Office 2.0: The future of work

Office 2.0: The future of work

Summary: The Office 2.0 Conference is getting underway this morning in San Francisco, with 600 attendees and more than 70 companies exhibiting their 2.

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The Office 2.0 Conference is getting underway this morning in San Francisco, with 600 attendees and more than 70 companies exhibiting their 2.0 wares. You can catch a live Webcast of the event here.

While the conference is labeled "Office 2.0," it is really goes beyond the idea of Web-based office applications. It's really about "Work 2.0," changing the way people work, especially with collaboration technology as a foundation, beyond having a group of people in different locations working from Starbucks and sharing documents.

The conference kicked off with a panel on the future of work. Panelists included Steven Aldrich, vice president of strategy & innovation, Small Business, Intuit; Denis Browne, senior vice President of Imagineering, Business User Organization, SAP Labs; Danny Kolke, CEO of Etelos; Richard McAniff, corporate vice president, Microsoft Office, Microsoft; and Jonathan Rochelle, product manager, Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Google. The moderator was Om Malik of GigaOmniMedia.

futurework1.jpg Steven Aldrich, Denis Browne, Jonathan Rochelle, Danny Kolke, Om Malik and Richard McAniff

Browne talked about the blending of personal and work lives and the global nature of work. "It's more feasible to be anywhere at anytime to get your job done," he said. "We are looking at it from the perspective of the end user and the massive explosion of data. We are looking at how to tackle signal to noise ratio and get them to work at peak performance individually, in a workgroup context or extended enterprise."

SAP is experimenting with Web 2.0 technologies, such as widgets and social networking. SAP's Harmony experiment combines aspects of social networking with traditional HR applications create a richer application. "We have to permeate it across an entire enterprise, and be integrated into the fabric of what they are doing," Browne said. SAP thinks in "big" software terms, creating applications that are sanctioned by IT and higher cost than the 2.0 applications employees might bring in through the back door to get work done more efficiently.

Google's Rochelle said that collaboration is the key feature of Office 2.0. "There are no more attachments. If you send a traditional attachment at Google, you get berated," he said. "The [impact] of real-time collaboration was surprising," he added. "Consumers weren't asking for it, but when we did found it, they found it to be more fun to work on documents together and it reinforces that they are working on a single version. That is more important in business."

"A focus on replicating what Microsoft or others are doing and putting it in a browser isn't Office 2.0," Kolke said. "That's the wrong vision. The key is innovation and doing it differently, redefining the work experience. The reason I use spreadsheets from Google is not because of advanced features but because I can create easily and share it."

McAniff summarized the generous Microsoft view: "We are trying to have fun, stay challenged and have a big impact. If we follow that forward, we will figure it out...all of us, not just Microsoft or Google but our collective innovations." Of course, Microsoft has not shown all it cards when it comes to an Office 2.0 suite of products that could make life less comfortable for Zimbra, Zoho, ThinkFree, Google and others building hosted applications and platforms.

Rochelle and Aldrich brought up customization, without programming or the need for IT involvement, as another key aspect of Office 2.0 applications. Aldrich echoed that idea, especially in the context of small business that don't have IT resources.

Integration and open APIs also play an important role in enabling an environment with mashing up and creating composite applications is easy. "We are still in new frontier with integration. It's a frustration. This is the bleeding edge. The API for a lot of people is part of the plumbing," Kolke said. Standards are needed to automate the building of apps and data synchronizing, he added.

Browne viewed smarter software that manages your inbox, for example, and takes out a lot of the noise is key to Office 2.0. Microsoft has invested significant lab resources over the last decade to deliver self-configuring applications that can schedule meetings or route phone calls based on analyzing user habits.

McAniff said that social networks will have a major impact in business, but he wasn't willing to share Microsoft's plans in the space. "I'm a technologist, not in marketing," he said.

"Facebook is interesting, with sharing photos and events. Something like that in combination with productivity tools could change way people work. Collaboration is critical for the enterprise and consumers. It's almost a given, but you have to look at how we could have a complete game changer in what the workforce is doing, just as email changed the way people worked or search," McAniff said. "That's the way to think about 0ffice 2.0 going forward. We believe it is an extremely fertile ground and clearly area with tremendous opportunity and ability."

I later asked McAniff how he defined a "game changer." "If you can you radically reduce cost, improve productivity and top line revenue, it's a game changer." He cited spreadsheets, search and eBay as examples. "Social networking is not a game changer by itself, unless the network effect happens with the people involved." Having higher bandwidth information via social networking about people in meeting can help drive decisions down an organization, enable more timely decisions and find the right experts, he said.

McAniff cited Excel Web Services as a game changer. "It satisfies end user and IT requirements. A mere mortal can publish a spreadsheet and it can go through a workflow process."

All the panelists agreed that consumers are driving much of the innovations that will end up deployed in enterprises. "In a lot of cases the market wants it before we are ready to deliver it," Kolke said. "We can't keep up with the demand. The market is ready and hungry for new ways to do stuff, which is driving innovation at a record pace."

The panel was missing clear statements from the panelists about how they are specifically evolving their Web/Office/Work 2.0 products to be more enterprise friendly. For Office 2.0 to be useful in a corporate context, security, compliance, data management and other elements need be woven into the fabric. Then the Office 2.0 concept could graduate to Enterprise 2.0.

More Office 2.0 coverage

Webware: The flow of work : Rafe Needleman checks out Central Desktop, Sosius, Huddle, and ShareMethods, hosted services aiming to take on Microsoft's SharePoint collaboration server from the bottom up.

Zoho for Business

Topics: Microsoft, Collaboration, Emerging Tech, Google, SAP, Social Enterprise

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10 comments
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  • There is nothing new under the sun...

    [i]All the panelists agreed that consumers are driving much of the innovations that will end up deployed in enterprises.[/i]

    This is not a new trend and one of the reasons I think F/OSS will win in the end. Monolithic software can't keep up with the pace of change. By the time companies like SAP and MSFT have packaged their products, the market will have moved off somewhere else. The only product base that can keep up with a rapidly evolving user base is OSS. Something developers can grab off the shelf and customize.

    In the old days we had to wait for big software to legitimize new business tools. Well, no one's waiting anymore. No one needs SAP's affirmation, they just go and do it.

    Big software builds systems that benefit themselves at the expense of the customer. Can't do that and survive going forward. The market is no longer waiting for the next version of Windows or Office or anything else. The market is just going. Big software can find a way to keep up or go the way of all the other dinosaurs in history.
    Chad_z
  • Security is still key...

    Security needs to be considered as much as the opportunity to collaborate and work seamlessly. Companies of all sizes spend a good chunk of change on the systems and hardware to run and by pulling in OSS and the latest Web 2.0 app without taking into consideration the security vulnerabilites these processes open could cripple you for hours or days.

    Keep in mind, whether its $500K spent on servers for an enterprise or five laptops in an "agile" business, the time lost dealing with corruption of your network can add up quick. Lost working time and cost to repair the backbone of an agile business can be devastating.

    I think with anything, you have to do your homework. I would like to see more information on the security aspects of this, especially when running 4-5 different applications from different providers.
    Brian Blank
  • Comment 2.0 (beta)

    I swear, this comment will really be revolutionary when its time comes!
    dgalligan
  • RE: Office 2.0: The future of work

    Soon it will be holographic images of us at work, doing everything perfectly, while we sit at home in our PJs watching TV, playing xBox, and wondering about our next vacation to the Paradise!
    jtb74129
  • Office 2.0 could be an energy savior

    IP telephony technologies have made it practical to operate whole customer-facing departments outside the building.

    When IT eliminates a significant portion of commuting by car, replacing it with technologies that make it every bit as easy to commute digitally, then they have accomplished an important component of "Green IT."

    <a href="http://energypriorities.com/entries/2007/06/what_is_green_it_data_centers.php">What Is Green IT? Cutting Emissions and Energy Use Enterprise-wide</a> (Energy Priorities magazine)
    denisdubois
  • RE: Office 2.0: The future of work

    Really good article.
    richard.nzimiro@...
    • OFFICE 2.0

      I AM OLD ENOUGH TO REMEMBER THE CEO OF XEROX EXTOLLING 'THE OFFICE OF
      THE FUTURE'.
      OVER THE PAST 30 YEARS WE HAVE EVOLVED AN OFFICE OF THE PAST. MONOPOLIES
      HAVE A WAY OF PERPETUATING THAT A STIFILING THE FUTURE. IF THE FUTURE OF
      WORK IS LEFT TO THOSE COMITTED TO PROTECTING THEIR INVESTMENT IN THE
      OFFICE OF THE PAST, ADJUST YOUR EXPECTATIONS TO A NEW LEXICON AND NOT
      MUCH MORE.

      THE DEFINITION OF 'WORK' WILL BE THE ONLY TRUE MEASURE OF THE FUTURE.
      joelkruissink@...
  • It's all about limitations

    If I want to create office 2.0 I would just need to take the existing office 1.0 and limit the resources.

    If you have 10 people running your office then just lay-off 5 people and come up with methods for accomplishing the same set of tasks, etc. If you make the absolute impossible then making the possible probable can only occur through innovation.

    People think that Office 2.0 can be distilled into a buzzword or just doing something different, but it really means changing the magnitude of variables in order to realize a substantial productivity gain. Office 2.0 will be much more about emotions, energy, and enthusiasm versus just integrating software.

    Business is about decisions, and making the best decisions ultimately determines whether the business succeeds or fails. These decisions are not just long-term strategy decisions, but much more detailed. For example, do we confirm an order immediately or wait until the order has cleared some filters? Do we issue returns no questions asked or do we expect the customer to provide proof they purchased the item through our business? Do we bypass process in order to win a customer?

    Some of the best examples or realizing the impossible come from sports, where against impossible odds, the underdog prevailed by utilizing their opponents strengths against them. If a Football team over pursues then use that to your advantage and throw to the opposite side of the field. The point is that if you know your own strengths/weaknesses then you can be more effective at designing processes that will make people more effective.
    THEE WOLF
  • Like Web 2.0...

    Office 2.0, like Web 2.0, is a buzzword, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

    I really don't want my word processor/spreadsheet/etc. office application loaded on the fly off a web server, with fewer features than an application (Open Office/SunOffice, MSOffice, WordPerfect, whatever) that I can easily install using a setup program on my network.
    gypkap@...
  • The Real Question Behind the Appearance !

    Few years ago when I first heard about ???Web 2??? and read about it I understand that it was a new strategy from the softwares developers to find a solution against Piracy and also the way to stop virus hackers to use softwares files to overcome PC protection to achieve there destruction task.

    It was evident that if the developer have a full control on all the software reality it will be for him a way to get full protection against lost of money and from there an increase of money.

    It is known that within lots of Education Institutions the is a practice among Teachers and Students to use full softwares needed that are not legal. The main reason is for the students to have at home what it is needed to practice and make some homework. Students don???t have the money to afford the cost of some majors work suite of softwares to fallow there course and the softwares developers only offers a 15 or a 30 days trial for there softwares to be use.

    For what I understand on that practice, it is a way to extend the trial period to use the non legal licensed softwares until there are needed to earn money for living. Most of the students will buy the softwares when they graduate and start using them for there earning works.

    The other side of the bad fence on this is the steeling of those softwares by some peoples in Asia that don???t care about legal owning and if I understand right there are the big category in term of quantities of lost of earning from the softwares developers.

    M$ have brought up the idea of renting the softwares instead of selling them and for those that rent there products there will be no cost for upgrading them along the years.

    Today it appears that they have put up lots of justification to support the idea of Web 2 and is goodness.

    People rent cars so there is no problem for them to rent softwares. If this is the logic behind the task for the developers, for the consumers renting is always more expensive than owning.

    But we all know that it is also the best way to have the cash to pay the research and development that it is needed to increase the growth profits without spending any money from there pockets.
    pobstar1@...