Forget predictions, get a wishlist

At this time of the year, pundits of all stripes seek to grab attention by appearing sage and wise by making predictions for the coming year. Heck, I've done it myself - and lived to regret such pretensions.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

At this time of the year, pundits of all stripes seek to grab attention by appearing sage and wise by making predictions for the coming year. Heck, I've done it myself - and lived to regret such pretensions. This year I prefer to pen an enterprise wishlist because that's something actionable. It's not complete but it's a start:

A total ban on anything 2.0

Most of my colleagues have become thoroughly tired of anything supposedly new being dubbed 2.0. It makes discernment between what's useful and useless difficult to navigate and fuzzy to those trying to make sense of the current wave of innovation. Jevon MacDonald nails it in talking about Enterprise 2.0:

There is one small detail that a lot of us forget when we jump in to a new venture. The one nit-picky thing is that it is usually a good idea to have a maket to sell in to...From an economic point of view, Enterprise 2.0 does not exist.

Most stuff X2.0 falls into the same category. Wishful thinking. The latest fashion victim is Hugh MacLeod with TV 2.0. Hugh has carved out a deserved reputation as a disrupting force in the world of advertising and marketing across several markets. His ideas are often stimulating and thought provoking. Adding the 2.0 moniker has a whiff of shark jumping. I'm sure it will disappear very quickly as I hope it does everywhere. But then I'm well aware this industry loves fashion statements and representing something as X2.0 is just that. Oh - that doesn't mean we have to move to 3.o or anything X.0. Please, let's save that kind of thing for software versioning and let great ideas stand on their merits. Like this one from Hugh in August, 2004 and which should be required reading for anyone thinking about creative innovation.

A reinvention of 'social networking'

The social networking concept is wearing thin. Enterprise doesn't get it. It's meaningless in the world of work and often strikes fear into the heart of middle management, where change is the hardest to implement. We need a term that traverses the social in a way that's acceptable to management yet encapsulates the promise of what social networks mean for the work environment. Perhaps something boring like 'collaborative networks?'

To this observer, the notion of collaboration makes a lot more sense because it embodies the idea of action in problem solving. That's what this stuff is about - isn't it? That's why I'm watching what happens at Jive Software with Clearspace. Not heard of them? They've doubled revenues in the last year and are currently on target to reach $40 million in 2008. A drop in the enterprise ocean. In the near future, they're looking to take the first steps in solving the knotty problem of integrating transaction based systems with the unstructured forms of collaboration that render value. If they pull that trick then Jive will have done something extraordinarily useful. Derived visible value from informal interactions but without the strictures of process control that inhibit creativity.

Enterprise Twitter and Seesmic

Twitter has become the IM comms service du jour. Seesmic has the potential to do the same for video comms. Neither Twitter nor Seesmic have discernible business models. Both services could achieve instant revenue streams if only they could look beyond the 'consumer.' I'd pay for enterprise versions. I suspect that both Mike Krigsman and Ed Yourdon would and that despite the fun debate on Twitter 'good or bad.' Unfortunately, VCs seem to be rewarding developers that make consumer facing apps, even though those of us in enterprise land know the enterprise market is an order of magnitude larger than anything Google et al can muster. My sense is that if the likes of Twitter and Seesmic don't 'get it' then others will and they will have missed a great opportunity.

Utility pricing for utility applications

Along with my friend Vinnie Mirchandani, I find it hard to understand how SAP and Oracle (as examples) continue to justify maintenance revenues of around 22% when the likes of TomorrowNow and RiminiStreet have proven that enterprise doesn't have to pay this level of support tax. Despite the way in which TomorrowNow allowed itself to be bullied into submission following accusations of theft, this is not the end of independent application support. My hope is that a group of influential buyers will self-organize and put pressure on the enterprise vendors. It won't take much. Just the realization that money spent on supporting old applications takes much needed budget oxygen away from projects that add value.

Governance, risk and compliance take on real meaning

GRC is the enterprise TLA of the moment. Broader concerns around the environment mean that enterprises need to take their social responsibilities seriously or face the specter of reputational risk. To date, GRC has been an opportunistic application sale where the emphasis has been on discovering business issues onto which the GRC moniker can be slapped. Enterprise would benefit from a more structured approach. This requires partnership between communities of interest, vendors and enterprise in the creation of standards, compliance processes with teeth and commonly understood measures. I won't pretend this is easy because the jockeying of positions among the different interest groups will require careful navigation. XBRL could play a significant role and in this context I hope XBRL for Dummies becomes widely read. It's free so there is no excuse for at least not skimming its content. (Disclosure: I provided some pro bono editorial support for this book.)

Innovation transfer from consumer to enterprise

Consumer innovation is proceeding at a frantic pace yet we don't see the same in enterprise. Or at least it has not been as visible as I would like. The Colgate Twins demonstrated that it is possible to mix consumer with enterprise in a fun way. Most recently, developers showed that widgets can have true enterprise utility in an SAP environment. Budgets allocated to these project are miniscule and often struggle for attention. This is a paradox. 'Enterprise' implies mega bucks yet some innovators have successfully demonstrated this doesn't need to be the case. When innovation is accessible, which includes low cost, adoption is much easier and deeper than when you're fighting over thousands of dollars per seat. My hope is that the big ticket players 'get it' and give the innovators out there the budgets they deserve. I'm not holding my breath.

BRP and not ERP

This is really an extension of most of the above. Earlier this month, fellow Irregular Sig Rinde put out a post that disucssed the difference between Barely Repeatable Process and Easily Repeatable Process. It's a must read for anyone trying to understand how the 'new' of social computing (BRP) fits with the 'old' of enterprise resource planning ('old' ERP.) Sig's post strikes the chord of common sense that is often missing in discussions around enterprise software without descending into marketing nonsense. In 2006, I wrote about Sig's 34-Minute Time and Expense application. For me it was a watershed moment. Unfortunately, enterprise has yet to reach the same conclusion, struggling to admit that BRP exists. I'm hopeful this will change sooner rather than later.

Business travel becomes bearable

This is personal. Business travel is the equivalent of cruel and unusual punishment. From start to finish, it's riddled with broken process and a failure to meet expectations. That's why I'm enjoying Kayak (my current favorite flight finder) even though Stephanie Booth demonstrates just how far the organization of business travel really has to go before it starts to delight. It's also why I like Dopplr, with its ability to let me know who among my colleagues is likely to be in the same place as I. Here's hoping Dopplr lives up to the attention it is currently enjoying. But I need a lot more. I want to pull all the travel threads together and have them work with budgets along with approval processes in a Twitteresque fashion. And finally...

Welcoming the have nots

In all the talk around innovation we (and I include myself) often forget that people just want to 'get things done.' This year saw some lively discussions around UIs and whether making something sexy is, of itself a good. I prefer to use applications that are pleasing to the eye but those same applications need process utility. My hope is that in the coming year, we'll see a lot more engagement with the people who don't have a voice in applications design. If 'we' are serious about the 'social' in the work place then it's high time the 'ordinary' user be given a real voice. If Robert Scoble kick starts that kind of conversation then it's a fair bet it has importance to the user community at large.

Endnote: for those that enjoy the fun of reading predictions then check out @predictions08 who is doing a fine job of collating the latest in 2008 predictions. For those who prefer having their needs met, Chris Brogan has a handy list.

Editorial standards