So, I moved half-way across the country and have just returned from the second highly successful Office 2.0 conference. I started to live-blog the sessions, but soon gave up. There were a number of folks live-blogging, and I was really interested in the sessions, so I just wanted to listen. Sorry.
Let’s Celebrate the Entrepreneur, Shall We?
I feel the urge to pontificate on where I think we are with Enterprise 2.0. But first, let me say a few words on behalf of the heroes of the Office 2.0 conference. The true heroes of that event are the entrepreneurs, the startup CEOs and founders/developers who are taking the career risks and living on sheer faith. I believe it was John Creason, Chief Technology Officer, Smartsheet.com who you can watch here (Office 2.0 Set-up) who summed up the conference’s RON (Return on Networking) best:
“If I look at the Office 2.0 conference and what it’s meant to our company… A year ago, on this stage, I felt like we were giving our birth announcement for our company. We were young; I think we had less than 100 customers– most of those were friends and family… What happens here is a exchange of ideas. I was at the cocktail party Wednesday night. I walked out of the cocktail party with enough good ideas from talking to smart people here that if I would have went home [then], I would have been happy… Last year, Rafe Needleman beat us up on some ideas about our model– our pricing, our distribution– and in the last year, we’ve gone from under one hundred customers to 15,000 teams using our product, close to a Series A with Madrona, and we have paying customers in 15 countries. So, the ideas, the network, what happens here, is important…”
While I was scouting about recruiting folks to speak for the conference, I attempted to get some 1.0 (and 0.0) tech icons to talk about the Future of Computing. I talked about Ismael Ghalimi’s vision for Office 2.0. Because Ismael has planned the Office 2.0 conference from soup to nuts in 6-8 weeks each year– which is remarkable in its own right– it was tough recruiting anyone at the last minute. For the record, it’s worth noting that I truly believe Ismael is one of this generation’s leading visionaries. He has been faithful to his No Installed Apps pledge and has been running completely “in the cloud” for the past 18 months. I know there are others who have made the all-online transformation, like Dennis Howlett, but Ismael runs a fairly intense open source BPM company, Intalio, with customers and employees all over the world. More importantly, he is pushing the community to extend the limits of the “officeless office” including mobile platforms and helping to establish standards such as the OpenSAM framework. At the end of the day, it’s leadership that makes the difference for movements and “paradigm shifts” to succeed in technology. As I solicited recruits for speakers, I found myself comparing Ismael to a young Steve Jobs. He has a lot of heart, energy, smarts, a passionate network of friends and supporters, and runs somewhat counter-culture to the mainstream. Interesting comparison.
I just love entrepreneurs– the successful ones, the struggling ones, even the obnoxious ones (should we name names?) I was reminded here in Austin of the power of entrepreneurs when I signed up for my new Chase account here in Texas. When I told the Chase branch manager I worked for BSG Alliance, he told me BSG Alliance was a key account for Chase and I was entitled to a host of privileged banking services. Now, at the risk of sounding like a (gulp) Republican (does it happen that fast in Texas?), it occurred to me how badly we need to encourage entrepreneurs in our tech economy. I remember Steve Papermaster (BSG Alliance CEO) when he was just a young guy, a struggling entrepreneur. Some twenty years later, he’s created hundreds, maybe thousands of jobs. That’s awesome.
Maybe for the next Office 2.0 conference I will give away tee shirts that say, “Have you hugged an entrepreneur today?”
Enterprise 2.0 Rubber will meet the Road this year
Over the past six months, I’ve had more exposure to large customers. I’ve come to the simplistic conclusion that just because you “can” DIY doesn’t necessarily mean you should in the enterprise. About this time last year, I was writing about user angst and dissatisfaction with the IT department and how this pent up demand will propel maverick departments to choose alternate methods to collaborate “under the radar” of IT. I believe that will continue. But what will be the result? Isolated uses of wikis, blogs, RSS aggregators that will be disenfranchised from enterprise applications. The reality is– you need IT on board with enterprise 2.0 adoption to really maximize the depth and breadth of these tools for the enterprise. For large enterprises, that is.
As I learn more about large organizations, I feel like each CIO I meet transmogrifies into Dr. Phil and says, “Get real, dude. We run a serious company here. We’re not going to put our assets at risk by exposing them to anything beyond our complete control.” It’s not that they’re control freaks; they’re liable for where, when, how, and why the information in the enterprise is handled. Period. That’s their job. You would think IT’s only stakeholders are users (err, people who work), but they’re also accountable to lawyers, the government, the board of directors, investors, stockholders, who did I miss? You see my point. So, I’m getting real. Not liking it, but I’m getting real. And, is it their fault that enterprise applications are so godawful impenetrable? So, I’m lightening up on IT. Hoping to see more idealistic enterprise 2.0 principles coming from Microsoft, IBM, SAP, and Oracle (MISO). SAP seems to be leading the pack here. Just about every blogger I know (okay, an exaggeration) lists SAP as a client, so they’re getting lots of 2.0 advice.
I’ve begun to see some good posts lately in the e2.0 “getting real” vein, such as this one, “Enterprise 2.0 Show me the ROI.” Perhaps it’s my bias, but I was happy to see Bill Ives’ post this week on Serena Software. In the grab-bag of Enterprise 2.0 tricks for the enterprise that have the most promise, my money is on mash-ups. We were having a conversation about this at the Office 2.0 cocktail party. (By the way, please VOTE for my panel hosted by David Berlind at SXSW on mash-ups). Mash-ups are technical enough to be interesting to IT folks, and simple enough in the way they solve business problems so that business users will clamor for them.
Then, what is at the intersection of Office 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0? No doubt we will see liberal infiltration of social networking in the enterprise via blogs, Facebook and Facebook-esque platforms (for instance, we use a private instance of Ning at BSG, which we love) to communicate and connect, as well as online communities and ad-hoc wikis for collaborating. Knowledge workers (ordinary web-savvy folk) will also graft on their own instances of Google apps for the enterprise, as well as experiment with dozens of online apps such as all of those represented at the Office 2.0 conference. I’m certain individuals and small groups will see productivity gains and experience the synergies 2.0 fusion brings to newcomers. But, until IT embraces and synchronizes its own Enterprise 2.0 strategy for the global-intergalactic-infrastructure-labyrinth, chances are we won’t see the technicolor dream unfold… it will take a village (IT, enterprise vendors, knowledge workers, 2.0 startups, evangelists) to raise this child.
Ismael asked me to plan the next Enterprise 2.0 track for next year again. I tentatively said yes. If I do accept the challenge, I will continue to look for case studies of hard core evidence of Enterprise 2.0 working in large organizations. Whether it came in through the back door– bottom up (like Scott Gavin and Simon Revell who formed a rebel working 2.0 collaborative committee that is now the delight of Pfizer) or top down (like Adam Carson at Morgan Stanley after getting the nod from Chairman and CEO John Mack to pursue the strategy), the stories are excellent and everyone takes away something they can relate to.
I will continue to blog about developments in Enterprise 2.0; I’m still a stalwart believer. I’ve never known greater freedom and creativity as a knowledge worker 2.0 (see Stephen Collins’ fab presentation), but I know there is a tough mission ahead of us. The reality should be sinking in for all of us right about now.