Assessment of My Enterprise 2.0 Conference Predictions

The Enterprise 2.0 Conference was held last week, in Boston. Prior to the event, I made some predictions as to expected learnings and outcomes from the conference. Today, I will revisit those prognostications to determine their accuracy.

Here is the original list of things that I anticipated encountering at the E2.0 Conference this year. Each prediction is followed by an assessment of the statement’s validity and some explanatory comments:

A few more case studies from end user organizations, but not enough to indicate that we’ve reached a tipping point in the E2.0 market: TRUE The number of case studies presented this year seemed to be roughly the same as last year. That is to say very few. The best one that I heard was a presentation by Lockheed Martin employees, which was an update to their case study presented last year at E2.0 Conference. It was great to hear the progress they had made and the issues with which they have dealt in the last year. However, I was genuinely disappointed by the absence of fresh case studies. Indeed, the lack of new case studies was the number one conference content complaint heard during the event wrap-up session (indeed, throughout the show.)

An acknowledgement that there are still not enough data and case studies to allow us to identify best practices in social software usage:
TRUE This turned out to be a huge understatement. There are not even enough publicly available data points and stories to allow us to form a sense of where the Enterprise 2.0 market is in terms of adoption, much less of best practices or common success factors. At this rate, it will be another 12-18 months before we can begin to understand which companies have deployed social software and at what scale, as well as what works and what doesn’t when implementing an E2.0 project.

That entrenched organizational culture remains the single largest obstacle to businesses trying to deploy social software:
TRUE The “C” word popped up in every session I attended and usually was heard multiple times per session. The question debated at the conference was a chicken and egg one; must culture change to support adoption of E2.0 practices and tools, or is E2.0 a transformational force capable of reshaping an organization’s culture and behaviors? That question remains unanswered, in part because of the lack of E2.0 case studies. However, historical data and observations on enterprise adoption of previous generations of collaboration technologies tell us that leadership must be willing to change the fundamental values, attitudes, and behaviors of the organization in order to improve collaboration. Grassroots evangelism for, and usage of, collaboration tools is not powerful enough to drive lasting cultural change in the face of resistance from leadership.

A nascent understanding that E2.0 projects must touch specific, cross-organizational business processes in order to drive transformation and provide benefit: TRUE I was very pleased to hear users, vendors, and analysts/consultants singing from the same page in this regard. Everyone I heard at E2.0 Conference understood that it would be difficult to realize and demonstrate benefits from E2.0 initiatives that did not address specific business processes spanning organizational boundaries. The E2.0 movement seems to have moved from speaking about benefits in general, soft terms to groping for how to demonstrate process-based ROI (more on this below.)

A growing realization that the E2.0 adoption will not accelerate meaningfully until more conservative organizations hear and see how other companies have achieved specific business results and return on investment: TRUE Conference attendees were confounded by two related issues; the lack of demonstrative case studies and the absence of a clear, currency-based business case for E2.0 initiatives. More conservative organizations won’t move ahead with E2.0 initiatives until they can see at least one of those things and some will demand both. People from end user organizations attending the conference admitted as much both publicly and privately.

A new awareness that social software and its implementations must include user, process, and tool analytics if we are ever to build a ROI case that is stated in terms of currency, not anecdotes:
TRUE Interestingly, the E2.0 software vendors are leading this charge, not their customers. A surprising number of vendors were talking about analytics in meetings and briefings I had at the conference, and many were announcing the current or future addition of those capabilities to their offerings at the show. E2.0 software is increasingly enabling organizations to measure the kinds of metrics that will allow them to build a currency-based business case following a pilot implementation. Even better, some vendors are mining their products’ new analytics capabilities to recommend relevant people and content to system users!

That more software vendors that have entered the E2.0 market, attracted by the size of the business opportunity around social software:
TRUE I haven’t counted and compared the number of vendors in Gartner’s E2.0 Magic Quadrant from last year and this year, but I can definitely tell you that the number of vendors in this market has increased. This could be the subject of another blog post, and I won’t go into great detail here. There are a few new entrants that are offering E2.0 suites or platforms (most notably Open Text). Additionally, the entrenchment of SharePoint 2007 in the market has spawned many small startup vendors adding social capabilities on top of SharePoint. The proliferation of these vendors underscores the current state of dissatisfaction with SharePoint 2007 as an E2.0 platform. It also foreshadows a large market shakeout that will likely occur when Microsoft releases SharePoint 2010.

A poor opinion of, and potentially some backlash against, Microsoft SharePoint as the foundation of an E2.0 solution; this will be tempered, however, by a belief that SharePoint 2010 will be a game changer and upset the current dynamics of the social software market:
TRUE Yes, there are many SharePoint critics out there and they tend to be more vocal than those who are satisfied with their SharePoint deployment. The anti-SharePoint t-shirts given away by Box.net at the conference sum up the attitude very well. Yet most critics seem to realize that the next release of SharePoint will address many of their current complaints. I heard more than one E2.0 conference attendee speculate on the ability of the startup vendors in the SharePoint ecosystem to survive when Microsoft releases SharePoint 2010.

An absence of understanding that social interactions are content-centric and, therefore, that user generated content must be managed in much the same manner as more formal documents:
FALSE Happily, I was wrong on this one. There was much discussion about user generated content at the conference, as well as talk about potential compliance issues surrounding E2.0 software. It seems that awareness of the importance of content in social systems is quite high among vendors and early adopters. The next step will be to translate that awareness into content management features and processes. That work has begun and should accelerate, judging by what I heard and saw at the conference.

So there are the results. I batted .888! If you attended the conference, I’d appreciate your comments on my perceptions of the event. Did you hear and see the same things, or did the intense after hours drinking and major sleep deficit of last week cause me to hallucinate? I’d appreciate your comments even if you weren’t able to be at E2.0 Conference, but have been following the market with some regularity.

I hope this post has given you a decent sense of the current state of the Enterprise 2.0 market. More importantly, I believe that this information can help us focus our efforts to drive the E2.0 movement forward in the coming year. We can and should work together to best these challenges and make the most of these opportunities.

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4 responses to “Assessment of My Enterprise 2.0 Conference Predictions

  1. Larry – I think you hit a home run with all bases loaded! Nice job. Jen

  2. Thanks Jen! The older I get, the more able I am to recognize patterns I’ve seen in previous technology markets. The evolution of the E2.0 market has been similar in many ways to the collaboration, portal, and knowledge management software markets I lived in 10 years ago.

  3. Larry – good to have you in on the SIKM meeting this morning. Oh the tangled webs we weave, eh?

    First, congrats on the foresight to make some predictions, and secondly, (and I agree… mostly) to be spot on with the outcome post-conf.

    My partial disagreement is that I know nearly everyone is obsessed with “best practices” – and hey, I’m all for shortcuts, if it helps get people to a suitable end, but at the rate of change we experience TODAY, it’s more true than ever that a best practice that surfaces today and is taken and implemented tomorrow or (more likely) 6 months from now, isn’t even remotely a best practice any more, not even for that originator of that best practice.

    As was said this morning in the SIKM meeting, why don’t we try PRACTICE first, and maybe organizations can uncover true best practices along the way, in the context of their own organizations?

    Waiting for best practices to arrive is an excuse not to do anything. For better or worse though, we’re all making this up as we go along, so for anyone standing on the sidelines, be prepared to fall behind quickly.

    Here’s a thought – if lawyers and doctors, who are paid to “practice” on a daily basis, can live with (and get paid quite well) the idea that the “best practice” is not just the past but the current iteration and improvement of the past, then why in the world can’t the rest of the professional world do the same?

    Two interviews I did recently might help to add some extra meat to this discussion…

    One, an interview with Bob Lewis, from IS Survivors (http://www.informationarchitected.com/blog/iam-talking-the-problems-of-process-in-practice/) and

    Two – an interview/discussion with Christopher Marston, CEO and a practicing lawyer at the Exemplar Groups here in Boston (http://www.informationarchitected.com/blog/iam-talking-death-to-the-billable-hour-long-live-knowledge/).

    Real Enterprise 2.0 success comes from cross-team, multi-disciplinary activities – with any luck, pulling from a CIO-oriented point of view (Bob), legal/business point of view (Christopher), and my multi-faceted (I hope) look at business and technology issues – serves to illustrate these thoughts a bit.

    Would love to get feedback on all fronts.

    Frankly, we need more “worst practices” to keep people from running off into the weeds. Avoid the bad, focus on the good enough, and who cares about “the best?” It’s an illusion.

  4. Dan: Thanks very much for your extended comment and, especially, for the interview links.

    Best practice is a somewhat misguided notion, and I agree with your comments on the subject. Somewhere along the way, knowledge management practitioners got caught in that trap, most likely under the rubric of “not reinventing the wheel”.

    Too many organizations implement other companies’ practices without adapting it to their own business objectives, strategy, processes, and culture. That isn’t so bad if they have borrowed a practice from another industry, but if they’ve copied a competitor, the follower organization is now several months behind the innovative one and at a competitive disadvantage.

    The mantra today in innovative, profitable businesses is “fail often, fail fast”. Those multiple failures allow organizations to learn more and, therefore, ultimately succeed faster than companies that wait to copy others’ “best” practices.

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