Already there: 100% SaaS

I try carefully not to post too much about nGenera on this blog, as its focus is centered more generically on trends in Enterprise 2.0. It occurred to me as we’re pulling together the Office 2.0 agenda, that the nGenera story is one which hopeful SaaS enthusiasts can look to for guidance and real world benchmarking.

nGenera is 100% SaaS. The company was designed to deliver on the promise of “on demand” computing. With well over 300 employees now on three continents, we manage all our operations on a SaaS basis. The image to the left sits on our internal collaboration hub where all employees have one-click access to all the SaaS applications that run our company. Intacct, in fact, just issued a press release featuring our use of its Intacct Plus offering. We also use SaaS apps for collaboration, all our talent management (hiring, compensation, payroll, learning) and research projects.

We’ve done a good job integrating Salesforce.com, Intacct, and Open Air so our execs can make “on demand” decisions will real data. After only a year or so, with a run-rate close to $100M and profitability on the horizon*, we’re probably one of the better case studies out there for SaaS-as-a-Successstory.

So while some may declare the SaaS model bankrupt, as Lawson’s CEO recently did in this interview, we’ll continue to run our business on demand, and offer SaaS-based solutions to our customers. Our CEO is somewhat passionate on this topic and spoke recently at the AlwaysOn Summit at Stanford. You can watch the video here.

*“But nGenera has made a great deal of progress in a short period of time, has a great customer base to leverage and grow, and top notch senior management and investors to guide it. We believe that the company’s journey thus far has netted it a revenue run-rate approaching $100 million and could be cash flow positive by year end as the Talisma integration is completed.” (source: JMK Securities, July 2008.)

A Round-up of Enterprise 2.0-related tidbits


Jive Clearspace has begun an open community where e2.0 fans, friends, and enemies (that means you Tom Davenport :-)) can have an opportunity to share war stories, successes, and get questions answered. The community site is called ClearStep. Of course, you can always share your opinions on our nGenera site, as well. Oliver Marks tipped me off to this site too by Imaginatik which appears to be powered by Ning, but there are some great wikinomics-style case studies and discussion threads there you might want to participate in.

Second, I’ve been meaning to blog about this for awhile. Nick Barker has created a one-stop shop for aggregating all current goings-on and content related to Enterprise 2.0 at his Enterprise 2.0 Portal site. The site is free and should be on everyone’s feed reader. Make sure you check it out.

And, in case you missed it, the venerable consulting institution, McKinsey & Co. published its global survey results for “Building the Web 2.0 Enterprise.” It’s also free, but you have to give them your contact info.

Finally, Niall Cook who founded one of my favorite products, Cogenz, (in his spare time) released his new book, “Enterprise 2.0: How Social Software will change the future of work.” I have not read it yet, but I’m certain it’s another must-have for your e2.0 bookshelf– IF you have a liberal expense account. It’s a little pricey at $89.95. I asked Niall about the price, he said it’s because the publisher sells mainly to an institutional and academic market. I’m hoping for a review copy, or will have to wait for the eBook or paperback version. Or maybe I can get a discount because Don Tapscott wrote the forward? (Humm… just realized we need to update Don’s profile on Wikipedia to reflect nGenera. Damn these Internets, always need to be current!). Actually, Niall may have taken a page out of the Wikinomics playbook, because it appears you can co-create with the community to add more content on each of the book’s chapters with this wiki hosted by Socialtext. He’s also blogging on the major themes of the book here.

The Original Unconference: Mashup Camp

What is not to love about Mashup Camp? This is my first unconference event, and I am an easy convert. It defines the free-form, emergent foundation of enterprise 2.0 in that it is completely user (developer) driven. No formal speakers, no imposed structure. What’s interesting is that developers mix easily with vendors and sponsors because from what I’ve seen they’re all intellectually curious and are asking a lot of the same questions. I don’t see a lot of marketing and selling going on here.

The day starts by mapping out a series of sessions the camp wants to discuss with peers. Developers get to pick time slots first, then sponsors, then other vendors.

mashup camp1

Next, each session is posted on a large, paper schedule that is transfered by David Berlind onto a wiki that everyone can access and annotate with session notes all day long.

mashup camp2

Then, everyone self-assembles and visits sessions that interests them. There was a lunch a break (day one), and the favorite part of the day for me was “speed-geeking” which consisted of 5-minute demos of about maybe 2 dozen mashups located at tables in the grand hall at the computer museum. Each participant had five minutes to explain his or her mashup, show its main features, and answer questions.

mashup camp3

All the mashups were impressive, but I know I and Jeff Nolan were particularly impressed with the Plaxo mashup demo. Straight from the press release, the 3.0 version:

“has a content sharing feeds system, which several networks are leveraging, especially after the combined success of Facebook apps with its newsfeeds feature. Individual feeds for Plaxo users will initially include those for Flickr photos, blogposts, Amazon wish lists and Plaxo contact info modifications.”

I videotaped the demo here for you to see for yourself. I apologize, but the “night vision” option was accidentally selected on the camera I shot it with. Grrr… Still viewable, though. This is Joseph Smarr, Architect for Plaxo, demoing Plaxo’s new 3.0 version.

<a href="http://youtube.com/watch?v=QlCp4IHMj4Y">http://youtube.com/watch?v=QlCp4IHMj4Y</a>

 

Office 2.0 The Sequel: Adds Enterprise 2.0 Track

office 2.0 logo

office 2.0 2006

Well, planning has begun for the 2nd annual Office 2.0 Conference. Yay! I’m pleased to announce that Ismael Ghalimi has nominated me (for BSG Alliance), Jevon McDonald, and Catherine Shinners to be the lucky volunteer team who will put together the Enterprise 2.0 track for the conference.

If you can only make one conference for enterprise 2.0 next fall, make this one. The conference will again be held at the St. Regis in San Francisco. Ismael has booked a lot more space in the hotel this time, so there will plenty of room for networking and visiting panels and demos. The conference web site should go up tomorrow at this link as early as tomorrow. Keep checking for it. Oh, you might want to sign up early too. The conference was a huge success last year, and Ismael is intent on keeping it small, so it may sell out. There is also a Facebook event and group for Office 2.0.

The format for the conference will change somewhat this year. There will still be killer demos, jaw-dropping celebs, and investors from the 2.0 insider crowd, but the focus this year will be on customers and real adoption of Office 2.0 tools and technologies.

Regarding enterprise 2.0 specifically, we are interested in showcasing user case studies. If you have a particular user case study you’d like to share with us, please let us know as soon as possible. Frame your pitches in terms of business benefits, or possibly, social benefits that led or will lead to increased business benefits. We’re also interested in security, privacy, governance issues– typical IT issues and how they’re impacting enterprise 2.0 adoption. The stories don’t all have to be positive; if something didn’t work, and we can learn from it, we want to hear that too.

Send any questions or interest in participating on the enterprise 2.0 track to me, Jevon, or Catherine directly. My email address is susan at bsgalliance dot com.

Photo courtesy of Brian Solis.

Hello Brits — Sign in to your Free Agent Nation

freeagent

I fear poor, fellow Enterprise Irregular Dennis Howlett has been bitten by the startup bug. After taking the product for a test drive– I completely understand! FreeAgent is an online record-keeping, invoicing, banking, project management, tax liability keeping, time management, AND community-based, knowledge-sharing resource for freelancers, contractors, and independent contractors. (I probably missed a few dozen other features.) I was originally delighted by the pleasing user interface and easy to navigate design of the application and site. But what really impressed me is the depth of the product resources.

freeagent features

Having been an independent consultant many more years than I have been an employee, this product is a consultant’s dream! I’m not sure what the long term plans are for the product, but with some minor modifications, I could easily see this product morphing into a time-tracking powerhouse for large consulting firms or growing ones, such as ours.

For today, however, my only beef with the product– and it’s a good problem to have– is why UK-only? Us small fish –in the colonies out here– might be worthy of the privilege of such a fantastic product. Not only do we have local banks of origin outside of the UK, we typically serve global clients. I know my best client was based in Amsterdam when I was an independent consultant, and I had other international projects and clients. It would really have been handy to have a global platform where I could have been paid in Euros in a European bank. I can think of dozens of others of freelance friends of mine who were ex-pats living in Paris, London, Germany doing freelance writing and consulting gigs. My hope is FreeAgent will spread the love throughout the British Empire. 😉

On a more serious note,

freeagentnation bookI remember snatching up Dan Pink’s, Free Agent Nation, when it first came out. The book resonated with me because I don’t typically fit in well with large companies and much prefer to fly solo, like so many of my writer, analyst, consultant, and researcher friends. But the worst bit, anyone will admit, about being an independent is the @#$%^ bookkeeping and paying the tax man. What’s interesting to me about FreeAgent and Dan Pink’s first book is how web 2.0 technology has created the platform to deliver on the promises of what Pink forecasted for the new frontier of work. But even if you’re a digital Bedouin who happens to work for a corporation, like some of the guys I work with, it’s clear to me that whether we can thank AJAX or Ruby or a larger zeitgeist virally propagating as we collaborate and share across boundaries and nations via the next generation Internet– so much of the baby got thrown out with the bathwater in the 1.0 dotcom bubble.

In Free Agent Nation, Dan Pink says, “The basic unit of this Free Agent Operating System– the 1s and 0s of the underlying code– is trust. Trust , as scholar Francis Fukuyama noted in a magnificent book of the same name, is essential not only to a just society– but also to a healthy economy.” Trust is the currency of web 2.0 and its business partner, enterprise 2.0. As the individual continues to supplant the organization in power and influence, I’m continually reminded of these early visionaries that set the stage for the freedom we’re seeing today on the web.

ThinkFiftyBucks would have worked for me…

thinkfree logoEarlier in the year, ThinkFree offered bloggers a free version of its portable office software. I passed on that offer, but when it came around again last week, I said I’d give it a go. I remembered that Ismael Ghalimi has been a big fan of ThinkFree for a while now and thought I recalled the offer for the free software had something to do with Ismael’s valiant crusade to free us all of our hard drives. For him and for Brian Solis (handles PR for ThinkFree), who wrote a blog post today that was just poetry to my blogger reading eyes, I decided I better start really experimenting with ThinkFree and then let you all know what I think of it.

First of all, ThinkFree basically has cloned Microsoft Office, Excel, and PowerPoint and is offering these common office applications essentially free if you use the online version, or for about $50 if you use the portable version, which I was sent from the PR firm. I believe there is a server and desktop version, as well. ThinkFree’s bizarro version of Microsoft’s products are Write, Calc, and Show. I launched all three applications, and it was uncanny how similar they are. BUT– at a fraction of the cost– if not for free. What’s not to love??? As I trolled around the web, I found more advantages of ThinkFree over Microsoft, such as their variety of choice in viewers, plug-ins, APIs, widgets, and even the ability to download the apps to your ipod. Wow. Very cool.

Now granted. I don’t pass myself off as a product reviewer for a moment. But as a mere mortal user who writes documents, uses spreadsheets casually, and creates simple powerpoint presentations, ThinkFree can satisfy all my basic needs and more. Why would I want to enslave myself to Microsoft Office for these simple apps? I actually bristle when Office makes me do something annoying these days, like I saw in this post on Outlook archiving while trolling the web.

Is ThinkFree the web 2.0 killer app for the Enterprise? Probably not, unfortunately. In an interview with ThinkFree’s Jonathan Crow, Director of Marketing on the Under the Radar Blog, Crow is asked about his target customer:

Who IS your target customer? Who is NOT your target customer?
Of our over 250,000 ThinkFree Online users we estimate that roughly 35% are SMB users, 30% are educational users, 15% are individuals within Enterprise organizations, and the remaining 20% are consumers.

What we’ve been seeing in large enterprises, is painfully slow adoption to web 2.0 alternatives, but as products like ThinkFree are mind-numbingly easy to use, familiar, and either free or so cheap it’s not worth expensing, we may start seeing user-revolt-creep start infiltrating the walled gardens of enterprise command central. I guess it’s just a matter of time. The best imagery I heard recently along these lines was Euan Semple‘s description of unleashing “a thousand Trojan mice” into the enterprise and seeing what happens. ThinkFree is a killer mouse that could roar.

I’m a convert. Give it a try. I’d be very surprised if you’re not as amazed as I am at how perfectly the ThinkFree team has replicated the Microsoft user experience with none of the Microsoft baggage.