E2.0 wrap-up

Another event, another post-event wind down.  I had limited time at the Enterprise 2.0 conference this year so only got a limited view of what was happening.  Some general takeaways anyway:

The SharePoint Factor.  This was the title of a session I attended – a good one – put on by Amy Vickers, VP, Global Enterprise Solutions at Razorfish.  The session abstract asks the big question, “How does the SharePoint competition stand a chance?”  She asked at the beginning of the session how many in the audience were either using or planning to use SharePoint.  I think I was one of about 5 people who didn’t raise a hand.  Obviously a it was a session on SharePoint, but still.

In another session, there was a question about integration standards and whether audience members would like to see social software vendors support the JSR portal standards or OpenSocial or what.  Silence.  Then one attendee raised his hand to say he didn’t care about the standards but as he walked around the show floor looking at all the independent players, all he wants to see is – how does it integrate with SharePoint?  The SharePoint factor indeed.

Are portals back? A related and surprisingly lively and interesting topic, especially for me as I spent years covering the portal market and working as a product manager on an enterprise portal product.  I’ve heard repeatedly that portals were “dead.”  Not so apparently.  It’s been obvious for awhile that social software products are starting to look like portals, with UIs turning into somewhat configurable, personalized dashboards with data coming from different underlying tools (e.g., tag cloud, forum posts, wiki activity etc.).  But it seems things are going one step further with products from MindTouch, Telligent and Atlassian all heading more towards portal-like features even if they’re not calling them that (most stick with “platform”).  Others, like Bluenog, are pushing the portal idea more explicitly.  In any case, this mostly includes the ability to aggregate and/or integrate data or functions from tools / apps outside of the purview of the social software vendor.

There was even a portal session with panelists Larry Bowden from IBM and Vince Casarez of Oracle.  Here the point being made was that the raison d’etre of portals hasn’t changed — customers are still looking to aggregate services and info for different audience groups in a way that is secure and roles-based (if not actually personalized).  And that this can be a perfect delivery vehicle for newer social features via an environment users are already familiar with.  Not sure portals in many cases have had the adoption to make that last statement as true as the portal vendors might like it to be.  But there is something to their argument that these newer products don’t necessarily need to reinvent the aggregation, security and delivery mechanisms already found in portals.   In any event, interesting to see a breath of new life in the portal market.  And let’s not forget there’s a portal component in SharePoint…

Use cases not tools.  This was another recurring theme I heard across meetings and sessions.  We’re thankfully moving beyond the discussion of blogs, wikis and so on, to discuss customer support, sales team effectiveness, innovation management, brand development and the like.  This shows some much needed maturity in the market, but also makes it perhaps even  more difficult for vendors to differentiate; anyone can sell (or at least try to sell) a use case.  There were still a lot of vendors on the show floor this year, though I’d bet fewer than last year (but I don’t have that data), and lots more discussion of profitability, viability and risk.

What will it look like next year?  It seems to me part of the growing maturity is the realization that a lot of this social functionality needs to seep into other apps and business processes (that’s part of the portal discussion certainly).  I think that makes it harder for dicussions or events specifically on “E2.0” as it is really so many different things depending on what exactly you’re trying to do and why.  There will undoubtedly be a show next year, but I wonder for how many years after that?  We should remember that this used to be called the Collaborative Technologies Conference and still so many of the ideas discussed remind me of knowledge management conferences ten years ago.  We’ll keep talking about these things, but I’m not sure how much longer under the “2.0” umbrella.

Upcoming social software & open source events

In the midst of a busy month, working through some really intriguing stuff as part of our upcoming  Special Report on Information Governance, but I’ll also be part of some interesting upcoming events.

On June 17th, I’ll be in NYC taking part in an event being put on by open source CMS provider Squiz, as part of its US launch.   I’ll be presenting on trends in the WCM market with a specific focus on the growth of commercial open source content management.  This ties in somewhat with a report I did earlier in the year (for 451 Group clients), “Open source content management: It’s coming to America.”  This looked mostly at the trend of European open source CMS providers moving to the US market.  Squiz started out in lovely Sydney, Australia but is part of the same trend nonetheless.

Also in the open source realm, on June 18th, I’ll be taking part in a webinar hosted by Acquia, the commercial entity looking to put a commercial support and services for Drupal on the map.  Here we’ll be discussing open source surely but also the increasing overlap between WCM and social software.   This will reprise to some degree the talk I gave on this topic at the AIIM event in Philly earlier this year.

Then of course there is the Enterprise 2.0 show here in Boston, June 23-25.  I have limited time at the conference this year unfortunately (my information governance work beckons), but if you’ll be there drop me a line.

Enterprise 2.0: the good and the bad

After four and a half days, twenty meetings, one heat wave and lots of hot tea (too much A/C), the second Enterprise 2.0 show is over. It’s a lot to cram into a summary-style blog post but here it goes:

What was interesting (mostly chronological and certainly not comprehensive):

  • Microsoft vs. IBM demo-duel on Monday and the buzz that carried through the week about it (people were still asking me today what I thought). General consensus? IBM knocked it out of the park but it probably doesn’t matter too much in the grand scheme of things.
  • IBM’s indication that it will include full RSS feed aggregation technology in the next version of Lotus Connections — not the 2.0 version that is just now shipping but the one that is likely to ship at this time next year. Discussions on the show floor last night with some IBM folks lead me to believe there is still some uncertainty as to what this actually means but Jeff Schick, IBM Vice President, Social Computing Software told me in a one-on-one meeting yesterday that IBM will go full-bore into feed aggregation in the next release.
  • Demo of NewsGator Social Sites. I’ve seen this before but it was interesting to see it on Monday afternoon, just hours after the Microsoft folks gave what can only be described as a weak SharePoint demo. Why didn’t they show Social Sites, since they included other partner technologies?
  • Discussion with Rob Curry of the Microsoft SharePoint team. He noted that for the next version of SharePoint (expected late in 2009 as part of Office 14), they doubled the development teams on ECM and social software. I told him I thought feed aggregation and wikis are the most obvious areas in need of major advancement in SharePoint and he would only say I would be ‘pleased’ with the next release.
  • Meeting with Tom Jenkins, Chief Strategy Officer at Open Text. Open Text had a big presence at the conference this year, an indication of the degree to which it has re-entered the collaboration market after several years of near exclusive focus on archiving, records management and compliance. What this means for the company’s SharePoint integration strategy remains to be seen.
  • Jabs traded by Sam Lawrence of Jive Software and Lawrence Liu, SharePoint Technical Product Manager at Microsoft on a panel yesterday about social computing platforms. The content itself wasn’t all that interesting but at least Sam added some humor and Lawrence is an eminently good sport.
  • Catch-up meeting with Atlassian and a discussion of how Confluence, JIRA and Atlassian’s other developer tools tie to a single sales strategy to technical teams. This was followed in the general ballroom by a session given by Ned Lerner from Sony Computer Entertainment, which showed, among other things, how core Confluence and JIRA are in their game development processes.
  • Socialtext SocialCalc — this is interesting though I haven’t yet had a chance to view the demo.
  • Open source panel this morning.

What wasn’t:

  • Too much discussion of cultural change, barriers to adoption and best practices. These are all useful and much-needed topics, don’t get me wrong. But most of the sessions I joined on Tuesday and Wednesday were variations on these themes. I didn’t go to all of them to be sure, but I went to more than a few and seemed to be hearing much of the same content over and over. As Vishy put it: “If anybody says viral one more time I’m gonna sneeze.”
  • I was hoping for more discussion on integration strategies, platforms vs. point tools, profiles / identity management, standards, deployment in customer-facing environments and so forth. A layer or two deeper I guess than most of the sessions went. Maybe next year we’ll all be more able to have those conversations.
  • And speaking of next year, there were too many demos and vendor pitches this year that were extremely similar. How many will return next year? Or the year after? For that matter, for how many years will there be an “enterprise 2.0” conference before this stuff just becomes everyday?
  • Most of the more technical sessions were held today, Thursday the final half day of the conference after many folks were gone.
  • Like last year, most of the sessions were way too crowded with every seat filled. That’s a good thing for the vendors and the conference organizers, but not too comfortable or enjoyable for those in attendance.

That makes a longer list of things that were worthwhile than those that weren’t, making it, I would say, a well spent week. And there were lots of great hallway chats and opportunities to catch up. To anyone I was supposed to meet at some point and did not, please leave a comment or contact me directly.

Open source at Enterprise 2.0

I attended a star-studded open source panel this morning, with Bob Bickel of Ringside Networks, Jeff Whatcott of Acquia and John Newton of Alfresco. The panel and audience members discussed adoption of open source specifically for social applications.

There was a bit of discussion on market readiness for open source in this sector. A comment came from the audience that Alfresco, the most established of the three vendors, started with an “easy target” – that is, replacing document management systems that were largely understood and seen as commodities. The same audience member noted that applying commercial open source to emerging social applications may be more difficult, as these are viewed as more strategically important for IT and management.

Ringside is really only just now getting started so it isn’t too far down the road in selling to enterprises, but Bickel came from JBoss and so recounted some of his experiences there with overcoming adoption hurdles at the application platform layer. Acquia is also a new company but it is attached to the popular Drupal project. Acquia hopes to help legitimize Drupal for the enterprise.

Other questions from the audience focused mostly on the complexity of deploying some open source tools (lack of documentation etc.) and licensing issues.

The issue of how little open source was represented at this conference, something I had also noticed, also came up. John Newton said he went from booth to booth on the show floor asking “are you open source?” He got few “yes” answers. Alfresco / Acquia were on the show floor along with a big Sun / MySQL booth but of the 52 vendors on in the demo pavilion, that was about it for vendors with primarily open source business models (a few like Socialtext and Jive Software dabble some in open source but it’s not their primary model).

It’s interesting that at a conference that was all about communities and user-generated content, the vendors represented didn’t have more of a focus on community-generated software. The emphasis in conference sessions and certainly among the vendors on the show floor was much more around software that is easy-to-procure and easy-to-deploy for business users…in other words, lots of SaaS.

Why? I met with John Newton after the panel and he said he thought it was just the vendors present, not a real reflection of the amount of social software currently deployed as open source. I think that’s true as most organizations definitely have WordPress, MediaWiki and Roller deployments but none of these tools were represented at the conference. (Aaron Fulkerson from MindTouch was there (commercial open source wiki vendor) but MindTouch didn’t have a booth.)

Jeff Whatcott also noted off-panel that he thinks the SaaS and open source models will advance in parallel in this market but there will eventually be a “come to Jesus” moment when organizations realize the benefits of community development and the need to have the flexibility to develop, integrate and customize this stuff. I agree that these two models will continue in parallel for awhile or perhaps more than awhile as there are likely to roles for both SaaS and open source in the social software (or collaboration) market for the foreseeable future.

Update: I neglected to mention in this post originally that John Eckman from Optaros did a wonderful job moderating this panel.  My oversight for not mentioning that.

Microsoft vs. IBM

The first tutorial this morning at The Enterprise 2.0 show here in Boston was Social Computing Platforms: IBM and Microsoft. It was a duel of demos, not as open or back-and-forth a discussion as I’d hoped. But the general concession during the event and in the hallways afterwards was that Microsoft was showed up by IBM…thoroughly.

The Lotus demo was first. Lotus Connections is just coming out in version 2.0 and has a fairly complete set of capabilities for social networking, bookmarking, tagging, communities and blogging. The UI is clean and modern and the presenter, Suzanne Minnassian, did a great job sticking with her user scenario and showing how Connections can be used.

Then there was SharePoint. Microsoft SharePoint is of course lots of things – it’s a basic ECM product, it’s a portal and it has some nascent social computing features. But this demo was only to focus on those features, and they’re really not competition for Lotus Connections at this point. And just how nascent these features are was clearly evident this morning, in a demo that also included partner technologies and open source code. It was too technical and showed how difficult SharePoint can be to configure.

To be fair, comparing SharePoint and Connections is really not comparing apples to apples. SharePoint hasn’t reached the level of market penetration it has because of its social software features. Microsoft positions SharePoint as a platform and that partner technologies work better to customize it for specific verticals. There’s some truth to this, but the story will no doubt change as SharePoint gets more social in future releases.

I met with a Rob Curry, a product manager for SharePoint, this afternoon. He wouldn’t comment on specifics in the SharePoint road map but we can be pretty sure that the next version, expected as part of Office 14 late in 2009, will go much further down the social softwar path. In the meantime, SharePoint is still a juggernaut. Can IBM make some hay with its social software lead to stop that?

Enterprise 2.0 conference

Several of us will be attending the Enterprise 2.0 show here in Boston next week. I’ll be there all week along with my colleagues Anne Nielsen, who works with me on the social software market and Vishy Venugopalan, who covers development tools, mash-ups and rich internet apps for The 451 Group.

We have quite a few meetings set up and the list of who we’re meeting with shows how varied the vendors in this market currently are. We’re meeting with (listed in order of meeting not significance): Microsoft, NewsGator, Open Text, Igloo, Spigit, Atlassian, Socialtext, Day Software, Adenin, IBM, Alcatel-Lucent, Jive Software, and Alfresco.

As you can see, that’s quite a list. It includes start-ups I’ve not spoken with before, social software players, WCM and ECM vendors I know fairly well, and the big guys. I’m not quite sure what Alcatel-Lucent is doing there but am intrigued to find out. Oracle is running a couple of sessions at the show, but it is interestingly the Oracle application folks not those from the WebCenter team (Oracle AR notes this is because of a schedule conflict with an Oracle sales training).

I’ve also ensured I preserved time this year to attend some sessions, something I neglected to properly account for at this show last year. I’m particularly looking forward to the 3-hour tutorial on Monday morning featuring IBM and Microsoft. It’s hosted by Mike Gotta, a favorite of mine, so I’m sure it will be good.

This was a good show last year, though it had a definite ‘irrational exuberance’ sort of feel to it and it will be interesting to see if that has died down a bit this year. Last year the show floor was way too small and many of the sessions were overflowing, showing the organizers underanticipated interest. It’s at the Westin Waterfront again, a nice new hotel here in Boston but not the biggest of venues (particularly as it sits next to the cavernous Boston Convention Center).

In any event, I’m sure it will be week filled with interesting people and discussions, and that we’ll come back with lots of fodder for future research. Our schedules are tight but anyone wanting to meet up, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly. Hope to see you there.

Oracle readies dedicated 2.0 sales force

Oracle’s president Charles Phillips was in London today hosting a discussion on Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0. Amongst a discussion that Dennis Howlett rightly categorizes as “interesting but not earth shattering” probably the most interesting news was that Oracle is in the process of setting up a dedicated Enterprise 2.0 sales force.

The new sales force will swing into action at the beginning of Oracle’s next financial year in June and will be tasked with turning customer interest in, and understanding of, the potential benefits of collaboration into working projects.

Duplicated across Oracle’s regions and reporting to the regional head, the Enterprise 2.0 sales team lead with the WebCenter platform for composite applications, as well as more traditional software products such as Oracle Portal and what was formerly Stellent content management software. Oracle’s Beehive next-generation collaboration platform will also be in the mix, although Charles was less forthcoming about the details of the new enterprise collaboration product.

What he did say is that the Enterprise 2.0 sales force will be made up of both BEA and Oracle sales and consulting experts and will make use of the Oracle Insight Program consulting service to analyze customers’ business processes to identify opportunities for the deployment of internal and external collaborative applications \.

The sales force will engage with both business and IT managers and will have an eye on enabling enterprise-wide strategic adoption of collaborative software, although most of the obvious opportunities are likely to be departmental or focused on specific applications – such as CRM and SCM.

Charles Phillips noted that there is customer interest in Enterprise 2.0, but that a lot of education is still required to turn that into deployments. He said the question he asked customers is “are there groups of people you’d like to collaborate with more easily?”

Given that most companies are interested in the views of their customers and uncovering unfulfilled demand, the answer to that is invariably “yes”, but then the conversation has to move on to identifying business processes that can make use of collaborative technologies and examining use cases. That will be the role of the new sales force.

With customer deployments thin on the ground Charles also shared some details of how Oracle is making use of collaborative technologies. The company is currently working on a new collaborative environment for training partners on its product stack, for example, in recognition that given Oracle’s rapid rate of acquisitions it is difficult and expensive for partners to keep up to date – and difficult and expensive for Oracle to keep its partners up to date.

On the developer side there’s Oracle Mix, which sees the company extending its collaboration with the developer and user communities beyond its user trade shows, and providing an environment where it can quickly respond to customer feedback. Oracle is also using collaborative technologies within its internal developer and sales organizations to make it easier for employees to identify experts and expertise with the organization.

Kathleen recently noted that social enterprise or Enterprise 2.0 software is not a market in and of itself and that the market for internal applications is likely to be dominated by IBM and Microsoft given their dominance in traditional collaboration software. If Oracle is to crack this market, it probably does need to be more proactive about taking the Enterprise 2.0 message to existing and potential customers.

If we assume that Enterprise 2.0 is not a market, then a dedicated Enterprise 2.0 sales force is probably not a long-term strategy. In terms of identifying new collaborative application opportunities the market and pointing customers in the right direction, it does make sense, however.

What did come across in the conversation is that this is designed to be a practical and pragmatic approach that will hand-hold customers into Enterprise 2.0 adoption, rather than just slapping some 2.0 t-shirts on the sales team and sending them off on the back of the bandwagon.