I just got home from this year’s very successful Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston, where it was proven once again that despite what we all might wish for, actually meeting people in person and getting together as part of a live, moveable feast has its advantages—not the least of which is catching up with old friends over a beer at the end of another crazy, info-packed day.
What struck me most about this show—only three years old, but growing in leaps and bounds every year—is how many perspectives there are on the enterprise of the future. On the one hand, you have the 800-poung gorillas, the strategic, old-guard vendors looking for ways to drive (and capitalize on) new ways of doing business: Cisco, IBM Lotus, Microsoft, SAP (!) et. al. On the other hand, the show floor was dominated by small start-ups, many of which I had never heard of, doing cool new things with technology in the hopes of helping to shape how business of the future gets done: Atlassian, Connectbeam, JackBe, Pollstream, Serence, and TechDirt, to name just a few.
But more interesting than the dichotomy between old guard and new was the incredible span of applications on display. Clearly, ask 100 people to define the core technology for Enterprise 2.0, and you’ll get 100 answers. I saw everything from the expected wiki and blog software and unified communications applications, to knowledge management tools, RSS feed capabilities, mash-ups, e-learning, search, social networking, CRM, telepresence, and even something called “shipping expense management software”… Talk about a varied list.
It made for an exciting and thought-provoking conference, but for IT and business executives looking for answers and advice about how and when to deploy technology to support the next-generation enterprise, I’m not sure it didn’t just raise more questions. After all, with so much to choose from, how should one decide what technologies are critical to the Enterprise 2.0, which are critical only for specific businesses, and which are, well, not so critical after all?
To be honest, some of these technologies really should be more narrowly defined, as, say, “CRM 2.0” or “content management 2.0” or “Doug 2.0” (as one of my colleagues now calls himself). If we’re really looking at the Enterprise 2.0, we need to focus on horizontal technologies that change the way knowledge workers do business. These, I think, can be divided into three groups:
- Communications tools, which aim to connect virtual employees in real-time as quickly and effectively as possible. These include unified communications, presence and conferencing applications.
- Knowledge management and asynchronous collaboration tools, which aim to help people work together on projects and share information, then ensure that content is available to others in the enterprise. These include content management software, team spaces, and certain search technologies.
- Social networking software, which aims to connect people with one another, so that employees can identify key contacts and share expertise and skills as needed, as well as form social bonds to leverage in the future. These include wikis, bogs, and MySpace-like environments, such as IBM’s BluePages.
Of course, all three groups are converging, so that one type of technology may bleed into another. What isn’t converging these days?
As a complete aside, David Marshak, Senior Product Manager with the Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC2) IBM Software Group, says he hasn’t received a voicemail message in more than 18 months. This could have something to do with the fact that he lost his voicemail-access password around the same time—for all he knows, he has 1,000 messages waiting—but his point is clear: Presence information tells people wishing to contact him how and when to do so, eliminating the need for messages. I’m not sure how he manages to get that info out to partners and customers not using the same presence-based systems as he is (and he obviously doesn’t have a Jewish mother), but at least now I know never to leave a message for Dave at the beep.