While application developers tend to roll their eyes at the concept of end-user mashups, they remain one of the more promising new trends in software development this year. And while it's certainly true it's early days yet for mashups, the tools that enable them remaining rather limited, seems to be changing as I regularly come across compelling new mashup platforms as well as upgrades to existing ones that show what will be possible soon. And for now, as evidenced recently in the McKinsey Web 2.0 in business survey where 21% of organizations globally said they are using or planning to use mashups, there appears to be considerable demand for mashups at the enterprise level even though the majority of existing offerings are primarily aimed at the consumer space. Is this disconnect resolving with the current crop of offerings? Let's take a look.
Enterprise Web 2.0
Dion Hinchcliffe on leveraging the convergence of IT and the next generation of the Web.
Dion Hinchcliffe is an expert in information technology, business strategy, and next-generation enterprises.
It's nearly the middle of 2007 already and I've had occasion to sit down and look at where Web 2.0 and SOA software models have evolved lately. Partly it's because we're now seeing some of the bigger software companies seriously embrace lightweight SOA recently, and it's also because we're continuing to see more clearly that Web 2.0 and SOA really are largely (but not 100%) the same concepts that merely lay on different -- if fairly different -- parts of the software continuum. Here's the latest on this story.
At last week's Mashup Ecosystem Summit held in San Francisco and sponsored by IBM with an invited assemblage of leading players in this space, I gave an opening talk about the current challenges and opportunities of mashups. And there I posed the title of this post as a statement instead of a question. The reason that it's a question here is entirely driven by the context of who is currently creating the majority of mashups these days. Because even a cursory examination of what people are doing every day on the Web right now tells us that mashups -- also known as ad hoc Web sites created on the fly out of other Web sites -- are indeed happening in a large way, albeit in simple forms, by the tens of thousands online every day.
I've only recently had a chance to catch up and read Tom Davenport's post a few weeks ago about his skepticism of Enterprise 2.0's ability to wreak significant cultural and hierarchical change inside organizations. Those of you tracking the Enterprise 2.0 story know the drill, namely that applying Web 2.0 tools and platforms inside organization may or may not -- depending on who you are talking to -- improve the way we collaborate, run our businesses, and even potentially tap major new veins of previously unexploitable worker productivity. I myself tend to be a bit biased because I'm very close to many uses of these technologies and their use in the field. And that's shown me that if one trend stands out clearly above the fray, it's that most organizations are rapidly embracing these tools today, either from the top-down or at a grassroots level, and often both.
I've just come off a whirlwind conference tour that started in San Francisco last week with Web 2.0 Expo and ended with the Web 2.0 Kongress yesterday in Frankfurt. I was fortunate enough to be able to speak at both conferences and it was fascinating to see the differences in focus between the two events, as well as some of the apparent trends they had in common.
The last few weeks have seen a series of interesting new reports, studies, and papers on the past, present, and future of Web 2.0 concepts and applications as applied to businesses. Most notable for many industry watchers have been fairly rigorous new works by McKinsey & Company as well as Forrester, whom have each released the results of broad surveys of executives in various industries. The focus of both surveys was to capture a picture of the interests, activities, motivators for Web 2.0 adoption of several thousand C-level executives in medium to large companies.
Blogger Euan Semple recently highlighted a key point about Enterprise 2.0 adoption that ZDNet's own Dan Farber also found worthy of note over the weekend. And that is that Enterprise 2.0 will happen in your organization entirely by itself, whether you encourage it, discourage it, or even consign it to benign neglect. Euan actually laid out three strategies in semi-tongue cheek form likely meant as a shot across the bow of complacent IT departments; whether you get out of the way, actively encourage it, or do absolutely nothing, Enterprise 2.0 platforms like blogs, wikis, and related social, emergent, freeform Web 2.0-style apps are coming to your company, and in fact are almost certainly there already.
A couple of recent announcements from two large, very well-known organizations provides some interesting data points on how Web 2.0 is affecting the product designs and business processes of otherwise very traditional institutions. Both USA Today and the U.S. Patent and Trademark office have recently unveiled strategies for letting their users use two-way Web capabilities to contribute directly to the products and services they offer. And many other mainstream companies, such as Pepsi as well as GM and XM Radio have been exploring externally-facing Web 2.0 concepts in their products for a while now.
In my last post, I took a look at the recent proliferation of Web widgets, which are modular content and services that are making it easier for anyone to help themselves to the vast pool of high value functionality and information that resides on the Web today. Companies are actively "widgetizing" their online offerings so that it can actively be repurposed into other sites and online products. And as we discussed in the last post, it's believed that letting users innovate with your online offerings by letting embedding them in their own Web sites, blogs, and applications can greatly broaden distribution and reach, leverage rapid viral propagation over the Internet, and fully exploit the raw creativity that theoretically lies in great quantities on the edge of our networks.
One of the hallmarks of a good Web 2.0 site is one that hands over non-essential control to users, letting them contribute content, participate socially, and even fundamentally shape the site itself. The premise is that users will do a surprising amount of the hard work necessary to make the site successful, right down to creating the very information the site offers to its other users and even inviting their friends and family members to use it. Web 2.0 newcomers MySpace and YouTube have shown how this can be done on a mass scale surprisingly quickly, and of course older generation successes like eBay and craigslist have been doing this for years.