Jennifer Leggio asked the question 'Did Oracle burst the enterprise 2.0 startup bubble?' in her post here on ZDNet this week.
I think Jennifer is absolutely right that inevitably many of the 'enterprise 2.0' experiments will burn off as they attempt to enter the real world business atmosphere, and that some are plain embarrassing in their lack of understanding of the realities of the commercial world.
It's important to remember that these brave entrepreneurs are being watched very closely by the deep pocketed titans of global IT - Oracle, IBM, MSFT, SAP et al, and that any successful forward thinking is subsumed into future offerings from the big players.
In this context there is a cynicism by those who can afford to go last with presenting their offerings in rolling up anything with a buzz around it into their next generation product lines. Many 'Enterprise 2.0' company exit strategies are to be bought up of course...but it's easy to forget that most innovation comes from the edgier entrepreneurs rather than the big fish. In the worst case scenario in business ideas are simply stolen, as the new Hollywood film 'Flash of Genius' painfully dramatizes.
Last night with David Coleman I did a presentation to the TechCoire community in Sacramento California - far away enough from the bay area bubble community to get an intriguing perspective from a good cross section of attendees.
We made the meeting as collaborative as possible with our audience/group (of mainly technologists) and many of the recurring big themes which triggered the Enterprise 2.0 movement kept reappearing: frustration with monolithic infrastructure, revelations about the power of the open source support model - 'Googling your question and finding the answer from dozens of sources', and of course the cost factor.
There's no question the work done by the big players in rolling up collaboration solutions is powerful and in may instances are taking advantage of the 2.0 wave in innovative ways. Compliance to for example hipaa, Sox, and other internal security metrics governance (such as email discovery) is critical to many businesses and central to IT decision making for the underlying infrastructure that is the backbone of internal communication.
The burning issues in this era however are cost and time. As David Coleman pointed out, getting a project underpinned with appropriate technology can take months of approval process from IT and then a lengthy delay while the technology is acquired and implemented. One of the reasons for informal enterprise 2.0 tool usage is because people can literally buy a few software as a service seat licenses and be up and running that same day with flexible technology that meets project needs.
There is an uneasy balance between productivity and compliance which is different in every case, and here budget plays a huge role. Many companies are several iterations back in their installed versions of for example Lotus Notes, and have constructs built around domino databases that make it difficult and time consuming to upgrade. The collaboration offerings we are seeing unveiled today may not hit many enterprises for three or four years, yet many staff are crying out for tools and utilities to collaborate and communicate more effectively today in order to compete with better equipped competitors.
In the current unstable financial climate tools that can get the job done today at negligible cost look extremely attractive...