Ideas about Enterprise 2.0 products and philosophies

Sales Advice For Enterprise 2.0 Startups

A while back, Infovark had an article about new Enterprise 2.0 applications... they mentioned an article by Paul Grahm -- the self-appointed startup king -- about how he's looking to fund Enterprise Software 2.0 startups:

5. Enterprise software 2.0. Enterprise software companies sell bad software for huge amounts of money. They get away with it for a variety of reasons that link together to form a sort of protective wall. But the software world is changing. I suspect that if you study different parts of the enterprise software business (not just what the software does, but more importantly, how it's sold) you'll find parts that could be picked off by startups. One way to start is to make things for smaller companies, because they can't afford the overpriced stuff made for big ones. They're also easier to sell to.

interesting... Although kind of false.

Look... A lot of enterprise software is sold because of the "one throat to choke" rule. In other words, there is value in streamlining your business so that you only purchase from a handful of companies. In some sense, that's vendor lock-in, but in another sense you can avoid finger pointing. If the integration between Software Company ABC and Software Company XYZ doesn't work, they will each blame each other. However, if they both are created by the same company, you'll likely spend less time screaming at them to get their software to work together, or to integrate properly. Since integrations are 40% of IT budget, that's real money... People pay a premium to enterprise software companies, in order to get this assurance of supportability.

A startup simply cannot match that head-on...

This isn't to say that only big companies can sell to big companies... I remember back when Stellent was a 500 person company, we made several deals to HUGE companies... However, the ecosystem for enterprise software that's not made by big companies is kind of small. The good stuff usually falls into one of three categories:

  1. Open source,
  2. Software as a service,
  3. An incredibly useful application that is nearly unique, and not sold by the big boys.

If you're going after the "wow" factor, then you can forget trying to play with the big boys in the sales cycle. Selling enterprise software is a royal pain, and takes forever. It has a lot to do with relationships and trust, quite frankly... its about an assurance that even if you don't have every feature in the checklist, that your company is dedicated to making the product better.

Let me put it this way... which is better, Java or C#? The answer is Python. But that's pretty much irrelevant...

The optimal technology for you is not always the best technology available; its that which allows your team as a whole to be more productive. This means its more of a human problem (ie, training, resources, support) than a technical one. The fact is, enterprise software is usually so complex that you need to have a strong relationship with the software company before you can get the assurance you need that you are making a good decision. This trust goes a long way, its hard to build, and therefore the enterprise software sellers usually try hard to maintain it... It will be tough for a new guy to break through that "wall." It doesn't matter if you have better software, if the customer feels no assurance.

If you're a small company who wants to get into the Enterprise 2.0 market, don't try to mimic the sales process of the big boys... That's probably suicide. Instead, do the following:

  • find something that the big boys just don't "get," and aren't likely to "get" for a long time
  • alternatively, find something they "get", ride the coattails of their marketing, and do it better
  • ensure your software installs quickly, if you need to install it at all
  • focus on usability more than features: startups will never win the features arms race, but they can easily win the usability arms race
  • make it easy to customize your product
  • make sure your customers can go from zero to kick ass in 30 minutes or less
  • think about security, scalability, interoperability, and internationalization from day one... because the enterprise-y competition will hit you hard about that
  • price it to move

After that, find a department head who is frustrated because their enterprise system doesn't meet their needs, and hope they have budget!

Finishing Up Open World Presentations

Open World Starts Sunday! I've been putting my finishing touches on my presentations, so I haven't had much time to blog... I figured I should remind everybody of my presentation schedule:

  1. Monday 1pm-2pm: Enterprise 2.0, What it is and How You'll Fail, at Moscone West, 3rd Floor Overlooks #1
  2. Monday 4pm-5pm: A Pragmatic Approach to Oracle ECM, at Moscone South, Rm 301, session 299246.
  3. Wednesday 11am-12pm: Communication For Geeks -- How to influence your peers, your boss, and your clients, at Moscone West, 3rd Floor Overlooks #2
  4. Thursday 10:30am-11:30am: Top 10 Ways To Integrate With Oracle ECM, at the Marriott, Golden Gate room C1, session 300043.

The first and third talks are a part of the Open World Unconference. The second talk is one I'm giving with Andy MacMillan about our upcoming book... the last one is based mostly on the talk I gave at IOUG Collaborate 2008, but with a few twists...

I'll be Twittering my location throughout the conference, in case you'd like to meet up. I'll likely be attending mostly ECM talks, or hanging out at one of these places:

See you there!

Google Knol: The Wiki For "Experts" To Dumb To Blog

Well, Google has been hyping their new application, Knol over the past few weeks. I first heard about this last December. I was unimpressed then, and am unimpressed now:

Google seems to believe that wiki-quality blogs belong in what they call a knol, short for knowledge unit. It will allow viewers to rank the value of posts, and allow the "expert" to get credit for their work... Here's the thing: there's already tons of "knols" on the web... Not to mention, the entire heart of Google search -- the PageRank -- already works as a de facto "knol ranking" system. All Google Knol does is lower the bar for so-called "experts" who are apparently too dumb to set up a blog... Besides, technologies like Microformats can be used to embed metadata into any mundane content. Why not have a "this is a knol" microformat, put them on any web page on the internet, and let the Googlebot Spider do the rest?

A bit harsh, yes... but nonetheless true.

There are other problems with Knol. Firstly, Wikipedia is popular explicitly because there is no financial incentive! As somebody said at the Enterprise 2.0 kickoff, Wikipedia is one of the top 10 websites, and they never advertise. As a result, Wikipedia throws away $100 million per year because they don't want to turn into some ad-heavy hunk of junk. If they did, their viewership would plummet. As soon as Google pays people, or starts showing ads, Knol is dead.

Secondly, non-experts are some of the most important contributors to wikis! They challenge the "experts" to justify their claims, when the non-expert finds something that contradicts the conventional group-think. Also, non-experts rework articles to lower the bar of what prior-knowledge people need to have before they can understand the article. Understanding knowledge and teaching knowledge are vastly different things... many who have the first skill do not have the second, and vice versa. The former requires logic, the latter requires empathy, and its an exceptional person who both knows and teaches subjects above a 12th grade level...

Thirdly, Knol's founding premise is fundamentally flawed. The problem is not lack of experts, the problem is lack of transparency. Reputation systems are useful to determine whom to trust, but so are the links at the bottom of every Wikipedia page. Also, any controversial topic has a quite lively discussion page, filled with counter-examples... people asking for credentials, further proof, etc. Wikipedia just needs a bit more eye candy to call out sections that have been frequently edited, and by whom.

I just don't see Google Knol getting anywhere... eventually, the Knol experts will discover that running a personal blog is more fun and rewarding than letting Google get all your ad revenue... and linking to yourself as a Wikipedia citation just might get you more page views than a Knol would.

Enterprise 2.0 Rant Available For All

Well, the reviews are in on my Enterprise 2.0 talk... and it was pretty well received.

...perhaps best of all, a deadpan delivery of "Enterprise 2.0: How You Will Fail" from the illustrious Bex Huff (an Oracle ACE Director). The latter was a source for some particularly good quotes, such as my favorite: "Where there is lack of shared purpose, information sharing leads to chaos." Amen, my friend.

Unfortunately, I was out of the room when they decided to do the schedule, so I went dead last at the end of the day. Serves me right for trying to network with Ajay Gandhi and Joe Strada. The audience dwindled a bit, but they seemed awake enough to get some value out of my talk.

In any event, I put the presentation up on Slideshare, and embedded it below. The viewer is kind of busted, so you might want to download it as well.

Unlike the other speakers, my goal was to reign in the excitement and buzz around Enterprise 2.0. I believe there is massive value in a company-wide E 2.0 initiative, but there will be equally massive stumbling blocks! Is your culture ready for it? Probably not. Almost certainly not. Therefore, you'll have to fail a few times before you'll see measurable value.

The only hope in getting value out of E 2.0 is by keeping an eye out for failures. Expect them! Embrace them! Experiment a little, and try new things anyway! Any Enterprise 2.0 initiative that cannot adjust in the face of massive failure will just be a waste of money. Its not just about the technology; Enterprise 2.0 is really about creating a culture of entrepreneurialism. You need this culture before you can find enterprise-wide value in E 2.0 tools.

Good E 2.0 initiatives are about tools that guide the creation of this culture, and are not just about getting everybody on the latest Web 2.0 gizmo. If your E 2.0 initiative revolves around getting everybody blogging, then you're just replacing email overload with blog overload... or wiki overload... or social software overload... or Twitter overload... Pick your poison. Departments with a good culture will find immediate value; others will find zero, or even negative value! You'll be spinning your wheels, but you wont be going anywhere.

I hope to give this talk again at the Open World unconference... Justin said that he'll be sending out an email blast so we can get registered on the wiki. That will make it 3 talks this year at Open World... see you there!

UPDATE: I'll be giving it at 1pm on Monday, Sept 22 at the Open World unconference. It will be at Moscone West 3rd Floor Overlooks, in case you'd like to see it live. I might change that time, if there's a lot of other stuff I'd like to see at that time, but I want to get it out of the way so I can enjoy the rest of the conference...

Enterprise 2.0: What It Is, and How You'll Fail

A few days ago Justin asked me if I would like to give a presentation at Oracle's Enterprise 2.0 Bootcamp on July 28th... I said sure, but only if I get to be controversial.

Hopefully this topic will be controversial enough!

UPDATE: the presentation went over quite well... and I've posted it online if you want to take a peek.

I've heard a lot of buzz about Enterprise 2.0 lately... and lots of Enterprise Content Management folks (including Newton, Pie, and Billy) still seem to be frustrated by the general lack of a coherent definition of what exactly is Enterprise 2.0? Frankly, I think the very act of defining Enterprise 2.0 defeats the whole purpose, but I appreciate that some people need guidance...

The world is filled with "thought leaders" trying to railroad people into a narrow definition that is properly aligned with their own technology and ego... Some say E 2.0 is just Web 2.0 for the enterprise. Some say its emerging enterprise architectures (SOA, ESB, CEP, IdM) that make services easier to govern and re-use. Others -- like the lame-os at Wikipedia -- say its nothing more than enterprise social software. Others say its just the Knowledge Management Beast rearing its ugly head yet again...

triple ish on that last one...

In my upcoming book, I spend a chapter on how Enterprise Content Management fits in with Enterprise 2.0... and after swimming in blogs for the past year I think I have synthesized an approximate definition that might make everybody happy:

Enterprise 2.0 is an emerging social and technical movement towards helping your business practices evolve. At its heart, its goals are to empower the right kind of change by connecting decision makers to information, to services and to people.

Swish! Leave a comment and tell me what you think... Hot or not?

Its vital to understand that E 2.0 is still a moving target... we know that the enterprise is changing radically, but we don't have enough hard data to say what its changing into. However, I feel its just the latest leap in the neverending goal to make information and services more re-usable.

As an added twist, E 2.0 also has at its core the goal of connecting people with each other in order to discover the tremendous value that exists outside "the process." If the purpose of process is efficiency, then why do so many people in enterprises complain that their process is horribly inefficient? It might be because your process just plain sucks, or it might be because the process is keeping you from changing something that has drastic side-effects outside your view of the company. The point is not to mock or destroy "the process," but to help processes evolve at the optimal rate. This is not possible unless all decision makers can see first-hand how their changes negatively affect other departments. This cannot be done with metrics alone: you need friendly hallway conversations between people who normally would hate each other.

Unfortunately, after coming up with that definition I was staring point blank at something a little unsettling... If people focus on the wrong things, Enterprise 2.0 will FAIL HORRIBLY the same way Knowledge Management FAILED HORRIBLY! For those who forget, Knowledge Management was some snake oil sold 20 years ago saying that access to information was the #1 problem... its not. The problem is access to the right information at the right time in the right format. My industry -- Enterprise Content Management -- emerged from the ashes of Knowledge Management, trying to implement the few good ideas that it offered.

So... how did Knowledge Management fail? What implications does this have for the failure of Enterprise 2.0? I'm no psychic, but I anticipate that people might make similar mistakes... it all boils down to one problem: you're probably focussing on the wrong thing! How could you fail? Here's five ways:

Why Enterprise 2.0 Is More Web 2.0 Than Web 2.0

So I was reading up on John Newton's impressions of the Enterprise 2.0 conference a few weeks back... he was frustrated by the lack of a unifying definition of just what it was:

this doesn't mean that there was a lot of clarity on the meaning of the term Enterprise 2.0 at the conference. Although Web 2.0 had no less than Tim O'Reilly and John Battelle to define what that term means (barely), Enterprise 2.0 has no such authority. Consensus says that it is just Web 2.0 for the enterprise. However, researching the concept a couple of years ago, E2.0 is about taking the social aspects of Web 2.0, collaboration, social networks, user contribution, wisdom of crowds and social tagging and voting and applying it to information, documents and content in the enterprise

Interesting... blogs allow anybody to speak on a topic, and report news... Wikis allow anybody to take part in creating an authoritative knowledge repository... social networks allow people to bypass hierarchy structures and get things done by making "friends" and "connections" that want to help you.

Web 2.0 fundamentally means the end of the expert, but it took two "experts" to define that.

How deliciously ironic...

In contrast, since there is no accepted "expert" telling us what Enterprise 2.0 is, and since we're all just a bunch of amateurs fumbling towards the right answer, then Enterprise 2.0 is actually more Web 2.0 than Web 2.0. We know a fundamental change is occuring, we just aren't quite sure what it will look like when we're done.

Well, then... I guess the right thing to do is sit back, and lets these guys fight it out for a while. Let the self-anointed ones battle for mindshare, let the answer present itself, and then come up with a definition.

I'll throw in my two cents next week...

Free Enterprise 2.0 Training

AIIM is offering free Enterprise 2.0 training, at least for a short while. They have a ten-part course on Enterprise 2.0, and AIIM is offer one of the ten sessions for free...

A lot of folks are confused, and justly ask what the heck is Enterprise 2.0 anyway? Jake opined a while ago that the Enterprise 2.0 label might be a little unnecessary... because its all pretty much the Web 2.0 stuff anyway. I agree in part... a lot of the initial buzz about Enterprise 2.0 is pretty much just making blogs, wikis, and social software more "enterprisey."

However, its also about streamlining business process management, data mining, and data visualization with freaky new tools... and a lot of cool new security offerings. Personally, I think that solving Enterprise 2.0 security problems is easier than solving Web 2.0 security issues... because cross-domain single sign on is a lot easier to do in the enterprise... and there's less spam ;-)

I'd also like to emphasize that real Enterprise 2.0 shouldn't be focused on the latest buzzwords... it should be about empowerment, simplicity, and evolution. Bill Gates recently reminded us of the dirty little secret of software: tradition enterprise apps are more about tracking and monitoring employees, rather than empowering them to do their jobs better. Enterprise 2.0, if it takes the lead from Web 2.0, should break that command-and-control mold to enable bigger, better, faster innovation. Otherwise, it shouldn't even be called Enterprise 2.0.

To paraphrase Clay Shirky, innovations aren't socially interesting until they are technically boring. Frankly, I'd argue that enterprise applications could certainly benefit from some technical boredom... instead of re-architecting your solution every 5 years with the latest and greatest ivory tower buzzwords -- J2EE, EJB, Portals, SOA, CEP, ESB, etc. -- just use the simplest things that works.

To sum up... Keep it simple (stupid!), focus on usability, and your audience will love you... Or as Einstein would say:

Things should be made as simple as possible -- but no simpler.

Always good advice...

Oracle ECM Web 2.0 Goodies: Blogs, Wikis, And RSS Feeds

I've been hearing quite a few complaints from people who can't find Stellent's old sample components on MetaLink... thus many folks are unaware of their existence... so I thought I'd post several of them to my library, and make this clear:

Oracle Enterprise Content Management has Blogs, Wikis, and RSS Feeds built in!

I put those features together for Stellent about two years ago... lots of folks contributed, including Andy MacMillian, Kyle Hatlestad, and Alan Baer... These may need a bit of extra polish to be fully 10gr3 compliant, but they come with source code, so have at it! All three are a natural extension of what Oracle ECM does, so they were pretty easy for me to create... I can't imagine you'd have much trouble tweaking them.

Oracle ECM also has Mashups, although the samples I put together are not formalized. They're from a presentation that demonstrates how to do ECM mashups using SOAP over JavaScript. I also did a more advanced example of Google Maps mashed up with arbitrary database tables published dynamically with Schema. It got lots of oooohs and aaaaahs from the crowd ;-)

Please note: the blogs and wikis are meant to be samples that you integrate into an existing Site Studio web site. You'll probably want to modify the colors and styles. If you enable wiki pages to be written in Microsoft Word, then you may want to modify the dynamic converter templates as well. That's right: you can even author Wikis in Microsoft Word! Try doing that anywhere else.

So, what's the difference between the "Web 2.0" stuff in Oracle ECM, versus the stuff in Web Center Suite? Simple:

  • Web Center is a framework for creating Web 2.0 solutions
  • Oracle ECM is a product with Web 2.0 features

In other words... Oracle ECM has mature out-of-the-box Web 2.0 gizmos, as do several Oracle products. Web Center is a pile of tools that allows you to build a custom Web 2.0 application from scratch. Another option would be to use JRuby and Rails for all your Web 2.0 needs... just like the Oracle Apps Labs folks did for, which generated a huge buzz on the web. Also, Oracle recently bought BEA, which probably increases your Web 2.0 framework options yet again!

Confused yet?

Also note: despite the fact that ECM's wikis may have fewer features, at least ECM's Wiki supports the Oracle database! Web center's bundled wiki apparently uses file-based HSQLDB for its database... that shocker is courtesy of Paul Gallagher, who advocates a wait-and-see approach with Web Center.


Enterprise 2.0: The Death Of Slow Business Process

When I hear people talking about Web 2.0, I'm constantly surprised how few people really "get it." Its not about technology, its about empowering people. Its about giving people access to data, even if they are outside your domain. Its about jump starting innovation with scary new ideas. Its about tools that are easy to use -- perhaps even fun -- so a greater number of people can join in the process.

Setting up a wiki for your company is vaguely web 2.0... but what's really Web 2.0 is a blog with comments that allows instant feedback between customers and R&D... even tho it allows the public bashing of your product. Heck, an email listserv that connects customers and developers is more web 2.0 than an internal wiki... but do you see Google Groups getting any buzz? Maybe a little... they are Google, after all.

Now... when folks talk about Enterprise 2.0, you hear a lot of talk about technology: Service-Oriented Architecture, Complex Event Processing, BPEL, and Enterprise Service Buses. These are all great, but what matters is what you do with them. Each plays a vital role, but they are just pieces of the puzzle. What matters is the whole... and the whole needs to be people- and context-aware.

Do you plan on using the latest technology to securely connect users, data, and applications, to allow scary new innovations? Hooray! You're Enterprise 2.0! Have a cookie.

Are you BPEL-ifying every process and turning humans into mindless scrambling automata, afraid to use their judgment instead of "The Process", thus becoming alienated, terrified, and demoralized? Boooooo! Bad architect! No biscuit! Go back into the Kafka book from whence you came.

Lemme break it down for you... the economy is an evolutionary process. Not all business ideas are great... you have to see if they thrive in the market. No matter how well designed your idea is, the world changes under you, and your good idea might flop. You need to adjust you idea, hedge your bets, and change with the market.

The same holds true for any business process in Enterprise 2.0. Its not about what you're doing now... its about ensuring that you know when its time to change... Small changes can be automated, but many others can't be. This is the paradox of using technology to replace people: once something can be automated, soon everyone will be doing it! As soon as everybody does it, it's no longer a competitive advantage, no matter what.

Relying on process instead of people is a rapid race to the bottom... To survive, you need much more than just process. You need people who know how to survive without process. You need to constantly search for ways to add value to your business, and make it a part of a bigger and better process.

Web 2.0 increased the pace of idea evolution... Online collaborative encyclopedias ensure constant improvement of content... Blogs allow ideas to spread virally, turning the Blogosphere into a giant meme-incubator. Comments allow instant feedback, whereas links and trackbacks create these wonderful overlapping zones of connected ideas... Most web content is garbage, but that's not the point. Every once in a while you'll find an idea that changes your life...

This has little to do with the "wisdom of crowds" semi-nonsense... its just a numbers game: more minds, more ideas, better odds for brilliance.

If you dare to call yourself Enterprise 2.0, you had better be increasing the pace of business evolution. Forget uber frameworks that claim to solve every problem: design small stand-alone apps, and tie them together with SOAs, ESBs, and Mashups. Forget locking your information away in rigid silos: get identity management, risk management, and content management, then open the floodgates! And forget trying to design a "perfect process": tie together multiple small processes, and let experienced employees use their judgment to help the process evolve.

Face facts: evolution is smarter than you. If you want to be Enterprise 2.0, you had better not get in its way...

Enterprise 2.0 versus Web 2.0

It looks like Billy Cripe and Jake @ Oracle App Labs are in a minor tiff about the nature of Latest-Web-Buzzword 2.0

Jake is framing the dispute by saying he's Web 2.0, and Billy is Enterprise 2.0... thus Jake and his applications are bottom-up... whereas Billy and his Enterprise Content Management are top-down. Jake's about people, Billy's about data.

I love top-down versus bottom-up discussions... but Jake's entering this conversation a bit late...

First, I'd like to say that Billy's been in Content Management waaaaaaay before that pesky E got pre-pended. I recall the good old days back at Stellent when the web was young... we had to convince people that this internet thing was useful, and that HTML might be a good format for their content.

Those were surprisingly tough sales...

Thus, most of the initial sales were specific apps for specific departments. That's bottom-up all the way: get the information that people need to them in the proper format. Purchasing Content Management only became a top-down decision once the web really took off, and some companies has several hundred unmanaged web sites... it was totally impossible to find anything, let alone properly secure and manage it.

Enter ECM... then we finally (if rarely) were able to talk to CIOs and demonstrate to them a need.

Enter Web 2.0... or more specifically, the hype and buzz about blogs, wikis, RSS, and social apps... Guess what? Its the same damn problem. Over 2 years ago, many Stellent employees were warning their customers quite bluntly: your company will be using blogs and wikis in a few years whether you endorse them or not. Social apps were less of a concern: the combination of critical mass of adoption plus shrink-wrapped solutions were several years out... say 2008 or so...

Thus, I feel obligated to point out Jake's point of view is hardly a surprise to the ECM folks at Oracle... in fact, they've been quite well versed in this problem for over eight years.

Now... regarding the 2.0 stuff, I'd argue it's not about data, nor is it about people... its about knowledge.

Noodle on that...

Recent comments