Reality Check 2.0

Over the past month, I’ve been wrestling with blogger’s block. A number of items have kept me from blogging, but the key agitator is the current economic crisis. I’ve attended conferences; I’ve participated in discussions on social media; I continue to Yammer and Twitter, but in the back of my mind a blaring alarm is sounding off. It seems so many in the 2.0 community (who still have a job or have clients) is either in denial or is missing the bleak macro picture here.

This weekend I was watching the Sunday morning news roundups, Former Secretary of State James Baker, speaking on “Meet the Press” reiterated what we’ve been hearing for weeks now, “…it is very serious. It’s far worse than the downturn that we saw back in the 1987 when we had a stock market collapse when I was Treasury secretary. That one was much less broad and severe, but even that took us two years to come out of.”

Now, no disrespect to my late GenX and GenY readers and friends, but Boomers have some experience here that may prove helpful. Those of us who were engaged in the technology workforce in the late 80s and early 90s had to move fast to help our customers cut costs and work smarter. For me, that meant the birth of Business Process Reengineering and Outsourcing. For others, it meant the birth of Enterprise Resource Planning or ERP. Now, you could argue whether any or all of these initiatives actually delivered the results intended, but the fact remains: lots of software developers and consultants made a huge market in downtime adversity.

This recession/depression is poised to eclipse any downturn we’ve seen in our lifetimes. As I canvas the Enterprise 2.0 landscape, I find myself wondering: what is our killer economic crisis app/movement? Twitter? Facebook? Will we save the U.S auto industry by social networking?


I can assure you, there will be no Federal bail outs for 2.0 startups. Some startups will stretch their life expectancy with VC funds, but at the end of the day, it’s show time. How will you help your customers and future customers grow or at least sustain their business through this economic downturn?

The Enterprise 2.0 Advisory Board is convening in an online forum to discuss themes for this year’s conference. The conversation quickly migrated beyond the soft benefits of social collaboration to the hard, measurable benefits businesses need when navigating through tough times.

Mike Gotta of analyst firm Burton Group contributed this remark:

“Some of the phrases I keep hearing: 1. Efficiency (cost containment/avoidance, streamlining, etc.) 2. Execution (all-things-lean, process refinement) 3. Effectiveness (process and people performance, measurable productivity) 4. Rationalization (of budgets, of projects, of platforms) 5. Governance and metrics to support the above. Operations (run the business) and investment to protect top/bottom line engines (grow the business) are still ok – transformation unless it maps into some of the above areas is more discretionary – a good strategist will not cut to the bone… but overall – it’s a run/grow the business more than transformation. Business transformation (at least in my head) is more than just changing a process. Anything “soft” is getting a hard look – sure – some savvy execs will keep a portfolio perspective and still invest in some long-term areas and not slash things to the point that when the economy rights itself they are strategically behind but they (1) may not have any choice and (2) may not get broad agreement from their peers.”

Even Stowe Boyd, who coined the term “social tools” back in 1999 had this to say:

I am one of the biggest advocates for ‘social’ in the world, but I think it is too limiting for E2.0, and perhaps off message in the econolyptic times we are in.

I think the right theme is something more around ‘making the web work for business’—some blendo idea that allows E2.0 to mean
a/ the adoption of web tools and culture within the enterprise,
b/ the use of the web to better connect the enterprise to the greater world, and
c/ most specifically, the use of web 2.0 IT principles to reinvent enterprise IT, (like cloud computing, AJAX, web services, and so on).

The bottom line is: focus on the bottom line. We are collaborating for survival.

Update 12/01/08:  McAfee blogs on ideas for saving Big Auto.

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

What the heck are Enterprise 2.0 vendors talking about?

Hutch Carpenter, a product manager at Connectbeam, mashed up this Wordle on what 10 leading enterprise 2.0 vendors are talking about on their sites. Vendors include:

  1. Jive Software
  2. SocialText
  3. Connectbeam
  4. Atlassian Confluence
  5. Six Apart Movable Type
  6. Newsgator
  7. Traction Software
  8. Near-Time
  9. SpikeSource SuiteTwo
  10. Worklight

See Hutch’s post here.

How will we work 2.0 for the Man?

I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m contributing to a large research project here at nGenera. The research is titled, “Redefining Employee Computing.” The genesis for the project began when one of our customers casually asked, “What would happen if we (IT) stopped supporting the end-user… and we simply only supported from the Corporate network in?” Of course I’m paraphrasing, but that was the basic idea. The notion generated a spirited discussion around the topic, resulting in the research project we’re now undertaking.

Here is the project description:

“End-user computing” remains a burdensome challenge in large corporations, and the assumptions underlying its management have become obsolete. So has the term itself. Today we’re no longer dealing with just computing, but with devices and capabilities for performing work, communicating and collaborating with others, and even orchestrating the “life” side of the work-life equation. And corporations are no longer dealing with a faceless “end user” served by a standard package of capabilities, but with a wide variety of diverse and demanding employees who bring their own technological abilities and preferences to the job, and ho have been trained as consumers to expect technology to be highly capable and easy to use.”

The research has taken us in some predictable and some surprising directions. Included in the study are two dozen well-recognized corporate giants, many of them global. Half are in the Fortune 100 (of those, 6 are in the top 50 and 3 in the top 10). Bob Morison, featured here in the video is a regular commentator for PBS’s Nightly Business Report. He discusses the generational challenges we’re surfacing in the research. If you are interested in seeing some early findings on this research, we’ll be presenting at Office 2.0.