I've been privileged to be around some amazing people recently, first at Enterprise 2.0 in Boston and now this week at SuperNova, Wharton Business school's conference, which this year explored "how decentralization and pervasive connectivity are changing our world".
My take away word of the moment is 'openness'.
Looking at the beautiful visual and usability design of Firefox 3's product homepage, which launched in over 45 languages this week, it really hit home for me just how far the open community has come.
Firefox is the defacto browser for those serious about web standards, and increasingly the preferred end user choice. It looks like the world class product it is, from website to product.
At Supernova, a standout session for me was 'The Value of Openness' with speakers JP Rangaswami of British Telecom and Consultant Elliot Maxwell. JP spoke about making openness work in large companies, defining the attributes of 'open' as:
* open to competition * open to innovation * open to being changed or adapted
Jp made a convincing argument that if you keep cost of failures low, big companies (and BT is huge) can be as flexible as small ones....There is a war for talent and competitive value: locked down secretive company processes are over, partnering with talented people who may have multiple jobs the future. How a big company like BT creates assets to innovate is defined by openness, and this in turn successfully attracts the brightest global talent to participate.
Openness has value because of the community it generates: a perfect example of this is Firefox, and increasingly this also applies to enlightened businesses like BT. JP is successfully presenting to his board open source projects which have tremendous value and is setting a great business example of how to innovate while being flexible and cost effective. The tremendous sense of community this engenders in participants may be underestimated by some but is at the heart of successful collaboration.
Although Supernova is a somewhat rarified and idealistic/futurist event, JP's talk was real world pragmatism - Osmosoft, a BT open source unit, was also represented at the conference and ran a Tiddlywiki community user group later that week at the same venue.
Another aspect of openness was made by Jive Software CMO Sam Lawrence in his blogpost 'Anatomy of the Enterprise Octopus' today. The challenges facing Jive's prospects are well characterized by Sam - locked down, silo'd work methods make it a misery working in a blizzard of electronic paperwork and email. Sam's solution is an open collaborative solution - his model "introduces a geographic head to the Enterprise" and is well worth reading.
Sam's post does a great service to the entire enterprise collaboration community by defining the problems endemic in enterprises. In the spirit of openness neither Jive nor their product Clearspace is mentioned, instead the problems we all seek to solve are analyzed in an entertaining way for the greater community.
Jive have great momentum in the marketplace and are attracting top talent from IBM and other competitors. These people are excited by the opportunity to innovate in an open environment...
It has been proven that open algorithms are more secure than closed ones in the security world, due to security community participation. JP and Sam are C level poster people for evangelizing the equivalent in the enterprise. I know Clearspace intimately from my involvement providing feature recommendations while I was at PlayStation, where everything must be hidden behind the firewall at enormous expense. (Clearspace will run exclusively behind the firewall if needed).
The hard work ahead, for those of us working together in the enterprise collaboration community, is around business process change management. Applying increasing degrees of collaboration and appropriate associated technologies to currently locked down, silo'd enterprises is heavily dependent on a willingness to accept innovation by entrenched middle management, whose job is to 'make the trains run on time' and follow existing rules.
The structure of many large companies restrict these middle managers deviating from well worn processes, and in some case actually punish them for innovation. The need for executive level management to get involved in embracing openness for efficiency and profit is great. In some cases, those who are not engaged may pay the price of finding their enterprise unable to compete sooner than they think.