The Urgency of Now

Picture 1The news about Sarah Palin broke today while I was working.  Where did I see the news?   Twitter (of course).  Seconds turned to minutes, and I found myself impatient with not knowing the inside scoop on the why behind the resignation.  What was the target of my impatience?  The Twitter community.  Seems ridiculous, but it’s just expected these days that you’ll get to the heart of a breaking story within seconds.

To that end, it reminded me I wanted to write a post about the “unbearable heaviness of not-being” current.  Way, way back around the Christmas holidays, I was flattered to be one of only three reviewers for Andrew McAfee’s book on Enterprise  2.0 by Harvard Business Press.    They asked me to review the manuscript, and I accepted (for a small stipend).  They gave me a couple weeks to review it, and I submitted my comments in mid-January.

At the back of mind, however, and something I probably should have included in the review and regret now that I didn’t was a lingering doubt.  “This book will be obsolete before it’s published for the community of folks who track this sector.”

When Andy and I caught up at the Enterprise 2.0 conference, he told me that he too is really troubled by the delay on the publishing schedule.  He had hoped the book would have been published by the conference deadline (June), but it is now pushed back until December.  December?   You’re kidding me.

The demand for Andy’s book is today, not six months from now.  I’m wondering if, as a community, we can lobby Harvard Business Press to move the publication date up as its value is inextricably tied to its timeliness– especially in this fast-moving space.  The Editorial Director in charge of the publication timeline is Jacqueline Murphy .   I urge you to contact her and express your support for moving the book up in Harvard Business Press’ publishing queue.  I also started a Facebook group with the same goal.

FREE ITSinsider Pass to Enterprise 2.0 Conference

e2.0 confTechWeb is offering a free conference pass (at a $2200 value) for a lucky ITSinsider reader. All you need to do is post in the comments why you subscribe to/read the ITSinsider blog and why you want to go to the conference. Special preference will be given to an ITSinsider reader who adds me to your blogroll. 🙂

Of course, most readers are already going, so I’m not sure if I’ll get any takers here. If you’ve not signed up yet, and you didn’t win the ITSinsider free pass, you can still register and get $100 off by registering with this code: CMBMEB14 CMBMEB33. The pass is unlimited, so everyone can use it.  The demo pass gets you into see the keynotes and general sessions, launch pad, Enterprise20pen and various networking events.

Very happy to meet you in “carbon” as they say.

photo credit: Alex Dunne on flickr.

Boston in June… Enterprise 2.0 on the Waterfront

e2.0 signIt’s that time again, the hallowed Enterprise 2.0 conference is revving up for early June. I was pleased to work on the agenda this year with Steve Wylie, the conference organizer, along with other members of the advisory board. The conference is in its second year and promises to reflect the maturation that occurred in the space over the past 12 months. Although many first-time attendees to the conference will be new to Enterprise 2.0, the concepts and themes have evolved and been refined over the past 12 months. Three out of the four largest enterprise vendors are big sponsors this year (IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle.) I’m personally hoping we see relevant, interesting developments from these large vendors this year.

We are introducing two new ideas to the conference this year which I’m particularly excited about. The first is Stowe Boyd’s Launch Pad where four (whittled down from a larger number by votes) audience-chosen startups will have an opportunity to demo their products and compete for a winning spot for the best launch pad product/service. As there is such a torrent of new products coming onto the scene, this is a great attempt to filter out the most useful based on collective crowd selection. We are considering doing something very similar regarding sessions for September’s Office 2.0 conference based on the SXSW’s panel-picker software.

The second event, or maybe unevent I should say, is called Enterprise2Open. Modeled after “barcamps and unconferences,” this will be a half-day’s worth of unstructured Q&A and sharing hosted by Ross Mayfield. The unstructured, open-type of event has been popular for some time in the development community, but we thought we’d attempt to try it out this year with a non-technical audience. The format provides a no-hassle, informative forum to ask any and all of your burning questions related to Enterprise 2.0 and get answers from peers and folks in the community who may have experienced the same issues. You may want to consider getting your questions and topics suggested in advance by posting them to the Enterprise2Open wiki. You can actually be a presenter yourself, if you bring your own soap box. Just get yourself on the self-organized agenda. The entire session will run in the afternoon on Tuesday, June 11 from 1-4pm. nGenera is sponsoring the event, so I’ll be there with a few of my colleagues and customers.

Speaking of customers, Rob Carter, CIO of Federal Express is giving the opening keynote. A group of us were in Memphis at Fedex’s central distribution facility in March where we heard Rob talk on 2.0 adoption. Rob sees himself as an evangelist himself for 2.0 in the enterprise. I’m really pleased he accepted the offer to keynote on Tuesday morning. One of the conference themes this year is accelerating user adoption. Having notable icons from the F500 executive board room will go far to lower the barriers of trial and experimentation with 2.0 alternatives.

e2.0 demo pavillionI’ll be at the conference from Sunday to Wednesday. I hope to see many of you there. Please drop me a note or a comment here to let me know if you’re attending. Many thanks to all the folks on the panels I helped arrange.

Photo credits: Jeckman on flickr and Alex Dunne on flickr.

Microsoft hooks up at Web 2.0.

I’m a little late on Microsoft’s Atlassian and Newsgator news from last week’s announcement coming out of the O’Reilly Web 2.0 Conference. Scrappy, but solid, little Atlassian (whom you know I just love*) was anointed this year’s wiki-mate (pun intended) for SharePoint 2007. (As opposed to last year’s which was Socialtext). I have to admit, I’m still not clear on how the Confluence wiki is preferable to the Socialtext wiki for SharePoint, but admittedly, I’m not an expert in wiki technology or SharePoint for that matter. I am a wiki user, however, of Socialtext. In the spirit of 2.0 transparency, Redmonk’s James Governor makes an attempt at clearing up the differences with Ross Mayfield chiming in on the comments.

If you need to know more about this, please read Dan Farber, Richard McManus, or see Scoble’s interview with Mike and Jeff for technical details on the announcement.

What interested Jevon and I as we IM-chatted about this last week was how serious was Microsoft about the relationships? Obviously, the company issued a press release, but is this any more than Microsoft showing up to this year’s Web 2.0 party with two “it” girls on its arm– Atlassian and Newsgator? Both startups are sexy and independent rising stars on their own. Yet, both firms could benefit from Microsoft’s large footprint in the enterprise, as well as the success SharePoint 2007 seems to be on track for (topping $800M this summer).

So the announcement is very good for both startups, but does it reveal anything about Microsoft’s plans for a long-term Enterprise 2.0 product road map? Another fellow Enterprise Irregular who has had confidential briefings at Microsoft told me that, “discussions are going on at the highest levels to address this.” Additionally, he pointed out that Steve Ballmer doesn’t make conference appearances willy nilly. “The fact that Ballmer was there demonstrates Microsoft is committed to a long-term strategy here, even if the short term strategy looks more like marketing.”

The bottom line for me is: regardless of who is selling and evangelizing behind the walled gardens and firewalls of EnterpriseGlobal, this particular announcement introduces rich enterprise 2.0 capabilities to a community that has been slow to respond to web 2.0 for the enterprise. That fact alone elicits a big “YaY!” from me.

It’s actually the NewsGator announcement that may give SharePoint customers a taste of “addicting” social networking features for large companies. After the demo NewsGator gave me last week, I pinned down Brian Kellner, Director of Product Management, on the five key benefits for SharePoint users. From a technical perspective they are:

  1. Discovery. With NewsGator Social Sites it’s easier to find people and content. It’s also easier to digest larger profiles of content that is interesting.
  2. Content IN. It’s easier to bring content into SharePoint in the form of press releases/blogs– all fresh content.
  3. Content OUT. It’s easier to send content back out in a single click with push notifications to several platforms and devices including mobile.
  4. Increased usability for SharePoint. NewsGator has added “Ajax-y goodness” so users can mark items as read, use pop-ups, etc., without page refresh.
  5. Lightens the Load for IT. As page loads draw off the enterprise server, it lightens the load off SharePoint.

But after talking to Jeff Nolan this weekend, he convinced me social networking was the killer feature for this announcement. Jeff said it’s the “seeing what your colleagues are posting and commenting on” similar to Plaxo’s Pulse that is going to add a nice dimension to SharePoint. Brian left this comment on a SharePoint customer’s blog that sums it up:

Social Sites does 4 things for SharePoint:
– Bring in content from many feeds, filtered and focused for a site with the ability to mark things read and tag items
– Easy, one-click subscription and routing of SharePoint changes – I have SharePoint blog posts going to a desktop notifier and document library changes going to my blackberry for example
– Better discovery and usability – Social Sites provides a quick scan page including a tag cloud (you can put the tag cloud web part on any / all of your team sites), a view of the top moving feeds, and most active users
– Easy discovery of expertise and interests. You can click on an author or tagger’s name to get a mini profile or view a full profile page and see tags, top subscriptions, saved items, and more for that user.

SocialSites Profile Page

In the past few posts, I’ve been complaining about the enterprise application vendors, but jeepers– SAP has truly been stepping up to the plate (I personally can’t wait to see if they commercialize Harmony), IBM clearly gets this, Microsoft is now dating and cooking up bigger plans, all we have left is Oracle. Oracle is hosting its OpenWorld Conference in a few weeks, which ironically, is not so open to bloggers. Via a Tweet from Forrester’s Jeremiah Owyang earlier today at Oracle’s Lunch 2.0 event, we heard “Oracle is giving demos of their enterprise 2.0 apps. some are very promising but others need a major overhaul.” I look forward to reading the reports over the next few weeks regarding Oracle’s plans. So there you have it. The enterprise apps vendors are on the move.

Finally, I couldn’t finish this post without mentioning an alternative to SharePoint if you want great collaboration and social networking performance in the enterprise without the SharePoint experience. (Jeff and I also got into the “does SharePoint (um) suck or rock?” question. Suffice it to say there is evidence on both sides of that debate.) And of course, let’s not forget both Newsgator and Atlassian’s Confluence are available without SharePoint. That being said…

Check out ThoughtFarmer.

thoughtfarmer screen shot

I met these guys out at Office 2.0, but was tipped off to them again from Jevon. Chris McGrath, co-creator, told me ThoughtFarmer started out as a SharePoint project, but they ended up scrapping it and building their own. Granted, it was then SharePoint 2003, which even Jeff Nolan says, “definitely s**ed.”

Again, the good news here is there are strong reasons why enterprises can look seriously now at these web 2.0 technologies for the enterprise. The mission is now persuading them why they would want to. It sounds trivial, but for those outside of the “get-it” inner circle, it’s not. More posts to come on this topic. Stay tuned.

*I took a bit of a risk by backing Atlassian early on when they were relatively unknown. Now, I’m glad I did. Like in sports, good teams win on fundamentals, and these guys knew how to please customers and grow a business.

Office 2.0 Enterprise 2.0 Track Zeros in on Adoption Issues

office 2.0 logo

In true 2.0 form, the conference organizers for the Enterprise 2.0 track team have been collaborating around the world, assembling an A-list of early adopters on Enterprise 2.0, evangelists, and visionary entrepreneurs. Using Skype, IM, wikis, and the occasional email, we have been able to bring together a terrific team of speakers from three continents.

Ismael will be posting the agenda sometime in the next 24 hours, and some of the invited speakers are not yet confirmed, but I wanted to start getting the word out about what we have going on on our side of the house (there is a mobility track running concurrently with the Enterprise 2.0 track).

I already blogged about the dynamic duo Gavin/Revell Show which will open the conference track on Day One. This presentation will set the agenda for much of what will be discussed at the remainder of the two days of the conference, as these guys were early into the Enterprise 2.0 game. As Ismael is interested in focusing this year specifically on customer issues, the Pfizer case study will cover the gamut of early adoption issues. I don’t know exactly what these guys will present, but if my hunch is correct, you may want to bring ear plugs to soften the sound effects of their presentation. 🙂

We also looked hard at what is happening in the social media space in the enterprise. We are still trying to put this together, but our intention is to have Facebook, Ning, Plaxo, and LinkedIn together on a panel moderated by Shel Israel. Shel has agreed, and we’re slowly signing up the vendors… I’m particularly excited about this one. Please start formulating your questions for this panel. Remember, you’ll be able to send your questions directly to the panel via your iPhone…

Like Andy McAfee says, “It’s not (just) the technology.” Culture, culture, culture is the new barometer for success with Enterprise 2.0. But cultural changes can be painful especially within a large enterprise. Some argue they are too disruptive to be effective and that hierarchical systems work for a reason. We put together an expert panel on Culture in the Enterprise to discuss these larger issues. Similarly, we will have a Customer Panel who will share real war stories from the trenches. From investment banks to pharmaceuticals to manufacturers, hear first hand from evangelists and practitioners what’s working and what’s not.

Day Two begins with a presentation by Adam Carson who has been on a mission to bring Enterprise 2.0 to Morgan Stanley. Adam’s story took some interesting twists and turns this year. Everyone will find something they can relate to in Adam’s presentation. Then, coming from half-way around the world will be Stephen Collins who has done some of the best slideshare presentations I’ve seen on Enterprise 2.0 this year. Steve will present “Knowledge Worker 2.0.” Who is the KW2.0? It’s you.

This year’s new collaboration tool is mindmapping. We included a session on the power of visual collaboration. This panel will explain this powerful new collaborative tool and how to employ it within the enterprise. Finally, still pending confirmation, we hope to have Dion Hinchcliffe give us a wrap-up of the state-of-the-market in Enterprise 2.0 and then lead a panel on company-sponsored user communities such as SAP’s Software Developer Network (SDN). Other user communities we are recruiting include Sony, Webex, and Atlassian. If you have a large user community and would like to be on this panel, please let us know.

These sessions may change as we near the conference date, but this is what we have planned thus far. Keep checking the Office 2.0 site for Ismael’s posting of the conference track agenda.

Plaxo? Well, well, well. An old friend suddenly turns heads.

So, I’ve been using Plaxo for a long time now. Probably years? I dunno. When did they launch? I seem to remember always having my contacts online with Plaxo in recent years. It’s always been handly to have an online database of my contacts. Plus, I really like the user-generated, self-maintenance of my personal contact database. Makes life really easy for people who never getting around to digital housekeeping. I guess LinkedIn is the same idea, but Plaxo has always been a nice convenience for me, but something I would have filed in the “personal productivity” category of life’s niceties. Kind of like a Swiffer or my Polaris.

But, all that is changing. Little Plaxo may be the engine that just could give Facebook a run for its market dominance. I know I’m not the only one who thinks so. I saw this piece on Wired today, “Slap in the Facebook: It’s Time for Social Networks to Open up.” It was also picked up by Tom Regan, an NPR blogger, here. And I’ve already blogged about the impression Plaxo made out at mashup camp with its 3.0 release demo.

What I really like so far about the Plaxo platform is the sensible approach to the nonsensible “friending” silliness of Facebook. For instance, our HR leadership at BSG Alliance has a hard time embracing Facebook as a serious social networking platform when new employees and customers are faced with choices such as these (see screen shot):

Facebook hookupsAnd try as hard as I might to convince others that Facebook really is for business, “REALLY GUYS!”, screen shots emailed around the company like this don’t help my case much. So, I have to concede that, yes, Facebook still has a way to go before we can allow it into the realm of real corporate power, quiet dignity, and serious prestige that comes with the territory of selling to the F500.

So, Plaxo, which did not start its business plan in a college dorm room majoring in party photos, approached the social networking exercise the way business people actually are networking. Basically in three large buckets: Business, Friends (real friends), and Family. Perfect.

Taking a page out of David Weinberger’s, “Everything is Miscellaneous” perhaps, we all can probably sort everyone we know into those three categories if we had to and add some to both or all three depending on how relationships change in our lives over time. Plaxo starts with the whole “mess” (in Weinberger’s terms), and we customize the sort from what we have already– if you’re already a Plaxo user, that is. I guess it’s even easier if you’re not a Plaxo user, you can start fresh.

The only major issue I had with assigning categories to my existing contacts is there are so darn many of them after these years. I emailed Joseph Smarr (the Plaxo Architect from the video on my blog) and asked him if there was any way to group categorize contacts. He said, “We’re working on it…”

Plaxo ConnectionsLook how easy they make it to connect to your “friends.” In this case, I’m sending an invite to Craig Cmehil who is already in my Plaxo network. Once I connect to Craig as a Business contact, I can isolate his feeds (blog posts, videos, twitter posts, delicious posts, and whatever else Craig is doing online that he cares to share with me and others) to my business network. Now, we are getting closer to a practical social networking tool for the Enterprise. Although, admittedly, it will be difficult to break the Facebook addiction.

plaxopulse

Try the new Pulse on Plaxo. I’m curious what the reaction is going to be.