July 18, 2009 1 Comment
From the home office in the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C.
#10: I ♥ wikis
Observations on technology and business from someone who should know better
From the home office in the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C.
#10: I ♥ wikis
As incumbent companies go through their own versions of Clayton Christensen’s disruptive innovation, I imagine early observations about the changes-to-come are similar to these seen last week with Google’s Chrome OS announcement…
But while I’m sure Chrome OS will pick up some fans, I have a hard time seeing this as the way of the future for computing.
Nick Mediati, PC World, Is Chrome OS The Future Of Computing? I Hope Not.
It’s certainly interesting and ambitious to state that the entire application platform will consist of web apps. If anyone was going to build such an OS, it’d be Google. Much of the initial commentary regarding Chrome OS has been wholly positive, but one common note of skepticism has been with regard to the “web apps are the only apps” aspect, with the frequent point of comparison being to the 1.0 release of the iPhone OS.
John Gruber, Daring Fireball, Putting What Little We Actually Know About Chrome OS Into Context
Netbooks may be important, but they remain a tiny part of the world’s PC sales. Google’s bet is predicated on strong demand for weak computers.
Google is counting on users of small computers not being tied to specific applications and being willing to accept low cost and, perhaps, ease of use over a more familiar and more powerful environment.
Nick Coursey, PC World, Five Reasons Google Chrome OS Will Fail
The quotes above reflect a rationale perspective on the fate of netbooks and an-all SaaS computing experience. After all, no one does that today. Most people haven’t even looked at the web-only alternatives out there. Microsoft Office is a client app. Adobe is a client app. File directories are client apps for files on your hard drive.
Why does anyone need a web-app only experience? Well, note Microsoft’s announcement of its web-based Office 2010. Something is afoot. Both Google and Microsoft are pushing forward significant initiatives that will increase the percentage of computing done via SaaS. What does Clayton Christensen’s theory say about this?
A disruptive innovation is one that upends the existing structure of an industry, often sending incumbents into niche positions, and niche players into incumbent positions. Three qualities define it:
Pretty much sums up the idea of all web-based computing.
Check out the chart below, which diagrams sustaining and innovation over time and performance:
Probably the single most important thing to note about this graph is that the incumbent companies (blue line) continually add features to their products. This effort expands their addressable markets, as more and more niche segments are covered. It’s a rationale, smart way to grow.
But at some point, the incumbents’ innovations overshoot what mainstream users need. As Christensen notes, performance exceeds what customers can utilize. This is what happens as companies expand into niche markets.
Which brings us to the PCs of today. They are marvels, providing a slick experience for users and able to accommodate a host of new applications. But if I were a betting man, I’d say the most common activities people do with their computers are:
Among those activities, what’s the magic of client-based computing? The media-related activities perhaps require the horsepower of a client app. But even those are getting better with web apps.
Web-based apps fulfill the first bullet of early disruptive innovation above – they’re not as full-featured.
Second bullet is the initial niche that wants to use the less powerful alternative to incumbents. For web-based computing, I can see two markets:
Those are the initial toeholds into the operating system market. Getting significant share in a couple segments is critical to getting the attention of application developers.
Let’s start with the apps most commonly used in work contexts: documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Zoho has been at it for a while now, and provides a very functional set of apps. Google Docs continue to evolve toward better functionality. And of course Microsoft has joined the SaaS movement. The TechCrunch article about Microsoft Office 2010 notes:
Most certainly a direct challenge to Google Apps, Microsoft is rolling out lightweight, FREE, Web browser versions of Word, PowerPoint, Excel and OneNote. All based in the cloud, the web-based versions of these products have less features than their desktop cousins but still let users that users basic tools to edit and change documents.
Already inside the enterprise, wikis are quite functional. As alternatives to writing up documents and emailing them around, they are quite powerful. Atlassian Confluence, Socialtext, JSPwiki and others are highly functional. They offer a formatting experience similar to the most commonly used functions of document applications.
It’s true that there are a number of graphics editors online, but most fail to come anywhere close to the functionality of Adobe’s iconic software. Until now.
The ecosystem to provide online apps with functionality comparable to client apps is growing.
I’m a former banker, then I did product management at eFinance and Pay By Touch. In those jobs, I never bothered with hosted apps. I certainly never thought about wikis. I did my writing in Microsoft Word. At Pay By Touch, I was introduced to the Confluence wiki. I used it because engineering wanted me to, but only as a centralized document repository. I’d rather have emailed the documents around.
It was at Connectbeam that I started to really *get* wikis. The ease of writing on them. The value of a common place to find and share documents. I found the core rich text editing functions of a wiki to be quite sufficient for what I need.
Now you can’t get me off the wiki.
When I was noodling on a business idea 18 months ago, I wrote everything up on Google Docs. It was an easy way to share the documents while updating them as often as I needed to.
More recently, the client applications TweetDeck and Seesmic have been getting a lot of attention. I’ve resisted them, because I just can’t see downloading and running these apps. They take their toll on your PC, as Louis Gray wrote:
For those Web-addicted souls who spend a good deal of their day buried in Twitter, seeing their friends updates and exchanging conversations, most software options have required the installation of Adobe AIR software, which to date has whirred your CPU to life, turning on laptop fans, and chewing through memory. The work to throttle down load on RAM and CPU is a constant battle, which both Loic’s team and Iain Dodsworth of TweetDeck have been working on since their products debuted.
In contrast, logging into the new Web version of Seesmic doesn’t feel like you’ve sacrificed your computer power to get your Twitter fix, and you don’t give up features either.
In short, whenever I can make a move to web-based apps, I’m doing it. I’ve come a long way from my Bank of America days.
Certainly the idea of PCs as basic on-ramps for doing work via the web has been around for a long time. In 1996, Larry Ellison believed that network computers would outsell conventional PCs by 2000. Well, we see how that turned out.
In 2009, things have changed remarkably. First, usage of SaaS for applications has grown significantly, although it’s still small as a percentage overall. Second, people’s comfort with web-based computing has grown tremendously. Most enterprise software is now delivered as a web application. Salesforce has been a tremendous trailblazer here. And Facebook is fostering a greater comfort with sensitive data held by a third party.
Finally, Google is a titan. Oracle was (and still is), but in 1996 it was the database company. No one knew what to make of its network computers. Google is an entirely different animal. It has established credibility with its Google Apps. And presumably, any web app will work well on the Google Chrome OS. Including Microsoft’s new cloud Office offering.
This doesn’t stop Microsoft from coming out with its own web-based OS. Expect that if the Chrome OS seriously threatens. A lower cost OS for low-cost PCs to use low-cost web apps.
Microsoft’s announcement is huge because the Office suite is a brand used and trusted by millions of people. With their marketing heft, this is a significant boost in the credibility of SaaS computing. Microsoft also is a student of history, and clearly doesn’t want to risk the marginalization seen in Clayton Christensen’s studies of disruptive innovation.
The past two weeks have seen two significant milestones on the SaaS front.
This brings me to my final point. Market transitions don’t happen that quickly. The Google and Microsoft offerings won’t be ready for a while. And existing hardware, software and habits are going to change overnight. We will still have client-based applications for quite a while.
But let’s see how the small business and student markets take to these efforts.
From the home office in Pyongyang, North Korea…
#4: You know what I like about working at Spigit? Plenty of competition out there. Fun to see them laying the smack down on us. Love it.
#10: Just looked at my E*Trade account for the first time in months. Less bad than I thought.
From the home office in Detroit, Michigan…
#10: Using the word “users” in write-up. Alternative is “employees, customer, partners”, which is wordy. Or “people”, which describes 6 billion.
In case you missed it last week, Google CEO Eric Schmidt had this to say about the microblogging service Twitter:
Speaking as a computer scientist, I view all of these as sort of poor man’s email systems. In other words, they have aspects of an email system, but they don’t have a full offering. To me, the question about companies like Twitter is: Do they fundamentally evolve as sort of a note phenomenon, or do they fundamentally evolve to have storage, revocation, identity, and all the other aspects that traditional email systems have? Or do email systems themselves broaden what they do to take on some of that characteristic?
At first blush, this seemed like an example of Google not ‘getting it’ when it comes to Twitter (see the comments to the linked blog post above). But I think he’s actually on to something. It is a new way of posting notes about what you’re doing, but it also has a lot of communications usage via @replies and direct messages (DMs).
Reflecting both on Schmidt’s statement, and my own use of Yammer at my company, I’m seeing that microblogging is slowly replacing a lot of my email activity.
As more companies take up microblogging with services like Yammer, Socialcast, Present.ly and SocialText Signals, employee communications amongst employees will both increase and divert away from email. Something like this:
Socialcast’s Tim Young said this about email:
Email is dead. If your company is relying on email for communication and collaboration, your company is walking dead in this new economy.
Being the CEO of Socialcast, that’s not a surprising statement. But I think he’s more right than wrong.
The shift I describe applies regardless of the microblogging application used. Since I’m actually familiar with Yammer as a user, I’ll talk about its features in the context of this shift.
A useful context for thinking about Yammer versus corporate email is Clayton Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma. Generally, the premise is that incumbent companies need to grow and increase the functionality of their products. This increases the products’ complexity and cost, but also increases margins. But as the incumbents are doing this, it opens an opportunity at the lower end of functionality for new companies to come in and attack the incumbents’ base. From Wikipedia, here’s a graphic that demonstrates the concept:
A useful way to think about the Innovator’s Dilemma in the enterprise software space comes from this blog post, Enterprise Software Innovator’s Dilemma. Existing vendors expand the functionality of their products, heavily relying on the requests of large customers. Over time, this has the effect of creating a robust, highly functional and more expensive offering. This trend is what opens the door for new vendors to come in.
Let’s consider Yammer in this context. Simple microblogging runs along the “low quality use” in some ways. At least in terms of the feature set. But it certainly takes “use case share” away from email.
If all you could do was make public notes, that’s the end of the story. Microblogging does not replace email. But these guys are advancing their product, and are rising up the performance axis.
Here is what Yammer now offers:
Look at that list. When you think about your own internal email usage, what ‘s missing? Folders or the Gmail equivalent of tags seem to be something for the down the road. I’m not an IT manager, so I’m sure there are some heavy duty infrastructure aspects of Microsoft Exchange/Outlook and Lotus Notes that are not there. Thus, Yammer still has the insurgent, disruptor profile relative to corporate email.
But don’t underestimate that. There’s what IT knows is needed behind the scenes. and then there’s what the users actually do when given the different applications.
Microblogging’s premise is that public proclamations of what you’re doing and information that you find are a new activity for people, and they have value. Information is shared much more easily and in-the-flow of what we’re all doing anyway. In an office setting, I continue to find the way Dave Winer describes it quite useful: narrating your work.
This use case is what promises to dramatically increase communications among employees. As we’re seeing with Twitter’s explosive growth, it takes time for people to grok why they should microblog. But once they “get it”, it takes off.
So services like Yammer have your attention as you post updates and read what others post. In reaction to what someone posts, you hit the Reply button. You’re having a conversation that others can see, and join in if they want. You decide to have separate conversation with someone in this context. Do you open up your email? Or just click “Private Message” to someone? I’m willing to bet you’ll do the latter.
Which starts the marginalization of corporate email. Why? Because a lot of what’s going to generate interactions is occurring right on that microblogging app you’re looking at. It’s the most natural thing to act in-the-flow and use that application in lieu of email. Well-designed microblogging applications are also quite seductive in terms of ease-of-use.
As I’ve written before, email’s role changes in this scenario. The logical end use cases are:
This isn’t something that’s imminent. Email is quite entrenched in daily workflow, older generations aren’t likely to stop using it and internal microblogging is still nascent.
But no one said the Innovator’s Dilemma plays out over the course of a couple years. It will take time. But watch the trends.
I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.
The enterprise 2.0 space saw good action this year. I’ve had a chance to see it up close, starting the year with BEA Systems (now Oracle) and closing out the year with Connectbeam. I think it’s fair to say that in 2007, social software was still something of a missionary sale. In 2008, company inquiries increased a lot. The burden still falls on the vendors to articulate business benefits, adoption strategies and use cases. But enterprise customers are now partners in this work.
So let’s get to it. Here are my top ten stories for the year:
1. Activity Streams
Facebook really got this going with its newsfeed, and FriendFeed took it to an art form with its lifestreaming service. In 2008, many vendors added activity streams to their applications: Connectbeam, BEA Systems, Atlassian, SocialText, Jive Software and others. Activity streams are great for improving awareness of colleagues’ activities, and adding a new searchable object: actions.
2. Forrester’s $4.6 Billion Forecast
Forrester Research made a splash with its forecast that Enterprise 2.0 will be a $4.6 billion market by 2013. The ReadWriteWeb story about it has been bookmarked to Del.icio.us 386 times and counting. Forrester’s projections provided a solid analytical framework for the different tools, used internally and externally. According to the analysis, social networking will be the most popular tool for companies. Whether you buy the forecast or not, they remain the best-known, most visible numbers to date.
3. Oracle Beehive
Larry Ellison is fond of essentially dismissing SaaS. He does not have Oracle invest much in the trend. But Oracle did seem to embrace Enterprise 2.0 in a big way this year with Beehive, which is an “integrated set of collaboration services.” The New York Times quotes Oracle EVP Chuck Rozwat: “It is a product we built from scratch over the last three years.” Now since Oracle is a huge enterprise software company, there’s plenty of skepticism about the capabilities and innovation of Beehive. But there’s no denying that Oracle has the ear of the enterprise, and picks up a lot of market intelligence through its customer base. While Beehive itself may or may not succeed, the idea that Oracle came out with Beehive was a big story.
4. AIIM/McKinsey Surveys
Research and consulting firms AIIM and McKinsey each came out with surveys of corporate interest in enterprise 2.0. The AIIM survey looked at levels of awareness and interest among different Enterprise 2.0 technologies. AIIM also took a fairly expansive view of social software. The top 3 “Enterprise 2.0” technologies in terms of corporate awareness? Email, instant messaging, search. That’s actually a funny list, yet there are lessons there for vendors and consultants in the social software industry. If those are entrenched, can you play nicely with them? One other quote I like from the report:
This study of 441 end users found that a majority of organizations recognize Enterprise 2.0 as critical to the success of their business goals and objectives, but that most do not have a clear understanding of what Enterprise 2.0 is.
McKinsey’s survey of enterprises looked at the interest in various tools as well. It also asked respondents what the leading barriers were for success of social software initiatives. Top three were: (1) Lack of understanding for their financial return; (2) Company culture; (3) Insufficient incentives to adopt or experiment with the tools.
5. Facebook Co-Founder Leaves to Start an Enterprise 2.0 Company
Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and colleague Justin Rosenstein announced they were leaving the hot consumer social network to start a new company. The new company will “build an extensible enterprise productivity suite,” with the goal of “making companies themselves run better.” Why would these young guys, sitting on top of the leader in consumer social networking, choose to exit? As I wrote at the time:
The Enterprise 2.0 market is still quite nascent and fragmented. Combine that industry profile with projected spending in the category, and suddenly you understand why these guys are striking out on their own.
Assuming they’ll be able to tap the mother ship for help, I think this was a fairly important story this year.
6. Microblogging Enters the Enterprise
Joining wikis, blogs, social bookmarking and other incumbent tools this year was microblogging . Given the way Twitter is used by Enterprise 2.0 aficionados, and is enjoying skyrocketing popularity, it’s no surprise we started seeing microblogging emerge for internal use. At the mostly consumer-focused TechCrunch50, enterprise microblogging start-up Yammer won the top prize. Other start-ups in the category include SocialCast and Present.ly. SocialText added microblogging with its release of Signals.
7. Gartner Narrows its Criteria for Social Software
Gartner’s Magic Quadrant is probably the iconic piece of analyst research. With its visibility and status, it also has enormous influence on vendor sales opportunities, especially when it comes time for IT buyers to draw up the all-important vendor short lists.
So it was with great interest when I read that Gartner had narrowed the criteria for whom it puts in the Magic Quadrant:
Added blogs and wikis to the functionality requirements
The effect of that is to establish those two tools as the de facto standard for enterprise social software inside the enterprise. To the extent corporate buyers are listening to Gartner for signals about the market, this will make it a bit more challenging for start-ups with interesting offerings that address other parts of the social software market. Yammer, for instance, won’t make it into their Magic Quadrant.
8. Enterprise RSS Fails to Take Off
RSS is one of those technologies that you know has huge value, and yet continues to struggle for awareness and adoption. Google tracks the leading “what is” searches. The fifth most popular on its list? “What is RSS?” Take that as both good and bad. Good that people want to know, bad that awareness continues to be a struggle.
Forrester analyst Oliver Young has a sharp write-up that shows enterprise RSS did not expand inside companies as many had thought it would this year. As he notes:
Of the three enterprise RSS vendors selling into this space at the start of 2008: KnowNow went out of business completely; NewsGator shifted focus and now leads with its Social Sites for SharePoint offering, while its Enterprise Server catches much less attention; and Attensa has been very quiet this year.
RSS is a great way to distribute content inside companies, but its ongoing limited adoption was a big non-story for the year.
9. IBM and Intel Issue Employee Social Media Guidelines
IBM and Intel each established guidelines for their employees who participate in social media. As I wrote, this essentially was a deputization of employees as brand managers out on the web. These market leaders were essentially saying, “have at it out there on blogs, social networks, Twitter, etc. But make sure you know the company’s expectations.” These guidelines represent a milestone in large enterprises’ comfort with social media. I expect we’ll see more of this in 2009.
10. The Recession
This affects all industries, globally, of course. And Enterprise 2.0 is no exception. Jive Software made news with its layoffs, but the effect was industry-wide. And of course, corporate buyers aren’t immune either. It’s a time for companies to hunker down, get slimmer, more focused and creative than they are in flush times. This recession will be a marvelous test for the resiliency of the Enterprise 2.0 sector.
Those are my ten. Did I miss a big story for 2008? Add your thoughts in the comments.
If you’re interested in tracking what happens in 2009, I encourage you to join the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed. It is a centralized location for tweets and Del.icio.us bookmarks that specifically relate to Enterprise 2.0.
See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22The+Top+10+Enterprise+2.0+Stories+of+2008%22&who=everyone
Filed under mba Tagged with aiim, atlassian, attensa, bea systems, beehive, blogs, connectbeam, economy, enterprise 2.0, facebook, forrester, friendfeed, gartner, ibm, intel, jive software, knownow, magic quadrant, mckinsey, microblogging, microsharing, newsgator, oracle, present.ly, recession, RSS, sagecircle, social bookmarking, social networks, socialcast, socialtext, tc50, Twitter, wikis, yammer
Recently, a website called Wordle debuted. What is Wordle? You can think of it as similar to a tag cloud, except Wordle analyzes words, not tags. You can see people’s blog Wordles on FriendFeed. Wordles are only graphics – you can’t use them for navigation.
A nice use of Wordles is that you can quickly pick up the pulse of a website. Higher word counts show up as larger fonts, the way tag clouds do.
I wondered what enterprise 2.0 vendors are talking about now. We’re a couple years into the introduction of the term “enterprise 2.0“, made popular by Harvard professor Andrew McAfee. The market is still young, but a decent number of companies have entered the space. Given that they’re selling to corporate customers every day, I was curious as to how their message has evolved.
So I “Wordled” the websites of the following ten enterprise 2.0 vendors:
I focused on these pages for the vendors: home page, product pages, “about” page. Let’s see what’s going on out there.
For the Wordle, I removed company and product names to keep it focused on themes.
So looking at this Wordle, what do we see?
Content and information get a lot of play, while knowledge shows up less often in the messaging. That seems about right, doesn’t it? Knowledge is information that you’ve internalized. Well, enterprise 2.0 should help people with that task. Still, it does seem that the focus is on the inputs (content, information), not the outcome (knowledge).
Search shows up a lot. If you’re familiar with the enterprise 2.0 philosophy, creating and finding the good stuff that is locked up in workers’ heads is a key value proposition. Search as a basis for let workers’ connect with one another makes sense. As Nemertes Research notes:
Enterprise search is catching on with enterprises.
If search is the leading use case, what’s the next one? Collaboration. Very much in keeping with the web 2.0 ethos. After that, we see learn and networking as important use cases.
Note that RSS is only slightly bigger than email. A good acknowledgment of what the leading application in the enterprise continues to be.
Social as a top word is no surprise. Isn’t that the premise? Community falls in a similar vein.
Two other words I found interesting: can and new. Can is very much in keeping with the spirit of enterprise 2.0. Companies continue along the adoption curve, but there’s lot of opportunity out there. So emphasizing what you can do is in keeping with the state of the market. New has a similar vibe. The sector is continually iterating and innovating. Web 2.0 moves fast, and vendors have to be nimble to keep up.
Finally, note that Microsoft and SharePoint show up in the Wordle, but not Oracle, SAP or IBM. In terms of incumbent corporate software, Microsoft is the most pervasive and has enterprise 2.0 aspects with the collaborative features of its SharePoint application. As InformationWeek notes:
SharePoint dominates collaboration.
Companies’ use of SharePoint and the importance of Microsoft to the enterprise ecosystem is seen in the Wordle.
There are probably other interesting things to be gleaned from this Wordle. What do you see?
I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.