It’s a wrap– Office 2.0 ’08

The following is a wrap-up of mostly what went right at this year’s Office 2.0 conference.

The “Unconference,” Wednesday

Photo credit: Azi Photography

I arrived in San Francisco late in the morning, but early enough to join several sessions at the unconference. The turnout was impressive. The room where Keri Pearlson and I led a discussion on “Barriers to Adoption in the Enterprise” was very full. The conversation moved swiftly, generated by the participants. Lots of energy, nice flow. Key themes included the usual: cultural, awareness technology choices, security, generational differences, but we added a few including the ever-increasing business case/ROI challenge, incentives, legal issues, and a lack of retention.

Somewhere midway, Ross Mayfield, Socialtext interrupted the general group therapy pain-sharing about the causes of slow adoption with the observation that adoption is not slow in companies where you introduce a 2.0 way of working for collaboration that improves a business process. He explained that when a clear benefit could be demonstrated to the work group, the usual hurdles fall away. It was a good point and further separated the popular community-building/socialnetworking trend from more straight-forward collaboration where benefits are more readily measurable by business outcomes. You can see notes from the session here.

I was pleased with the unconference over all. In the sessions I attended, there was a lot of great insight and open discussion. I highly recommend anyone planning conferences to include at least a half-day to this type of freeform discussion and info-sharing. Although, it seems you could easily extend this format over several days and take away a lot of value.

Day One, Thursday

The first day was a challenge. As an organizer, I was conflicted about my obligation to be loyal to the conference ideals and Ismael’s vision, but as a participant (who genuinely has loved this show for the past two years) I was feeling the same disappointment as many of my fellow attendees. On Twitter, a lot of chatter was dedicated to disapproval with too many vendor commercial sales pitches, the mismatch with the conference’s heritage for certain sessions including David Allen‘s keynote and the following Google presentation by Matt Glotzbach. Although Allen is clearly a productivity expert, there was a disconnect when he started promoting Lotus Notes as technology choice for increased productivity. And Glotzbach, through no fault of his own, was another setback on the agenda. The truth, which I suspected, but later confirmed with Ismael, is Google was supposed to announce Chrome at the conference. But, the news was leaked early, and Google was forced to make the announcement early, leaving a hole in the agenda for what would have been a huge shot of adrenalin to the conference on the first day, clearly overshadowing any shortcomings we faced that day. And, then there was the HP Mini-note. The device turned out to be much more complicated to set up than originally anticipated. I saw very few people using them during the show. A highlight on day one was the GE case study by Dr. Sukh Grewel. The participants were very eager for solid case studies, and the GE case study delivered (although I will have more to say on this in a later post.).

When a number of us who’ve attended the conference every year tried to analyze why the “magic” of Office 2.0 seemed to be diminishing, it became obvious that the industry itself was maturing. For the first two years, there was an unbridled enthusiasm for the inquiry into new ways of working and new technology alternatives to office and knowledge-worker productivity. In 2008, especially for the loyal attendees, the focus had shifted away from the shiny newness and more toward a traditional focus on proof-of-concept, success stories, and genuine demonstration of the application of these ideas in a business context.

Photo Credit: (CC) Brian Solis, and

What did not disappoint, however, was the fertile opportunity for in-person networking and initiating business relationships. The conference was small enough to strike up conversations that could potentially lead to new opportunities. The demo pod gallery and the launch pad suite providing a nice backdrop, as always, to speak directly to founders and developers who were demoing new software or devices. For the enterprise irregulars, it was an excellent social opportunity to get together. Several of us were there, including Phil Wainewright, David Terrar and David Tebbutt who flew over from the UK.

Day Two, Friday

Shazam. Everything changed on Friday. Even though we had few attendees, the sessions were outstanding. I was micro-blogging (okay, Twittering) sound bites from all the sessions I attended and followed the conversation for all tweets on Summize (now Twitter Search) and Craig Cmehil’s Eventtrack.

The Twitter conversation had turned markedly more positive, as session after session delivered insightful, meaningful content. Adobe’s Matthias Zeller launched the content-turnaround with an impressive unveiling of Adobe’s new Genesis desktop platform. The presentation and demo revealed a simple to use, customized workspace environment that could be configured to meet any executive or knowledge-worker’s interest in viewing any combination of legacy and/or online apps in a dashboard-type, personalized configuration. You can see Zeller’s slide presentation here on slideshare. One of the greatest features of Office 2.0’s “we aim to please” philosophy was the video capture produced by Veodia for every session (available moments after each session completed). You can catch the Genesis presentation here.

Next up for me was a “straight talk” VC panel featuring VCs from SoftTech, Mayfield, Storm Ventures, and Opus Capital, and moderated by Sam Angus of Fenwick. If you want to take the temperature of a technology movement, VCs are human mercury. Another great session. Watch the video here. Favorite quote from the panel? “Apps have to deliver value inside an enterprise for an exit.” Ryan Floyd (Storm Ventures). See the VC Panel here.

I’m not sure if truly was prepared for the power of the next speaker, Pete Fields of Wachovia. For some background, I had first heard about Pete’s “incredible journey” to bring social networking and collaboration to a conservative southern bank and its 110,000 employees sometime in the winter of 2007. I tracked Pete down and unearthed his phone number and called him directly asking for an interview. Since that time, I’ve gotten to know Pete better. I saw his talk at Enterprise 2.0 which was excellent, but perhaps a little too short (twenty minutes) to relate the depth and breadth of his experience with the herculean effort. Pete is a gray-haired, polished business executive, yet has a down-home, likable, candid manner in talking openly about his experiences with bringing 2.0 to the enterprise. He speaks with unquestioned authority and grace. When I invited him to Office 2.0, I knew he would be a solid speaker for the agenda, but had no idea how much value he would add to the program. A must-watch session from the conference is Pete Fields. See it here.

The rest of day two just continued to surprise and delight. More highlights included Sam Lawrence’s panel of customers from Disney, EMC, and Chordiant. While I’m doing personality profiles, If you don’t know @samlawrence on Twitter, you might want following Sam to be the remaining catalyst spurring you to take the Twitter plunge. It occurred to me that Sam, who serves as Jive‘s Chief Marketing Officer, has become the public face of Jive. His personality embodies the Jive brand. He is just one cool dude. I guess it’s like the Seinfeld episode when Elaine dates Tony (a.k.a. the Mimbo). Sam just oozes that cool factor and draws people into his sphere, injecting cool chic into every social encounter. A blog post for another day will expand on this “brand identity linked to online personality” growing social media phenomenon. Check out the customer panel here.

The last true highlight of the day for me was the workforce panel which unfortunately (for the panel participants) was up against web-celebs Robert Scoble and Loic LeMeur who were doing the “Meeting without Traveling” on another floor. The panel was hosted by our Nick Vitalari, EVP of nGenera, and the person who leads our Enterprise 2.0 program and who also has a good grasp on the talent strategy work nGenera conducts regularly. Nick was a terrific moderator, but 15-year old Daniel Brusilovsky quickly stole the spotlight. Brusilovsky, who was apparently skipping school to participate in the panel, runs a startup for teens ( “Teens in Tech” – an online community) and has been working at QIK for seven months. Excellent perspective also came from John Vasellina of Genentech who is tasked with onboarding GenYs into the company and Dorie Cotter-Lockard who spent over 25 years as a corporate IT professional, most recently as CIO of a F100 company. Check out the workforce panel here.


So was this year’s Office 2.0 a flop? On balance, I’d say no. Yes, I would have liked to have fewer empty chairs (formerly known as the audience), and yes, I wish we could have completely avoided vendor pitches. Yet, on balance, the networking, the superior conference facilities (100% uptime on the wifi thanks to Swisscom and Covad), the rich content on several of the sessions– made it a worthwhile investment for any attendee. In Ismael’s final wrap at the end of Day Two, he made a solemn oath that next year’s conference planning would start earlier and there would be zero tolerance for vendor pitches on the session agenda in ’09. If you attended the conference, please submit feedback with recommendations on how we can improve the format. Of course, comments are welcome here as well.

Hat's off to Ismael
Hat's off to Ismael

Special thanks to my fellow volunteer, Oliver Marks, and the amazing Ismael whose vision still drives a lot of passion around a topic we are all growing comfortable with. Incidentally, for all you complainers (and you know I mean that with love), I’d like to see you try run a successful software company, raise a (difficult) round of funding, launch a startup, and pull off a first class conference — simultaneously within a 60-day period. So, if you see Ismael, zipping through SFO or on the street in Palo Alto, give the guy a pat on the back. He’s not superhuman, but he continues to set a very high bar for excellence in productivity and risk-taking and deserves some mad props.

I’m thinking David Allen should have Ismael keynote his next conference. :-

Update 9/9/08: A friend who exhibited at Office 2.0 just forwarded this comment to me from TechCrunch 50. His comment? “Looks like I attended the right conference…”

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