Observations from where technology meets business

enterprise 2.0

Collaborative Online Lists

Everyone uses lists. Some of us are more serious about using lists but we all use them. We use them for keeping track of tasks we need to do, shopping for groceries, maintaining contact information, and in hundreds of other ways. We also use lists when we work with others (for example, on a project team or with colleagues in our workgroup). Lists are important for keeping track of the work we are doing together, for sharing information, and so forth. Collaborative online lists are simply lists that are easily accessible and can be maintained by multiple people.

Perhaps the most popular list-editor is Microsoft Excel. Of course, this use of Excel does not exercise any spreadsheet calculation feature. Excel simply makes editing lists easy. A quick browse through Microsoft’s online Excel template catalog reveals a number of list-only templates.

However, the problem with using Excel to manage a list, such as project team’s issue list, is that it is stored in a file and files can be black holes of information (recall that I hate files). Files tend to be treated as personal items and not easily shared. A project’s administrator may keep a list of issues and send it out just before a weekly meeting but that is about as much sharing as we see when lists are kept in files. Need to find out about a particular issue before the next meeting? Well then call the project administrator on the telephone.

Collaborative online lists avoid this problem by being stored online so they are easily accessible and the responsibility for updating them can be shared. The good news is you may already have the most popular online collaborative list solutions running within your intranet. Lists can be found in collaborative workspace products such as EMC/Documentum eRoom (where lists are called databases), Lotus Quickr, or Microsoft SharePoint.

If done correctly, collaborative online lists can support both emergent and hierarchical uses. For example, I know of a large company that was going through a significant downsizing. They were running SharePoint on their intranet and someone created a list to capture information about people leaving the company. It started filling with names and became quite popular. That is, until HR shut it down (I suppose there are other lessons to learn here). Nevertheless, this is a good example of an emergent online list.

Collaborative online lists can also support hierarchical use cases. For example, large development efforts often consist of many teams within a hierarchical reporting structure. Imagine having a workspace for each team and each one maintaining a list of issues in a common format. These lists could then be rolled up and consolidated to provide managers with a broad overview of all issues (yes, culturally, this may be challenging). eRoom provides a similar function with their “Enterprise Database” function.

If list items have unique URLs they are easier to reuse. For example, you could use social bookmarking systems to bookmark and tag an issue (or any type of list item) and associate them with other related web pages or sites on the intranet. This way an issue within a list can become part of a larger enterprise knowledgebase.

Collaborative online lists are a lot like wikis. I view wikis as replacing Word files and collaborative online lists as replacing lists kept in Excel files. In both cases, information is easier to access and uniquely addressable (and, hence, easier to share and recall).

However, there are a few things collaborative workspaces can learn from wikis, the biggest of which is security. Often times the default security of a collaborative workspace limits access to no one, except those specifically invited to the workspace. Wikis tend to be open from the start. However, wikis marketed to enterprises can also be tied down, just like the traditional collaborative workspace. So, this isn’t necessarily a technology problem.

This is a repost of a blog originally posted on the Collaboration and Content Strategies Blog

Thoughts on technophilia

In reading this post from Danah Boyd I can’t help but think about how much of what she says can be applied to the challenges of information technology adoption in large enterprises, particular those tools associated with collaboration and personal productivity. All too often, as technologists (geeks) at heart, we prefer to only deal with these challenges as tool issues. But the really hard part (and the effort that can make the biggest difference) is understanding what people do in their daily work-life and finding ways for technology to help them be more effective.

As we talk about the wonderfulness of technology, please keep in mind the complexities involved. Technology is a wonderful tool but it is not a panacea. It cannot solve all societal ills just by its mere existence. To have relevance and power, it must be leveraged by people to meet needs. This requires all of us to push past what we hope might happen and focus on introducing technology in a context that makes sense.

apophenia: some thoughts on technophilia

E2'08 and Open Source

Matt Asay says he doesn't think he would have liked attending the Enterprise 2.0 Conference this past week because:

"It would appear that the Enterprise 2.0 world is still recycling the same froth in an attempt to stand out."

and

"everyone is showing the right slideware and demos, but few, if any, really know how to put it all to productive business use."

His conclusion is based on what he read and heard from friends who were "walking around the exhibition floor."

To be fair, conclusions like this coming from Alfresco are understandable given that (along with being the sponsor of the Alfresco open source project) they are, after all, a software vendor and vendors measure the success of a conference on what happens on the exhibit floor. However, there is much more to a conference, especially the Enterprise 2.0 Conference, than what you see on the exhibit floor.

There were a number of good things being presented and discussed at the conference about early Enterprise 2.0 deployments. In addition, Matt would have been pleased to learn that many of these were done using open source software. But these details came out in the conference itself (you know, in the sessions, the primary reason people pay to attend conferences).

First, there was a terrific session on open source Enterprise 2.0 software led by John Eckman. Participating in the panel were John Newton from Alfresco, Jeff Whatcott from Acquia/Drupal, and Bob Bickel from Ringside Networks. Kathleen Reidy posted a great summary of this session. If you stopped there you might still have thought there was little being said about open source at the conference. But, there's more.

The stars of this year's Enterprise 2.0 Conference were case studies of real-world implementations. Open source shined in almost all of these presentations .

  • A keynote address by Sean Dennehy and Don Burke from the CIA told us about Intellipedia a wikipedia-style site used by the intelligence community. Sean and Don didn't use Powerpoint to deliver their presentation. Rather, they authored their content in Intellipedia and showed that on the big screen. Although not mentioned (or perhaps mentioned only in passing), this was clearly running MediaWiki.
  • In his presentation Ned Lerner, a Director at Sony Entertainment, made some pointed remarks about how open source is important to their strategy. Ned said "open source is a safety net" because they can understand the software and fix it if necessary and that they had experienced "good results with open source."
  • In Simon Revell's presentation (Simon is a manager at Pfizer) his screen shots were showing web pages that were clearly based on Drupal (ok, not too many people would've noticed that). If you don't believe me then look at this SlideShare presentation about DIGWWW. In addition, Simon referenced Pfizerpedia which, by the way, was running...can you guess?...yes! MediaWiki.

Not to mention, the Ross Mayfield keynote where he talked about SocialCalc. There was also an open source project in the LaunchPad competition - Project SocialSite, an open source social networking project from Sun. Oh, btw, the LaunchPad site was running on Drupal.

So open source was all over the place at Enterprise 2.0. Maybe this is a case of open source just becoming essential plumbing and hardly being noticed. These examples could have been used by Matt in a blog post to illustrate how far open source has come in enterprises.

And one other thing to point out. In Matt's post he says this near the end:

Over the next year we're going to see the hype around Enterprise 2.0 reach a fever pitch, and many are going to be lost in disillusionment when it fails to turn to gold. However, in the mishmash there will be a few who finally figure it out, and the rest of the enterprise world will follow in due course.

The link in the above paragraph takes you to a CIO.com article about how Pete Fields of Wachovia justified a business case for Enterprise 2.0. Well, Matt may be upset to learn that Wachovia's business case justified a purchase of Microsoft SharePoint. But, you had to attend the Enterprise 2.0 Conference to learn that (and not just walk the exhibit floor). Pete Fields told us so in his Enterprise 2.0 keynote address :-)

Enterprise 2.0 v2.0

thumbs up In reflecting back on this week's second annual Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston I think what we saw addresses most of (Burton Group colleague) Craig Roth's points when he asked:

"I’m really holding out for the next E2.0 presentation that moves the concept forward, not just goes deeper or jumps on to a new set of technologies."

When Steve Wylie, Conference General Manager, started talking with Advisory Board members months ago about themes and keynotes he was most interested in telling Enterprise 2.0 stories from the trenches and this year's conference delivered on this vision.

Some observations and comments about the conference:

  • Attendance was incredible. Interest in Enterprise 2.0 is clearly growing. I heard estimates as high as 1,400 people in attendance, which would be a 50% increase from last year.
  • The "Rock Stars" of the show (a label given by Jessica Lipnack at the closing town hall meeting) were Sean Dennehy and Don Burke from the CIA. Their Intellipedia presentation was really good. The press and blog coverage is extensive.
  • The Monday evening Cloud Computing session hosted by David Berlind was surprisingly good. I was afraid the topic might not interest the E2.0 crowd but the Harbor Ballroom was packed. The dialog between the vendors (Amazon Web Services, Google, SalesForce) and the enterprise customers on stage was informative, provocative, and entertaining.
  • Tony Byrne's sessions about evaluating E2.0 tools had some really good practical advice.
  • The Wednesday morning keynotes from end users were excellent and reflected Steve Wylie's vision for this year's conference. We heard from Pete Fields (Wachovia), Simon Revell (Pfizer), and Ned Lerner (Sony). Simon's frankness was refreshing, as were Ned's details.
  • These three then joined Andrew McAfee, along with Sean Dennehy and Don Burke from the CIA, for a discussion about implementing Enterprise 2.0. The discussion highlighted the different paths each of them took and the challenges they are facing.
  • Although I missed the session, we heard glowing reviews about Lockheed Martin's E2.0 success story at the closing town hall meeting. I am looking forward to seeing the slides.

David Sparks covered many of the sessions. His blog posts are summarized here. A personal favorite is this interview with the CIA guys.

Planet Enterprise 2.0

planet Since tomorrow is the last day of this year's Enterprise 2.0 Conference I thought it would be a good time to share an RSS feed that I created and have been testing for a few months. Planet Enterprise 2.0 is an aggregation of 43 RSS feeds, all from the blogs of Enterprise 2.0 thought-leaders. By subscribing to the Planet Enterprise 2.0 feed you will see a steady stream of posts from blogs that are interesting and insightful.

The feed is hosted by FeedBurner. You can subscribe to it here. The site aggregating all of the feeds is hosted under my personal cannell.org domain at planet.cannell.org. The list of feeds currently feeding Planet Enterprise 2.0 are listed on the site here.

Some things you may be interested in knowing about the Planet Enterprise 2.0 feed:

  • planet.cannell.org (the website aggregating the feeds) is not indexed by search engines. Content aggregated on the site will not show up in search results as coming from planet.cannell.org.
  • If you have a blog that you would like added to Planet Enterprise 2.0 then please send me a request at larry@cannell.org.
  • My guidelines for adding feeds are simple. I add feeds that are related to Enterprise 2.0 and are interesting. I remove feeds if they don't have relevant content, are uninteresting, or contain blatant advertising.
  • If you use a newsreader that supports Reading Lists (OPML) you can find this on the site here (although I only know of one news reader that supports reading lists and that is BlogBridge, please correct me if I am wrong).
  • Why Planet Enterprise 2.0? Because I have seen other planet-type feeds and have found them very useful. More information about planet feed aggregation is at Wikipedia.

ACMEpedia/Endeca-pedia

trimmed IMG_0095ACMEpedia = Wikis + Tags + Facets

Today at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference we saw a presentation from Pete Bell, Co-Founder of Endeca, called "ACMEpedia: Wikis, Tags, and Facets." As part of the Advisory Board I lobbied for a session like this and I am grateful for Pete being here.

Pete told us how Endeca applied their own "guided summarization" product to aggregate information from several sources and present it within an intuitive interface for employees to find information and learn about Endeca's business. The intranet site is called Endeca-pedia and it provides a functional view of corporate data and content coming from:

  • Formal documents stored in eRoom and Alfresco
  • Business process information stored in SalesForce and QuickArrow
  • Informal knowledge stored in a Confluence wiki

It was interesting to see how this combination of structured and unstructured information can be navigated.

I'll post a link to the slides once they are available.

Enterprise 2.0 Conference - E2'08

enterprise 20 conference Next week I will be attending the second annual Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston. This is a week I always look forward too having been on the conference Advisory Board since it was first launched as the Collaborative Technologies Conference in 2005.

Steve Wylie and his team have done an incredible job this year and assembled a fantastic agenda. Some of the highlights this year are:

  • Enterprise2Open - an "unconference" that "blends some pre-scheduled content with an open grid where the attendees fill in the sessions they either want to discuss or present themselves." Enteprise2Open is open to anyone, not just conference attendees.
  • The E2 Launch Pad - where five companies present their solutions in front of an audience which votes to determine the winner.
  • A great lineup of keynotes and featured speakers.

In addition, here are some sessions I'd like to recommend.

First, my colleague Mike Gotta is speaking several times:

  • Monday's tutorial "Social Computing Platforms: IBM & Microsoft"
  • Moderating Tuesday's panel "Enterprise RSS: Connecting People, Information & Communities"
  • On Wednesday, moderating a panel "Social Networks: Transforming Work Models & Community Relationships" and presenting alongside of Wallem Innovative Solutions entitled "Integrating RSS and Business Process: The Wallem Story"

I also recommend the following sessions that I was personally involved in getting on the agenda.

On Tuesday:

  • "After Noah: Making Sense of the Flood (of Information)" presented by Thomas Vander Wal. Thomas' tagging session last year was well attended and this year's presentation looks to be equally worthy.
  • "ACMEpedia: Wikis, Tags, and Facets" presented by Pete Bell, Co-Founder of Endeca. This promises to be intriguing as we see the emergence of new innovative methods to navigate enterprise information.

On Thursday:

  • "Open Source Options for Delivering an Enterprise 2.0 Experience" a panel moderated by John Eckman of Optaros. John has brought together a first-class panel that includes Bob Bickel of Ringside Networks, Jeff Whatcott of Acquia, and John Newton of Alfresco.
  • "Best Practices for Securing Enterprise Search" presented by Miles Kehoe and Mark Bennett of New Idea Engineering. This promises to be an interesting look into what it takes to create an effective enterprise search experience.

This should be fun. See you in Boston!

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