Secret Santa Surprise: Land of (not-so) Misfit e20 Toys

Picture 8To close out 2009, I thought I’d write a wrap-up of some of my favorite Enterprise 2.0 platforms that for some unknown reason don’t have the visibility they may perhaps deserve in the broader landscape. If you’re shopping for Enterprise 2.0 platforms in 2010, please be sure to give a few of these a looksee.

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1. Traction Software. Traction Teampage has been around since 1999 and was originally developed by the good folks who created hypertext journaling (like, orignally). As you can imagine, over ten years this product has grown to become one of the most versatile tools in the socio-collaborative arsenal. Traction has an A-list of great customers including many security-conscious Federal agencies (such as the Department of Justice). One of our members, Brian Tullis @briantullis (Alcoa), did an amazing job with his case study at Traction’s annual user group conference. You can watch that here.

Picture 14 2. PBWorks. Similarly, born “PBWiki,” PBWorks has outgrown its wiki origins and has a full-featured platform that now includes voice, micro-blogging, live-editing and notifications, IM, and project management. (I probably left out a few.) This tool also has a very pleasing user interface and could win awards for ease of use. PBWorks seems to have hit a home run in the legal sector, but it’s truly a great platform for anyone interested in collaborating online. ITSinsider e20 trivia contest: First person who comments on the blog who knows what “PB” originally stood for wins a 2.0 Adoption Council coffee mug. (PBWorks employees– you can’t play. )

Picture 153. ThoughtFarmer. Ah. Jevon McDonald @jevon (my brilliant, handsome fellow EI) introduced me to ThoughtFarmer. It was probably love at first site (pun, yes) with me and ThoughtFarmer. The first time I interviewed Chris McGrath, @thoughtfarmer I may have asked him to marry me as I was so swept away with the beauty of the software and its elegant design. The ThoughtFarmer story started like this: “A client hired us to design their SharePoint site. We hated it so much we decided to tear it apart and start from scratch building a product from the ground up.” Of course, I’m paraphrasing from my memory of the interview. What ThoughtFarmer did, however, was design a socio-collaborative platform starting with PEOPLE as the centerpiece. I think when I heard that, I popped the question to poor Chris. As I commented on the ThoughtFarmer blog last week, some of our best contributions in the Council come from ThoughtFarmer members. I look forward to many years of ThoughtFarmer success.

Lotus Connections 4. Lotus Connections. Luis Benitez @lbenitez approached me at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in San Francisco and asked me why Connections is not getting more love from the e20 echo chamber. I told him I hadn’t heard a lot from the Connections team and would like to change that. Considering word on the street is that the SharePoint team calls the SharePoint v. Connections bake-off Mike Gotta held in 2008, “The Boston Massacre,” Connections has lost a little momentum over the past year, especially, as MSFT is now evangelizing SharePoint 2010. Connections is still a best-in-class enterprise alternative. Headshift’s Jon Mell @jonmell has some great experience and posts on Connections. Head there for more details.

Picture 75. Socialcast. Socialcast continues to impress me. The latest redesign of the product is as elegant as it is functional. The platform’s ability to integrate legacy application data, its security provisions (behind the firewall as well as hosted), and the multitude of opportunities to feed external social content make it one of the most simple on-ramping e20 introductory tools available for businesses of every size. Socialcast is also free up to 50 for an unlimited number of users. Check ’em out.

Of course, these are just a few of my favorite tools in the e20 space. I wish every vendor continued success in the category. The pace of innovation in this sector is part of the fun of being an engaged observer.

What are your favorite tools/platforms?

Fact-gathering on 2.0 Adoption

The recent acquisition of Headshift by the Dachis Group was largely celebrated in the e2.0 community. As I commented for RWW, it’s a testament to a growing, maturing market. Enterprise interest in incorporating 2.0 tools and practices has never been higher. With this stage of evolution comes the good stuff, the fact-based data that helps guide our understanding of where we are, what it takes to get this right, who’s behind Enterprise 2.0 initiatives, what expectations are for business results, how much money will move through the market, etc.

I was really excited to see McKinsey’s 2009 “How Companies are Benefiting from Web 2.0” report that came out this week. Having come from a large consulting background tracking the IT services sector, it’s a raw indicator that the 2.0 phenomenon is about to break out of the echo chamber when the large consulting firms start paying attention. Some of our best contributors in the Council are large consulting firms who are rolling out their own initiatives, and I expect these firms will leverage this intelligence to build their own practices at some point. During the first evolution of the web, a whole host of IT services firms cropped up to take advantage of the promise of enterprise transformation via the web. Most of those firms fell flat in the dotcom meltdown bringing down investors, customers, employees, and the echo chamber. I did a huge research report that profiled who those companies were and what dynamics were driving that sector. What did succeed, royally, from that era is the undeniable impact electronic commerce brought to the consumer and enterprise sectors. Seeing “what could be” drove the vision of many of those early firms, and even if their dreams crumbled under the weight of their own ambition (and hubris), they were correct about identifying the potential of the Internet to radically change business.

So, we’ve moved from e-business to social business in a decade. While the hype factor is still a little deafening, I’m thrilled to announce we will be kicking off the first in-depth exploration into the 2.0 adoption phenomenon to bring some clarity to the maturing market sector. To conduct this research, I’m pleased to announce the Council has signed a strategic partnership with Carl Frappaolo and Dan Keldsen of Information Architected to conduct a qualitative research study on the dynamics surrounding 2.0 adoption, as well as quantitative data on our members relative to industry, professional profiles (titles, organization), budgets, and other data points that present a portrait of who the early adopters really are. I’ve done some preliminary inquiries on our Council members and have already discovered a number of surprising findings that I would not have predicted. For instance, budgets for 2.0 are a lot higher than I would have guessed (if at all even established).

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Other interesting findings reveal that IT is not driving many of the decisions to implement a wide-scale enterprise 2.0 initiative. Lines of business comprise the lion’s share of our members.

One of the greatest goals for this research is to finally highlight salient case studies that explain the motivation behind the 2.0 effort as well as the expected business results.

For example, I conducted an interview this week with a very well known Wall Street investment bank. It was the audit and compliance global organization that drove an e20 solution to answer an age-old problem: high inefficiencies and underutilization. It’s an impressive global rollout that incorporates 5 financial center locations with approximately 200 of the firm’s subject matter experts in product, trading desk, regulatory, and banking. The initiative has yielded a “huge leap forward” according to the bank due to the transparency and visibility the firm has now as a result of breaking down the fiefdom walls that impeded the firm’s progress in years past. Greatest challenge? The people issues. It forces employees to communicate more. Additionally, the new processes expose the weak links in the firm and threaten job security/relevance. Greatest benefit? The initiative answers to the Board of Directors and provides predictable, reliable reporting that mitigates risk and ensures regulatory compliance. I asked my contact if the effort played any role in the financial recovery of this particular firm, he said not really because this was purely a cost-containment effort, yet he added, “The platform should, however, allow [the firm] to be more nimble in the face of increased regulatory scrutiny. Management can now see the effects of re-allocating resources to review areas of the firm with a higher perceived risk.”

All good stuff. There are so many exciting initiatives going on within the Council membership, I am thrilled to be able to bring them to light via our research. We will be presenting top-line findings of this research at the Enterprise 2.0 conference in San Francisco (Nov. 2 – 5). The Council has a number of initiatives going on at the conference, and I’ll be blogging about them in the upcoming weeks.

If you are a customer in the throes of adoption and would like to participate in the research, please simply request to join The 2.0 Adoption Council. Membership is free and you will receive a tremendous return on your (non) investment.

The Urgency of Now

The 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.

And they’re off… Postcard from Enterprise 2.0 Boston

From the mood here at the Enterprise 2.0 conference, you’d never know we were in an economic recession and still lingering financial crisis.  Most folks I’ve met are upbeat and optimistic about the prospects for business in the sluggish economy.  Of course, the conference has not yet officially kicked off yet, but judging from the tenor of the well-attended workshops yesterday and the wall-to-wall social events that have dominated the experience here, I’d say this mood will probably continue all week.

There are some news items breaking this morning that I want to get out, although I don’t have time to go into a deep dive on them.  Some interesting news out of SAP and Jive includes and OEM agreement where Jive will integrate its business intelligence software into Jive’s “social business” platform offering community analytics to Jive’s customer base.  The new software will offer a means of capturing and understanding the behavoirs and content that flows through social communities in order to make intelligent decisions.  The rumor, of course, all week was that SAP was buying Jive, but that appears to be unfounded.  This new venture, however, marks a clear initiative by SAP to (finally) take social software seriously, and likewise, it provides a grownup capability for a social software platform like Jive to deliver some clear business benefit.  I’ll be taking a look at the new happy couple later in the day in the demo area.

Secondly, Socialtext has finally announced its long-promised SocialCalc which was developed by VisiCalc’s co-creator, Dan Bricklin.  Additionally, the company is offering free use of its social software platform for the first 50 users aptly called, “Socialtext Free 50.”  The move to a freemium model for Socialtext follows on the heels of Socialcast‘s similar free offering for its social software.  In my experience, once folks are exposed to working socially and encouraged to do so by their peers, social software grows virally.  The freemium model is probably a smart move to take the edge off early adopter user resistance.  I will be curious to see how this move impacts adoption for Socialtext and others experimenting with the model.

Finally, my alma mater, nGenera has made some announcements this week at the conference.  The company launched four “Collaborative Enterprise Management” solutions for Enterprise Collaboration, Collaborative Selling, Customer Experience, and Talent Management.  nGenera is hosting a small event tonight in the hotel (Hancock Room) at 5:30 and will feature well-known author and speaker Tammy Erickson.  If you’re curious about who nGenera is and how they fit into the Enterprise 2.0 landscape, I encourage you to attend the session or talk to the nGenera folks at the show.  The company is uniquely positioned in a high-end slice of the market.

Also, if you’re here at the conference, please consider attending the unconference/barcamp sessions I’ll be participating in on Wednesday afternoon with Ross Mayfield and Brian Magierski.  There has been a lot of talk recently about framing the market and establishing a universal view of the semantics that surround the space.  I have a slide I’d like to invite the community to perhaps validate and improve on that I will be presenting Wednesday afternoon.  Barcamps are fun and interactive.  The best part is if you’re bored or a session’s not interesting, you can get up and walk out at any time.

Ollie Ollie Oxen Free!* Boston is Home Base for e20 Evangelists this Month.

picture-4Well, it’s that time of year again. The Enterprise 2.0 Conference is once again gearing up for an interesting week in Boston. All e20-loving fans and friends will be coming from all parts unknown to proselytize, share war stories, and re-energize for the year ahead.

The keynotes are exceptional this year. I’m really pleased we were able attract Matthew Fraser, co-author of one of my favorite 2.0 business books this year, “Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking will Transform Your Life, Work, and World.” We also have favorites from last year include Evening in the Cloud, OpenEnterprise09, and one of the stars of last year’s event: the Lockheed-Martin case study duo.

I’m particularly interested in a few sessions. (In fact, I gave up all my speaking slots so I could attend other sessions!) One that I don’t want to miss is Lee Bryant’s “Transition Strategies for e20 Adoption.” Headshift is one of the really innovative boutique consultancies out there focusing nearly exclusively on introducing 2.0 to the enterprise. Another one I’m interested in is Amy Vicker’s “The Sharepoint Factor.” I helped Amy get this on the program, and I’m sure she won’t disappoint. If y’all don’t have a Sharepoint strategy, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening if you’re serious about large enterprise. I think Mr. tell-it-like-it-is, Peter Kim, is going to surprise with his “Does Social Media and Marketing Matter?” panel. That one will probably break Twitter. To be honest, there are so many great sessions this year, it’s difficult to narrow down my must-attend events. I asked Steve Wylie how the registration is going. Surprisingly, the conference is holding up very well against the economic downturn. Steve said the numbers of customers are consistent with last year’s attendance too.

Once again, I will be pitching in on Enterprise2Open. This is a barcamp-style event where everyone gets a chance to present or share their own experiences. Brian Magierski, my former colleague at nGenera will be there, along with Ross Mayfield of Socialtext. Both companies are sponsoring the barcamp and have serious street cred in discussing the challenges and opportunities with making 2.0 in-roads in large enterprises. Last year’s sessions were well-attended, and I think everyone got a lot out of the group discussions. If you have something you’d like to present, sign up at the Enterprise2Open wiki and promote your event.

I’m still waiting on details for the social calendar (parties, dinners, etc.). But, I saw the first tweetup today. About two dozen people have already signed up. You may want to sign up early for the social network associated with the conference at MyE2. This is also where you’ll access the back channel that was very useful last year.

*”Ollie Ollie Oxen Free!” is from the children’s game of hide and seek where the “it” player summons everyone back to base (essentially because they’ve given up, which is kinda how I feel this year…) 🙂

SXSW through the Enterprise Prism

There was something about SXSW that reminded me of trick-or-treating. It’s an amazing opportunity to travel around in groups (in various costumes) and collect delicious bite-sized morsels of innovation. But it reminded me of something my (once) 3-year old son said after he flopped into bed after his first Halloween night, “Let’s do that again tomorrow!”

SXSW is a once-a-year phenomenon, but a great harbinger of trends. Much of the conversation is about web-related design and measurement, politics, the social media revolution, and every-possible-thing-that-could-ever-be-possibly-said about Twitter. In the mix of fun and frolic, there were a couple gems that I picked out that would bring value to the enterprise.

Pepsicozeitgeist

One of the best, IMO, was Pepsi’s sponsorship of the PepsiCo Zeitgeist Twitter Visualizer. This eye-candy visualizer was created by Amy Hoy and Thomas Fuchs, two Ruby on Rails/Javascript knighted heros and the brains behind Freckle and Twistori. Pepsi turned to NY digital strategy stealth firm Undercurrent to link its brand to SXSW. Pepsi had a number of initiatives at the show, but the zeitgeist effort was really interesting to me on a number of levels. Before I discuss how enterprise could make practical use of such a visualizer, I want to highlight how courageous it was for Pepsi to get behind the zeitgeist project. I spoke briefly to Pepsi’s Josh Karpf, Manager Digital and Social Media and Bart Casabona, Sr. Manager, Communications/New Media about it. “It was a leap for us; it hadn’t been done before,” said Casabona. Jordan Berkowitz, Group Director at Undercurrent pointed out that when they designed the application, there was to be, “No filtering based on content.” The PepsiCoSXSW team was integrated into the social media scene and knew there might be objectionable content broadcasting at the event and online, but wanted to create an authentic, digital experience with the Pepsi brand. Even though we were in bluedot Austin, where weird rules, it occurred to me a corporate brand like Pepsi had a lot at risk attaching its logo to random tweets. What I loved about that, however, was the giant brand was willing to move outside of its comfort zone. And the brilliance of the zeitgeist project is Pepsi integrated its brand into the customer experience of SXSW in an authentic and subtle way. “We’re social media folks,” said Karpf. In other words, they get it. Even though the community acknowledged Pepsi was behind the visualization, Karpf pointed out they were saying, “This is a brand, but it’s still awesome.”

The complete visualization can be seen in a series of one-minute videos on the Pepsicozeitgeist YouTube page.

For enterprises, it’s easy to see how this live-pulse tracking visualization could be used during a large Enterprise event such as Oracle’s OpenWorld or SAP’s Sapphire and ASUG events (providing, of course, everyone was a faithful Twitter user). But even beyond live events, the visualization could be customized to monitor conversations among key customers and fed to field sales forces. The location-based data could provide some very interesting G2 for key accounts. HR and internal communications groups could use the visualizer to monitor employee sentiment, as well. The uses go on and on. Worthy of some exploration.

Apture

Another impressive tool was Apture. I ran into CEO Tristan Harris at one of the sessions. Harris himself impressed me because he pitched me while waiting in line from his iPhone. He had his demo-to-go all queued up (presumably, in case he ran into, say, a reporter). In the blogger’s lounge, I signed up. I had a little trouble signing onto the demo with Apture because I don’t manage my own blog server files, but it seemed easy enough to install once you got past that hurdle. Apture is a free blogging tool that lets you instantly find any type of media and link them in-place. It’s used by the Washington Post, BBC News, and since SXSW, The New York Times. I see an enormous potential for this product inside the enterprise… again, providing we can get the Enterprise onto collaborative 2.0 platforms.

Check out Apture’s Twitter demo.

iStockPhoto

I also really appreciated a discussion I had with Marketing Manager, Yvonne Beyer, at iStockphoto. picture-1Here’s a tip for iStockphoto fans: CopySpace (TM). Check it out under Advanced Search. It enables you to “grid” your search by the area where you need room for copy on an image. GREAT tool for those large image slides. Not sure everyone is using iStockphoto in the enterprise, but you should definitely add this to your DIY toolkit. Some quick stats on iStockphoto include the company adds 40,000 new images and other media products a week that are vetted by 100 inspectors around the world. It has paid over $1.1M in royalties to artists, and many members of their community are making more than six figures with iStockphoto. Not really a pure enterprise product, but a great service for business folks who want to create their own visuals coupled with a strong business model that depends on community.

Even though SXSW is in Austin, I’m debating on going next year. There really wasn’t a lot of good enterprise content to be found. My plan is to liven up the Enterprise 2.0 conference (June, Boston), so we have a pseudo-sxsw of our own. I made a recommendation to the Advisory Board that we actively solicit sponsors for more parties and fun venues. Zoho sponsored a cruise a few years ago that was a lot of fun, for instance. Even though the sessions are always great, the best reason to attend events is to network in the traditional sense– meet and greet and share war stories face to face.

Hope to see you in Boston. Pack a lampshade.

UPDATE: Yvonne Beyer pinged me with a staggering correction: iStock pays out around 1.1 million in royalites a WEEK. She also added Lise Gagne from Montreal is one of the iStock contributors disclosing she makes 6 figures with well over 830,000 downloads to date. www.istockphoto.com/lisegagne