Is the bubble about to burst for the startups shouting "enterprise 2.0" from the rooftops?
TechCrunch50 and DEMO and Office 2.0 were full of young, eager companies with fun and frilly applications touting themselves as the next enterprise 2.0 heroes. Some offered white label social network applications and others offered cloud-based solutions, the latter of which didn't especially offer any security or scalability that would appeal to many businesses beyond their kin -- tiny startups and independent consultants.
But now, with Oracle officially unveiling additional enterprise 2.0 applications and especially the buzz around Social CRM this week at its OpenWorld event, the goliath might be not only given these smaller companies a run for their money -- it might actually take their money.
Here's what Oracle has up its gargantuan sleeve:
- Oracle WebCenter Suite -- an open user interaction and portal platform that integrates enterprise 2.0 capabilities into ad hoc and structured business processes, as well as custom and packaged enterprise applications
- Oracle Beehive -- a new collaboration platform for integrated and secure collaboration (note: security being the most lacking feature of many enterprise 2.0 startups)
- Oracle Social CRM Applications -- user-focused productivity applications that are fully integrated with OnDemand or on-premise CRM and other critical enterprise data, which helps sales professionals focus more on selling and less on data entry
While the applications are important (and it appears that further integration between each of these tools is needed), the biggest concern for the startups should be Oracle's resource engine. The company also announced that it has created a dedicated enterprise 2.0 sales force, has significantly invested in enterprise social networking events, is launching multiple education programs, has dedicated support and services engineers, and it is eating its own dogfood by implementing these tools cross-functionally within the Oracle organization.
These are areas in which many of the startups simply cannot compete. Don't get me wrong, there is always room for innovation. I myself work for a company that wins daily against the giants of the network security industry. I want the "little guy" to win. But is it probable?
So the question remains: Would a Fortune 500 company wanting to reap the benefits of social networking tools to boost their sales efforts and collaboration choose tried-and-true-yet-sometimes-controversial-and-costly Oracle or would it hedge its bets with a startup that offers in-the-cloud-and-potentially-insecure functionality? Especially since there's a good chance that Oracle could gobble up some of these startups, anyway (and I'm sure that's an exit plan for at least a few of them).
The answer is unclear, however considering how many Fortune 500 companies have been reluctant to use existing social networks due to lack of reliability, scalability and security with existing social networks, and that many are charged with developing their own solutions, we might see a heavy lean toward Oracle's enterprise 2.0 applications.