Thoughts On The Enterprise 2.0 Conference

In the wake of the Celtics' fourth-quarter collapse that gave Kobe Bryant his fifth ring, I am endeavoring to find positive things to focus on instead of post-game analysis, which brings me to the Enterprise 2.0 Conference. This was my second year attending the event (which is conveniently located 10 minutes from my house), and I must say that my takeaway this year is more positive than my impressions after last year's show. I appreciated the optimism exhibitors and attendees have about the market and the passion they show for the topic - which led to some lively debates. But during my three days at the event, the things that really caught my attention were:

 

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Help Us Benchmark “Social Maturity”

We recently embarked on a Forrester-wide research project to benchmark the use of social technologies across enterprise organizations. Why is this important? Well, as you may know, we cover social technologies from a wide range of perspectives – from roles in marketing to IT to technology professionals. We find that each of these roles differ in their general “social maturity” and that most companies are experiencing pockets of success, but few, if any, are successfully implementing it across the board. In fact, full maturity in this space could take years, but there are clear differences in how some ahead-of-the-curve companies are using social technologies for business results. In fact, at this point it has been clearly established by many people (including us many times over) that social technologies are transformative tools that are changing the way companies do business. So we’re not talking as much about the opportunity social presents, but rather we are trying to determine the current reality of practitioners. It’s also clear that many companies have made tremendous strides in planning and organizing for the use of social technologies. However, the one question we consistently get is: “Where is my organization compared to others in the use of social media?”  We want to benchmark these companies to see if we can answer questions like:

 

  • How do you define “social maturity,” and why is it important to get there?
  • Which companies are ahead of the curve in implementing social technologies for both external use (i.e., for customers/consumers) and/or internal use (i.e., for employees/partners)?
  • What have been the biggest drivers of success?
  • What are the biggest challenges?
  • What steps do most organizations need to take, and why?
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Do All Business Applications Need To Be Social?

Next week, vendors from across the social computing landscape will converge on Boston for TechWeb’s Enterprise 2.0, a business Web 2.0 conference and trade show. In advance of this event – which I will be attending – I thought I’d discuss a topic that has started to emerge in my research of social software: the proliferation of social components in business applications. More specifically, I want to address a question a client recently raised: is having a social layer going to be necessary for businesses to adopt business applications going forward?

Over the last few years, we have seen software vendors position social tools as part of software suites such as collaboration platforms (e.g. SharePoint 2010, Lotus Connections), project management packages (e.g. ThoughtWorks Mingle),  BPM tools (e.g. ARISalign) and CRM systems (e.g. Salesforce Chatter). This is the natural reaction to what seems to be heavy business interest in these technologies: 65% of firms deploy at least one Web 2.0 tool. However, the marketing and selling of these tools is predicated on two myths:

  • Myth #1: Information workers are clamoring for these social tools. I have sat in on many vendor briefings where a company representative tells me employees demand Facebook-like or Twitter-like tools to do their jobs. Not true. When we ask information workers about their use of social networks, wikis, discussion forums, blogs, and microblogs for work, only a small group actually uses them; social networking tools, the best-adopted technology, is used by only 12% of information workers. When we ask non-users their desire in using each of these tools, small portions express interest; the most sought-after technology, discussion forums, only piques the interest of 15% of information workers.
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Where Does Web Conferencing Technology Make Sense?

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Citrix Online Executive Meet-Up here in Boston; as an East Coast-based technology analyst, I rarely see the vendors I cover in person without hopping on a plane. For those unfamiliar, Citrix Online is the maker of popular remote access and Web conferencing technologies GoToMyPC, GoToAssist, GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar. The centerpiece of this event was a customer panel exclusively made up of marketing professionals who use the conferencing technologies for customer and channel interactions. It was a fact I made sure to jot down in my notebook – why such a marketing-heavy panel? This prompted a broader question: are sales and marketing the real killer applications for Web conferencing?

A myriad of companies occupy the Web conferencing market, offering solutions that address four basic use cases:

  • Ad hoc meetings: collaborative sessions that need to happen on short notice. These could be quick screen sharing/document sharing sessions, technical support or demonstrations.
  • Formal meetings: planned sessions with formal agendas that are centered on a group considering one or more pieces of content.
  • Large & small group presentations: more formal events where a presenter addresses a group of some size with varying degrees of interactivity.
  • Training sessions: educational sessions where participants get information, have interactive learning sessions and can be tested on content.
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Elaborating On The Technology Libertarianism Theme: Some Observations On Two IT Organizations

Last week, Forrester held its annual IT Forum in Las Vegas with the interesting theme, “The Business Technology Transformation: Making It Real.” Gathering together a group of IT professionals and vendors interested in how business leaders will insert themselves into technology decisions, it provided a perfect opportunity for me to discuss Technology Libertarianism – my shorthand for IT departments that take a hands off approach to technologies workers want to use to do their jobs. On the floor of the conference I talked to an IT professional at a large, national non-profit organization and two information workers from at a public corporation providing a popular software-as-a-service application.

The conversation with the IT professional centered on his organization’s need for standardization: they were making efforts to have a homogeneous computing environment for the purposes of having greater control. During our talk, we discussed the influence an end user could possibly have over applications and hardware. His thoughts? While the end users in his organization needed a standard set of applications, and they needed to control the desktop environment to ensure delivery of said applications, he could see the potential of not having to standardize smartphones. When I introduced the idea of virtual desktops to push applications or software-as-a-service, which would allow him not to have to standardize the desktop, he did concede those are interesting ideas. However, he needed to see more evidence that these could be effective solutions for his organization.

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