveaway will be the The HP 2133 Mini-Note PC or a Gigabyte M528 running Linux.

Much more will be coming on Office 2.0, as we lock in the details. Looking forward to seeing everyone in San Francisco!

D-Day for the Enterprise

D-Day When I find myself talking about this market, I find I resort a lot to metaphors. My latest was a grand sweeping epic tale about how those of us who have been on the front lines of enterprise 2.0 evangelism are too few to make a big difference and that what we need are armies of foot soldiers to “take the beach” of the enterprise mainland to start liberating the masses.

Of course, we’re really not talking about bloody coups and revolutions that require heavy artillery, but we could stand to fill out the ranks with more legions of believers. The best way I know how to do that is not with guns, but with enlightenment and education. It’s the old intellectual argument of “books, not guns” to overthrow the fascist regime, I guess. (Speaking of fascist regimes, Tom Davenport is at it again with his denouncement of all things enterprise 2.0.)

In the spirit of allied invasion then, regular ITSinsiders know what a sycophantic fanboy (oops, fangirl) I am of Dion Hinchcliffe and the work he has been publishing on Enterprise 2.0. Even before I joined BSG Alliance; Dion, Kate Allen (Dion’s COO), and I had been having a series of discussions about working together on research and various writing projects. After I joined BSG, I continued my pursuit to work with Dion in a meaningful capacity. I’m happy to report we have finally signed a deal. BSG Alliance announced today we will partner with Hinchcliffe & Co. to teach fundamentals of web 2.0 to the enterprise. This is an excellent alliance for us and will lead to synergistic benefits for all our combined members and clients. I’m particularly pleased it all came together at this juncture.

Although we both have our individual goals of consulting, educating, and raising awareness regarding the benefits of enterprise 2.0 for large organizations, the opportunity exists for all of us to “mash-up” our competencies and address the growing market interest together. Collaboration is the name of the game, and the more who participate in the market in these early stages, the better it is for all of us.

Similarly, I had a wonderful long talk yesterday with Steve Wylie who is starting to think about next year’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston. Steve and I will be collaborating on this conference, similarly to how I help Ismael with the Office 2.0 conference even though, of course, BSG Alliance runs a fairly aggressive and successful conference program. It’s all good. Stay tuned for more news to come in the next few weeks.

Show me the money… not the smiley faces.

When I was interviewing Nathan Gilliatt a few months ago for a webinar we were doing for our clients on the basics of blogging, he introduced me to the importance of online communities. I felt so strongly that he was correct about online communities’ importance in the social media landscape that I recommended incorporating a session on online communities at Office 2.0 and had Dion Hinchcliffe host the panel. A few weeks ago, I serendipitously stumbled upon a Social Media Club of Austin meeting on Facebook where Dell managers were going to be presenting their blogging and online community experiences. Caroline Dietz, the online community manager for Dell’s IdeaStorm gave a good synopsis of how the community is harvested for new product ideas and improvements for Dell. I had the opportunity to spend a few moments afterwards talking to Dell’s chief blogger, Lionel Menchaca, which I really enjoyed.

NYTimes IDC chartThe one question I managed to get in during the open forum that I felt was obligatory was related to how measurable an impact has Dell’s social media strategy been on Dell’s business–in material (read:financial) terms. There was a lot of discussion regarding how the social media strategy is changing the culture at Dell, how customer satisfaction is improving, etc. And, I’ve seen some reports on the before and after social media at Dell. But, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to ask a public company if this social media razzmatazz has really made, well, a serious difference in the company’s affairs. It’s so easy to be seduced by this technology and to see it working for startups and small pilots, but large public companies have weighty issues.

I’ve attended enough investor analyst conferences, and I’m wondering can Dell’s social media strategy help Michael Dell the next time he’s in front of Citigroup’s Richard Gardner and he has to explain why Dell has fallen from the #1 PC maker to the #2 PC maker worldwide? Better– can Dell’s social media strategy play a role in regaining Dell’s market leadership position?

I’m also wondering why in this recent interview (9/7) with Steve Lohr of the New York Times, why didn’t Michael Dell take the opportunity to highlight how the company is effectively using social media to help Dell “get back to its roots” by directly speaking to the customer base (and listening in return)? Dietz’s answer to my direct question about whether there have been any material results from the efforts was more or less, “no.” But, maybe it’s just too early to tell. Menchaca said Dell started the blog in July of 2006, so perhaps the results are not yet measurable in these terms.

I guess I’m just in the mood for some results. There is a wide and growing wider community of experts in the social media space. Perhaps there is solid data on this that I have not seen. Something we’ve been discussing in the Enterprise Irregulars group is how social media and enterprise 2.0 differ which would account for it having slipped my view, but that topic is a post for another day and probably involves taking a crack once again at the arbiter of all 2.0 legitimacy: wikipedia. Not sure I’m in the mood for fighting with the wikipedians.

The session with the Dell folks was interesting, despite my growing impatience for iron-clad case studies of 2.0 in business success. I learned a lot, actually.

Enterprise vendors start beating the drum

IBM web2.0 goes to work Last week was a banner 2.0 week for enterprise vendors. Gee. Do you think they were reading my blog? The week got off to a good start for me with a snappy little web 2.0 seminar hosted right here in Austin by IBM, “Web 2.0 Goes to Work.” Of course, SAP announced SAP By Design, but my fellow Irregulars did an awesome job conveying the import of that announcement. ibm seminar logoLike I said to Charlie Wood at lunch the other day, “I can’t even spell SAP…” So, I won’t attempt to comment on the SAP announcement. I’m scheduled to attend SAP’s TechEd Conference next week. We’ll see if I can be learnt.

On the IBM gig, I was surprised, frankly, to find that both Rod Smith and David Barnes were both in attendance at this seminar and both presented. Smith wasn’t there for the whole shindig, but he was there to lend executive support to the the day. Smith related some anecdotal accounts of IBM’s experiences discussing 2.0 with key accounts. In general he said it’s easier to sit with lines of business now (as opposed to IT) to brainstorm ideas. With these new approaches, customers are willing to experiment more, even fail if need be, rather than wait for long, protracted 6-month development efforts that incorporate all the bells and whistles required to support the enterprise environment such as security, privacy, and compliance. Smith said, “That takes time, and [LOBs are] willing to take certain risks.” What I loved about Smith’s early discussions with IBM customers was the interest level about what was possible in the enterprise. He expressed the sentiment that customers want information to be “mashable, remixable…” that they started looking at their data as modular assets– using it in ways they hadn’t planned for. One example yielded an unexpected result when a mashup uncovered shipping information that helped a global distribution company combat piracy on the high seas.

After Smith and Barnes were done keynoting and introducing, for some reason, they made us all wear white lab coats (question mark?) and we self-sectioned off into three breakout sessions focused on each of the three main areas: collaboration, mashups, and IT integration with web 2.0 (my interpretation). I attended the first and the last, as I was having a private demo of QEDWiki in a few days. The collaboration session drew a mix of IBMers, customers, and partners. Questions ranged from, “How do I get people in my company to collaborate with these new tools?” to “How can we get access to data buried deep inside those web2.0-soulless mainframes?” Okay, well that was me asking that question. I had the good fortune to be sitting next to a veteran IBMer who said it IS possible to layer on interfaces to get access to all data in the enterprise so folks can collaborate on just about anything. The question then became– how willing would IT be to let the whole company have open and free access to that data? And round and round we went…

On the IT software integration session, my BSG colleagues were particularly engaged. IBM has packaged its offerings under the bundle, “Info 2.0.” It’s basically an integrated suite of technologies that enable the creation of mashable content. At present, I believe it includes what they’re currently calling DAMIA which transforms content into syndication feeds, the Mashup Hub where you discover, catalog, tag feeds for remixing and then syndicate content and then finally, QEDWiki which I’ve blogged about before and will later. They also have something called Ms. Rita (lovely Rita, “meter maid” in a too short uniform skirt that will never fly with corporate branding IMHO; sheesh, boys!) which is a configurable “utilization management service” to meter, monitor, and monetize web 2.0 an SOA components, applications or environments. Miss Rita (or, whatever) will probably not be available in the first release of the Info 2.0 announcement, not sure why. One fairly cool IBM application in beta right now is Many Eyes. Check it out for a free trial. If you want to see some of these tools in action check out some of these demos, podcasts, and videos.

Blogger transparency dictates that I confess I’m not qualified to comment on the technical intricacies of IBM’s foray into web 2.0, but I give Big Blue huge points for promoting web 2.0 in the enterprise. Like SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft, IBM has something the startups do not: a massive installed base. Even if only IBM puts some massive marketing muscle behind evangelizing, I kind of don’t care if their solutions and approach are a yawner. My sense is, they are serious about this sector for interesting economic motives that may possibly not be obvious to us right now. For instance, did it ever occur to anyone that “the cloud” is not really a cloud at all? Is IBM viewing the 2.0 transformation as an opportunity to reap big benefits from big iron? Just food for thought. Here are two pieces to ponder– one from the WSJ, one from CIO insight.

A few days after the seminar, I had the chance to revisit with Dan Gisolfi to see what he’s been up to lately with QEDWiki. Dan has teamed up with John Musser of Programmable Web. I will have more on that later this week, maybe tomorrow, as well as a report from an interesting meeting I attended with the local Social Media Club here in Austin.