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?

Enterprise vendors start beating the drum

IBM web2.0 goes to work Last week was a banner 2.0 week for enterprise vendors. Gee. Do you think they were reading my blog? The week got off to a good start for me with a snappy little web 2.0 seminar hosted right here in Austin by IBM, “Web 2.0 Goes to Work.” Of course, SAP announced SAP By Design, but my fellow Irregulars did an awesome job conveying the import of that announcement. ibm seminar logoLike I said to Charlie Wood at lunch the other day, “I can’t even spell SAP…” So, I won’t attempt to comment on the SAP announcement. I’m scheduled to attend SAP’s TechEd Conference next week. We’ll see if I can be learnt.

On the IBM gig, I was surprised, frankly, to find that both Rod Smith and David Barnes were both in attendance at this seminar and both presented. Smith wasn’t there for the whole shindig, but he was there to lend executive support to the the day. Smith related some anecdotal accounts of IBM’s experiences discussing 2.0 with key accounts. In general he said it’s easier to sit with lines of business now (as opposed to IT) to brainstorm ideas. With these new approaches, customers are willing to experiment more, even fail if need be, rather than wait for long, protracted 6-month development efforts that incorporate all the bells and whistles required to support the enterprise environment such as security, privacy, and compliance. Smith said, “That takes time, and [LOBs are] willing to take certain risks.” What I loved about Smith’s early discussions with IBM customers was the interest level about what was possible in the enterprise. He expressed the sentiment that customers want information to be “mashable, remixable…” that they started looking at their data as modular assets– using it in ways they hadn’t planned for. One example yielded an unexpected result when a mashup uncovered shipping information that helped a global distribution company combat piracy on the high seas.

After Smith and Barnes were done keynoting and introducing, for some reason, they made us all wear white lab coats (question mark?) and we self-sectioned off into three breakout sessions focused on each of the three main areas: collaboration, mashups, and IT integration with web 2.0 (my interpretation). I attended the first and the last, as I was having a private demo of QEDWiki in a few days. The collaboration session drew a mix of IBMers, customers, and partners. Questions ranged from, “How do I get people in my company to collaborate with these new tools?” to “How can we get access to data buried deep inside those web2.0-soulless mainframes?” Okay, well that was me asking that question. I had the good fortune to be sitting next to a veteran IBMer who said it IS possible to layer on interfaces to get access to all data in the enterprise so folks can collaborate on just about anything. The question then became– how willing would IT be to let the whole company have open and free access to that data? And round and round we went…

On the IT software integration session, my BSG colleagues were particularly engaged. IBM has packaged its offerings under the bundle, “Info 2.0.” It’s basically an integrated suite of technologies that enable the creation of mashable content. At present, I believe it includes what they’re currently calling DAMIA which transforms content into syndication feeds, the Mashup Hub where you discover, catalog, tag feeds for remixing and then syndicate content and then finally, QEDWiki which I’ve blogged about before and will later. They also have something called Ms. Rita (lovely Rita, “meter maid” in a too short uniform skirt that will never fly with corporate branding IMHO; sheesh, boys!) which is a configurable “utilization management service” to meter, monitor, and monetize web 2.0 an SOA components, applications or environments. Miss Rita (or, whatever) will probably not be available in the first release of the Info 2.0 announcement, not sure why. One fairly cool IBM application in beta right now is Many Eyes. Check it out for a free trial. If you want to see some of these tools in action check out some of these demos, podcasts, and videos.

Blogger transparency dictates that I confess I’m not qualified to comment on the technical intricacies of IBM’s foray into web 2.0, but I give Big Blue huge points for promoting web 2.0 in the enterprise. Like SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft, IBM has something the startups do not: a massive installed base. Even if only IBM puts some massive marketing muscle behind evangelizing, I kind of don’t care if their solutions and approach are a yawner. My sense is, they are serious about this sector for interesting economic motives that may possibly not be obvious to us right now. For instance, did it ever occur to anyone that “the cloud” is not really a cloud at all? Is IBM viewing the 2.0 transformation as an opportunity to reap big benefits from big iron? Just food for thought. Here are two pieces to ponder– one from the WSJ, one from CIO insight.

A few days after the seminar, I had the chance to revisit with Dan Gisolfi to see what he’s been up to lately with QEDWiki. Dan has teamed up with John Musser of Programmable Web. I will have more on that later this week, maybe tomorrow, as well as a report from an interesting meeting I attended with the local Social Media Club here in Austin.