If Social Media will be like Air, Enterprise 2.0 will be like Carbon

The year I transferred from a small, liberal State college to the ginormous State University, I started the fall semester with a bevy of difficult subjects: Chemistry, Calculus, Introduction to Philosophy, and Abnormal Psychology.  When I showed up for my first day of Chemistry, little did I know I had entered the wrong classroom.  I was seated in an Organic Chemistry class, not beginner Chemistry.  Of course, I made a good show of it– nodding with the professor at different intervals, taking notes,  looking confident.  Meanwhile, I had no idea what he was talking about and wanted to run out of there screaming.  However, I now know that 40 minutes was not a waste.  I learned something day one at that class I never forgot.  That lesson is that all organic compounds (and all lifeforms on the planet) have one thing in carbon: Carbon.

I was thinking of this random fact the last few days when I read somewhere that Social Media goddess @charleneli was recently quoted saying, “Social Media will be like air.” (Love that, actually.)  And also because there’s been a bit of to and fro from the business process stalwarts who have once again found the Enterprise 2.0 conversation to occupy their fancy.

Because (admittedly) I have somewhat of an unfair 50-yard line view of the playing field for Enterprise 2.0 adoption in the work I do for The 2.0 Adoption Council, I feel relatively confident in saying, “If Social Media will be like Air, Enterprise 2.0 will be like Carbon.”  I commented to this effect on Zoli’s Enterprise Irregulars re-post of David Terrar’s @DT‘s blog post, although I’m not sure the EI blog is drawing traffic these days.

This is a great post. Read it on @DT’s blog. Totally agree that the bridge between traditional enterprise systems/data/process is the “missing link” in the e20 evolutionary branch of life. Where social will be “like air” as @charleneli says, Enterprise 2.0 will be like Carbon (where Carbon compounds form the basis of all known life.)

But looking at the enterprise through the process prism is not the right perspective, imho. The enterprise of the future will be a social web of connected individuals and teams– innovating, experimenting, verifying, discovering, deciding. The correct view is to analyze the social layer and align process to meet the demands of an ever more productive and innovative workforce.

My friend @sameerpatel has just completed a report, “The Real-Time Enterprise.” Although I have not read this report, I’m fairly certain Sameer and I see the world through a similar lens. I highly recommend you check it out. Enterprise 2.0 is coming.  It’s analogous to trying to stop the Internet from encroaching on global trade in the late 90s.  In the decades to come, it will permeate every business process, every line of communication, every channel to every member of the eco-system of the Enterprise.  Count on it.

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.

Picture 13

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?

Enterprise Suits Up for the Ride, but Seeks a Safe Landing

This is what would happen if Santa were an Enterprise App and he tried to automagically incorporate 2.0 grooviness overnight.

Santa as Enterprise App on 2.0 house

The irony just got the better of me… I’ve been wrestling with wretched old-school health forms all afternoon that will undoubtedly be, um, input or maybe scanned into some old-school enterprise system that will carefully set up my health insurance for 2008. If it weren’t Sunday, I probably could do some digging and figure out exactly what the “business process” is that will determine my paper-input-to-digital-imprint record through the labyrinth of enterprise systems. Will an outsourced provider be involved? Probably. A mainframe? Probably. A large-scale database? Oh yeah.

Have I enjoyed this process today? No. Was I able to customize my health insurance policy and my coverage according to my particular family’s health situation? Not in a 2.0 way. Was I able to choose a health insurance company by my review of doctors online and get recommendations from other insureds about which health insurance companies actually paid claims on time and answered questions with friendly, caring concern? Well, definitely not.

While I’ve been grousing about doing this all day, clicking on web sites, downloading forms, etc., I’ve had Snitter (a Twitter stream) up and have been keeping my eye on the chatter of the day. It appears Robert Scoble dared to ask why Enterprise Apps weren’t sexy, and well, you can imagine how my Enterprise Irregularguild” reacted to that. Nick Carr even got involved. It’s only Sunday too, so we’ll see where it goes. (See Dennis Howlett, Michael Krisgsman, Anshu Sharma, Vinnie Mirchandani.) Me? I agree with all of them, oddly enough. On the one hand, I’m having a miserable experience, and I agree with Nick Carr, and I really wish the health insurance company had more consumer-y features. New York Times Design Director Khoi Vinh expressed nearly the exact same sentiment with this post earlier this fall. I agreed with him then too.

On the other hand, for those of us who are working hard to try and transform, enlighten/educate enterprises on how they need to introduce some of this radical change to leverage innovation and wealth creation, we know what we’re up against. Enterprise applications are carefully managed fleets comprised of many battleships that simply cannot turn on a dime. Nor, would you want them to.

Should my son be rushed to the hospital in 2008 because he didn’t quite land that skating trick he’s been practicing in the street, I want to make sure all systems are go and the woman at the reception desk doesn’t get a message from my insurance company like this: 2.0 error