Enterprise 2.0: my $0.02

Enterprise 2.0 is over for another year and despite a poor start, the event turned out well.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor on

Enterprise 2.0 is over for another year and despite a poor start, the event turned out well. I attribute the poor start to the performance of Oracle and Microsoft: two of Jevon MacDonald's 'drag queens.' Both seemed tired, dated and out of touch with the mood of the new generation of technology hungry decision makers. Oracle trying to pitch CRM apps as E2.0 is disingenuous. Sandy Kemsley neatly encapsulates the mood:

After 30+ minutes of lightweight “here’s what Enterprise 2.0 is and why it’s important”, he finally started to talk about what new and exciting things that they’re doing, but I’d mostly nodded off by then...He did talk about their Social CRM application and about what’s happening in their internal AppsLab skunkworks, but it just wasn’t enough to hold my attention and I slipped out early.

I didn't last as long as Sandy and was more scathing. Microsoft completely misread the show and ended up getting its clock cleaned, first by IBM and later by Jive Software. Much of the criticism was leveled in the Twitterverse. Here's a sampling captured by Luis Benitez:

trib: #e20 MS failing dismally at showing off Sharepoint collab tools. IBM totally ate their lunch.

kpearlson: watcihng MS demonstrate SharePoint in an 'out of the box' manner...seems very slow and not as intuitive as Lotus Connections

gialyons: hearing Lotus Connections (Suzanne and Heidi) is winning the E2.0 debate with LLiu and Sharepoint. No surprise here.

eughenes: MS presenting SharePoint's as social computing platform, nice try but not serious at all. It is NOT a SC platform.

jhariani: MS getting pummelled on their SharePoint for SNS demo: http://community.e2conf.com/community/sessions/monday/t1

kreid451: listening to SharePoint demo at E2.0. It's really not in the same ballpark with Lotus Connections, the last demo

This is a biased opinion but one I saw shared over and over again. I later caught up with panel moderator and Burton Group analyst Mike Gotta. He was getting his ear well and truly bent by Microsoft's Lawrence Liu. Liu was of the view that attendees wanted to see 'the SOA stack' while IBM showed functionality. I find that statement extraordinary. As I pointed out to Lui: customers don't care what's under the hood. They want to see stuff that works. It's no surprise to see Sam Lawrence, CMO of Jive and creative marketer of the moment taking potshots at Microsoft, again using the Twitterverse in support of his argument.

Speaking of Twitter, my panel did a great job diving into microblogging. Although it was dominated by discussions in and around Twitter - something which is rapidly becoming a noun and verb - the floor debate was much livelier than I expected. While many think behind the firewall Twitter in one shape or another is a done deal, not everyone's as gung ho. Again, Sandy Kemsley:

I’m not convinced about the value of micro-blogging to me, but I’m not ready to write it off: I likely just haven’t had my a-ha moment yet. That being said, this week is the first time that I met someone who, on hearing my name, told me that they just started following me on Twitter.

As always at these events, the hallway conversations are the best. I enjoyed meeting up with Andrew McAfee, who I hadn't seen in a couple of years. I quipped that Enterprise 20 is still emerging, suggesting that industry is possibly at the 'peek over the parapet' level. He smiled wryly and we engaged in a discussion about what it takes to make these new technologies stick. I suggested that I'm not hearing enough about the need to engage with social scientists and not the pseudo scientists I see pontificating on this topic. He agrees but says that in academia, social scientists tend to be anti-technology and are often characterized as closet Marxists and/or anarchists. That's a view with which I sympathize. It plays to my theory that talking about 'social' applications in business is about as welcome as a trades union organizer in the boardroom. How this use of language problem and perceptive void works out is as yet unknown but I was encouraged to learn that Pfizer engaged organizational psychologists in figuring out how they'd introduce social computing into its business.

Culture figured heavily in the unconference sessions that Ross Mayfield kicked off. These for me were the best sessions of the whole event. They stimulated the most engaging conversations as delegates grappled with the real problems of implementing change. Again, this is a topic I believe is seriously under represented by those who believe that opening a blog or wiki and then anticipating spontaneous bottom up growth is all there it to it. I can say from experience that view is a recipe for failure.

I sense that change is in the air. At conferences like this, you'll always find plenty of what Stowe Boyd calls 'edglings' and he's right. Even so, in hearing how organizations like Lockheed Martin and the CIA are enjoying success, there is genuine hope that the age old nut of releasing value through collaborative networks will finally gain significant traction in the coming year or so.

Update: Ross Mayfield's analysis provides further insights into the unconference part of the event.

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