I finally made it to Boston for the Enterprise 2.0 conference with my record intact. That record would be that I have NEVER in 15 years of flying to Boston a hundred times, NEVER, repeat again, NEVER been on time both ways. This one was resolved quickly because my flight to Boston was over an hour late on United. I once thought I would get out on time about 10 years ago and 11 minutes before we were to board, a luggage belt in the terminal I was in caught on fire and we had to evacuate the terminal. The gods spoke loud and clear and continue to, for some reason, yell at me for coming to Boston
But at least the Enterprise 2.0 conference is a reason to withstand the wrath of the gods. Before i get into some of the highlights and my take on at least the first day of the conference, I want to emphasize something that makes me sound like a fanboy. If there's one conference you need to attend that ends with a 2.0 - this is the one, if you care about your business. If you're a geek, I think you could make an argument for O'Reilly's Web 2.0 conference; if you're a government employee or even government contractor, Government 2.0 is a good place to be; but if you are a business person and you want to understand what you have to do in the next year to 2 years....this.is.IT. Hell, I am a fanboy when it comes to this baby. Come here next year. Even with the gods of Logan arrayed against you. If you're fearful of the gods of Mt. Logan, they announced a second conference for San Francisco in November of this year, with a much less frightening airport.
Aggregate and OrganizeI'm noticing a trend that might actually be worth making note of that I've just seen reinforced multiple times here at the conference. That would be the that the new enterprise, from particularly mid-market to largest enterprise, will realize the most value from strategies, systems and technologies that aggregate and organization information and/or systems.
Several years ago, composite applications were the rage - that application framework that allowed you to take your legacy systems, and combine the data from those systems in ways that made the legacy systems "new" applications. You were able pick the interface that you loved the most from among them to be your interface of choice for the composite application. I did a longer piece on them back in 2005, if you're interested.
As the social web began to move into place in 2006 and later, the companies that specialized in composite applications, like AboveAll, while genuinely foresighted, began to fail, because the tools of its successor and ultimately, its killer, became available and they were at least initially, cheap. That would be enterprise mashups - which not only allowed the enterprise to use the data for legacy applications, but also allows you to incorporate external data through RSS feeds. Plus the data, rather than tied together by a complex framework of APIs through a SOA architecture was vastly simplified. Here's two diagrams that at least metaphorically give you the picture. The first was the AboveAll architecture. The second is the enterprise mashup equivalent (source Mike2.0).
Well, the role of enterprise mashups and applications has changed and that is apparent from the Enterprise 2.0 conference. First, on the technology side, to understand this, we have to give props to the evolution and increasing maturity of service oriented architectures and RESTful architectures - and - really, web services in general. They are to the point where not only are they mature as frameworks and underpinnings for corporate technology backbones, but they are more easily (though, of course, nothing is that easy) integratable then ever before. Second, the standards for communication between systems have been, well, standardized. J2EE, XML, etc are so ordinarily accepted that interoperability among systems and even between disparate companies systems is now a doable thing. (hey, don't get your pants jammed. This isn't meant to be some technical treatise - just an explanation of what I'm seeing as a dominant trend at Enterprise 2.0 with a bit of background. So I'm going to use difficult technical terms, like "doable thing."
On the business side, complexity, while an unavoidable part of a large company's operations, is not seen as a desirable condition. As the amount of information available to companies in both structured and unstructured formats (made available through those external feeds and internal data systems like CRM systems) becames both increasingly large and necessary to decipher in ways that are valuable, the need to aggregate, organize, and thus simplify both the information and systems within the corporate firewall is becoming a corporate desire and necessity. How information is processed and presented is perhaps the most important IT and cultural function of a company. What you do with information is not trivial - it makes or breaks the company.
So taking the complexity out of both the processing and the presentation of information is what Enterprise 2.0 does. It giveth, because the ability of Enterprise 2.0 applications and thinking to get incredible amounts of information from behind and beyond the firewall is unparalleled in business history. If its working right it taketh away, because it can strip the complexity and mask the processing and presentation effort so that the information is provided in a way that is incredibly valuable and rich. It becomes truly shareable knowledge, rather than just information that is technologically available to all.
This is what I saw as the underlying theme. What do you have to do to make sure that your employees have the knowledge they need to increase their productivity and to improve the culture of the company. What steps have to be taken to do this using the good old people, processes and technologies that have been such a dominant CRM theme for infinity plus a day and now are a dominant enterprise theme.
Example: the winner of the Oliver Marks-Stowe Boyd Award for Open Enterprise Innovation this year was Booz Allen Hamilton for their Hello system. Walton Smith, a senior associate of BAH, presented on the system, which is open to all employees (not contractors), without reservation. The core of the system are activity streams tied to profiles which resemble FriendFeed activity streams. What that means is that, as an employee, you can follow people that provide you with critical expertise via their activity streams, all available on a single page and tie in feeds that you need for information (aggregate). You can then tag the information and rank and rate the information (organize).
Example: I had the good fortune to interview Suresh Kuppusamy, the CEO, CTO and co-founder of Bluenog. Aside from the very salient he is a really nice human being, Bluenog which I hadn't heard of until yesterday which is more my bad than their problem, does exactly what I'm talkin' about - aggregate and organize. They have framework that was built on open source called ICE (at version 4.5) that ties enterprise content management (ECM), business intelligence (BI) and a portal through common, and secure services, so that a midmarket company can provide role-detemined information through the portal regardless of what system, internal or external the data is drawn from. Columbia University is one of their customers. They use the Bluenog portal and single signon so that, as Suresh said, "they can push the right content to the right entities." This means that management has a dashboard indicating how well they are doing with their KPIs, there are shared calendars, content from feeds like wikis or blogs or standard structured sources or internal data is all aggregated and organized (there are those words again) for each kind of person on a need to know basis. These guys have been so successful that they have been winners on the Red Herring 100 and the Infoweek 50 in their mere 3 years of existence. Check out the diagram and then check them out. Smart.
Aggregate and organize.
Example: This is a mashup of Ross Mayfield, CEO of Socialtext and 2.0 ubermensch. It's the combination of his discussion on a panel and an interview I did with him and his very bright VP of Professional Services, Mike Indinopulos. What Socialtext is doing from a technology standpoint has been and continues to be for me the ne plus ultra when it comes to aggregating and organizing information in ways genuinely create actionable knowledge - not just intelligence. They are moving the fastest in the world of wikis at least into the realm of CRM with their technological capability to expand into not just behind the firewall but at this stage a private outreach to customers for collaboration within the Socialtext framework. They can do public interactions, but private is what a few of their more forward thinking customers are ready for.
What is even more interesting though is their (his and Mike's) development of the Social Software Value Matrix which is almost (not quite) a maturity model for oganizational evolution when it comes to using the services that social software provides for early stage operational improvements to late stage businss model innovation. I won't outline the whole thing but it basically organizes the information from a company and ultimately its customers across departments, silos and throughout customer and partner networks. Aggregate the information and organize it. That underlays the entire matrix. What changes is the purpose its used for and the scope of the information gathering. But it is an incredibly well thought out piece of work, increasingly my confidence in my choice of Socialtext as the SuperStah! for the chapter in CRM at the Speed of Light 4th edition that goes through wikis. Even though they integrate far less with existing CRM systems than the folks at Atlassian, they get what has to be done when it comes to Social CRM.
There are countless other examples that I could provide for this such as some of how even Microsoft Sharepoint, the collaboration industry 800 pound gorilla is being used for aggregation and organization, but for now that's enough.
Enterprise 2.0 so far has been an eyeopener because its telling me and around 1200-1300 others that there is not only a lot of cool and collaborative things going on but E2.0 is moving into mainstream thinking and soon into mainstream operations, systems, and best of all strategy. Plus this thing is REALLY well organized by the TechWeb folks. No glitches at all.
However I do have a beef with the conference content.