mm407: Boston, Day 3

MUDGE’s Musings

So this is the third episode of what has turned out to be a quadruple-duty blog post.

1. I endeavor, as always, to edify faithful reader of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© on a daily basis. I take very seriously the blogger’s Prime Directive: Thou Shalt Blog Daily!

2. The event at which I am attending, the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston, Massachusetts, eats its own dog food in the sense that it provides space for participants to blog, contribute to a wiki, etc. So, I am posting these efforts in the blog space, although I am certain that for most participants, after a day filled with conference activities, and an evening filled with beyond the venue dining and/or entertainment (conjecturing about them, not describing your diligent and well behaved correspondent), the idea of writing, much less reading other people’s blogs in whatever time remains is probably far-fetched.

3. I am also posting these efforts on one of our fledgling blogs at the Heart of Corporate America, where, as I’ve mentioned, I am working with the technical review board considering which of the tools in this evolving market we should be adopting. I naturally gravitated to that space during the time I have worked with the team, and probably have been as active blogging in their test spaces as anyone (read: not very). The overall effort is crying out for a user champion who does more than attend meetings; so far we haven’t much evidence of one.

4. As a business traveler, I have what apparently is an old-fashioned self-impetus to file a trip report for management. I say old fashioned, because when I sent my department head last year’s report (I don’t get out very much) apologizing for it taking about a week after I returned, she replied that so far, of the more than half-dozen people from the department that had attended the event, mine was the only such report thus far received. Under those circumstances, I hereby declare that these several days’ efforts will serve for that report.

Once again, I recorded six hand-printed (as a left-handed person — the title of the blog, after all! — I gave up cursive writing as soon as I could get away with it) for the day’s lengthy sessions. As I begin to write this, at 5:00pmEDT, there is still one final session to go before the day is over, although as it is scheduled for one of the break-out rooms, and is likely to be oversubscribed, a pretty common occurrence this week, I may break to attend, and promptly return after being shut out. Not a total disappointment for a person who’s been sitting in sessions since 8:00am….

Okay, now it’s well after 8:30pm, and I’ve added more than another full page of notes from the final session. Whew! Hope my stamina is up to the challenge!

13. Enterprise 2.0 Tools: A Critical Evaluation: Tony Byrne, CMS Watch

CMS Watch is a software rating consultancy, and Tony Berne, its founder spoke quite eloquently despite the 8:00am starting time. Some of my fellow attendees, coming off a conference evening that might not have been as boring as mine (although, rest assured faithful reader, that I am always inspired and energized blogging for you!), questioned the necessity, not to say appropriateness of an 8am start time. This was just one element of a logistics topic that there will perhaps be an appropriate time to consider.

First point Mr. Byrne raised is that this enterprise 2.0 technology is immature; this is just the third annual of these conferences, after all. But, while technology does indeed matter, a business’s culture and governance are even more important.

He notes that purpose built social software, which he defined as collaboration and networking within and beyond the enterprise, differs from socializing existing software. An example of the latter he gave was the recent addition of the ability to add tags to a transaction within SAP.

Further he makes an interesting distinction that networking is unformalized whereas collaboration is formal. He used IBM software to make the comparison. IBM Lotus Connections is network enabling, and thus unformal. For collaboration purposes (i.e., finite document output?), IBM provides Quickr. Both operate atop Websphere Portal.

On the other hand, many vendors have chosen to build upon Microsoft Sharepoint. Hit some of those at the end of the day.

The market is highly fragmented. but can be basically classified as:

Platform vendors, providing infrastructure (Oracle, IBM, Microsoft and Google [he snarkily commented that Google provided an effective keynote, but felt their software offering in this space is, as yet, primitive]).

Social software suites, including Connectbeam, Traction, Jive, Awareness, Drupal (which is open source).

White label community services (which are hosted tools with custom branding), including Ning, Lithium and Pluck.

Blog/Wiki tools (pure play), Blogger, Six Apart, Automattic (home of, yay!), Atlassian, Socialtext.

Public networks, which include LinkedIn, Xing and Facebook.

Byrne recommends analyzing the appropriateness of each potential vendor’s product based on what will be a good fit. Base that evaluation on what he describes as canonical scenarios. Create a scenario that represents the enterprise’s needs. He divides the individual attributes to be measured into classifications such as business services, tools capabilities, application services, administrative services and vendor intangibles (i.e., do you believe that they’ll be around next year?).

Of all these, the scenario fit is probably the most important. He urged us to develop use cases and test them against each other in a “bake-off.” Test use case scenarios with users, not just a checklist on a spreadsheet.

He made some observations particularly germane to the current evaluation activity your correspondent is contributing to in his small way. Sharepoint is built on a stack of technologies. The blog and wiki tools are not good. Technologically capable customers might be better off building their own based on the portal/application platform Sharepoint provides. Some vendors build their products on the Sharepoint platform. IBM Lotus Connections consists of five different products branded together, implying potential issues with interoperability.

14. Driving Business Innovation through Communities: Mark Woollen, VP, Oracle Corp.

Mr. Woollen noted that employee disengagement is a crisis, and had a Gallup survey to back him up. Organizations are by their nature top-down hierarchically organized, but individual people work through social networks. He believes that social tools including Web 2.0 applications mash-ups and widgets and gadgets added to existing tools will help engage employees, in such specific areas as sales, talent pool management in HR, and mobile productivity. Oracle tools provide the means for developers to create products that are device/browser agnostic.

15. Realizing Business Value through Social Networking within Wachovia: Pete Fields, SVP, Wachovia

Fields’ presentation was engaging. Based on his experience at Wachovia, often it’s necessary to roll out social network tools to “validate your intuition” about their business value. He rolled out a comprehensive, integrated framework that incorporates the usual blogs and wikis, extended for pervasive instant messaging including 1:1 video messaging, as well as video blogs. 60,000 (about half) of employees have had the tools rolled out to date, built with Microsoft Office Sharepoint System (MOSS).

Business rationale for all this difficult to quantify in advance, but includes collaboration vs. travel, working more effectively across time and distance, better connected and engaged employees. His analogy: Web 2.0 is this generation’s equivalent of his generation’s company picnic and bowling leagues. Additional critical rationale: mitigate the impact of the maturing, retiring workforce, i.e., the attrition of knowledge assets.

There’s an enterprise wiki, “Wachovia Wisdom.”

16. (we’ve made it to 10:10am) Enterprise 2.0 in Action: Pfizer, Simon Revell, Manager, Pfizer.

Revell, of the UK told us that adoption of web 2.0 tools, as occurs so often in his company, was spearheaded by the R&D organization. He started by putting up a blog in the UK, in order to get through the “fear barrier.” The blog quickly became the place to go, and so the grassroots effort was centralized there. Due to the nature of the organization, there was lots of nervousness. They forced themselves to post and comment (anonymously!).

The Pfizerpedia wiki began in a similar grassroots way in the U.S. It’s accessible and editable by everybody in the organization and at present hosts 10,000 articles. It includes video podcasts.

He observes that blogging is the most difficult to get off the ground [the difference in a blog and wiki has to do, this writer thinks, between the first person voice of a blog, and the third person voice of a wiki article. In a buttoned up culture, third person is definitely more comfortable]. The best blog practitioners use a blog as a conversation, not a lecture.

Regulatory Affairs, usually a most buttoned down group, embraced Pfizerpedia, as it has been able to capture the continuous improvement process. Thus, lots of small success stories lead to a cumulative large achievement.

17. Real Enterprise 2.0 @ Sony Computer Entertainment’s World Wide Studios, Ned Lerner, Director, Sony

My least favorite presentation of the day. Mr. Lerner began slowly, experiencing some logistic issues with PowerPoint (guess you can’t run it on a PlayStation after all!), and was not a tremendously emotive speaker. It was simply difficult to relate to his small group of video game software writers, and his results sounded more like project management using open source tools, another conference altogether.

18. Enterprise 2.0 Reality Check, Andrew McAfee, Harvard Business School, moderator.

Included on this panel were the various customer presenters of the previous two days of plenary presentations. The Wachovia and Pfizer and Sony guys, as well as the two CIA guys from the day before.

This was essentially Q&A from the audience, hampered (another logistical issue) by insufficient microphones and runners for same posted in the large space.

Some highlights only:

When asked, how much does management really want honest dialog, Pete Fields (Wachovia) responded, they spend zillions on McKinsey and Accenture because employees won’t speak truth to power. Blogs might save some of that expense.

At Pfizer, the question from management wasn’t how do we stop this, but how do we do this safely?

19. Launch Pad: Stowe Boyd (my hero speaker from Tuesday), The/Messengers

So, this was a contest, consisting of brief (three minute) elevator stories presenting their products by five of this week’s vendors. The winner was to be voted on by the audience (“crowdware”) using cell phone texting. The first four presenters did high-speed runthroughs of their highlight PowerPoint presentations. The last one, Veodia, a provider of high definition video as a service, featured live video of the event and the audience, very high definition. By far the coolest, and the audience agreed, voting them the winner with 39% of the overall vote, a 2:1 margin over the next highest score. An exhilarating way to end the morning.

Lunch, as the day before, was hosted amongst the vendor demonstration booths. Talked to a couple of interesting people, although in some respects, I feel hamstrung by the fact that the major vendor decisions have already been made.

It’s 10:10pmEDT, and I’ve still got two afternoon and one evening session to go. These will have to wait for the next post.

As I just IM’d my son a few minutes ago, anyone who believes business travel is a vacation has never taken a business trip with me!

But, this has been an edifying event (and it still has another half-day to run!) full of very bright and vibrant people. Enterprise 2.0 can’t happen soon enough in the world of work.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

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