Tag Archives: Gilbane

Farewell and Onward

Last Friday was my final day on the analyst roster at Gilbane Group. My parting was voluntary, amicable, and done after much thought. I will always be grateful to Frank Gilbane for providing the opportunity to return to the analyst role and rebuild my public reputation as a thinker and problem solver. I anticipate that I will continue to be involved, in some manner, with the Gilbane conferences, which are structured as a separate legal entity from Gilbane’s research and consulting business now owned by Outsell, Inc.

I have chosen to leave Gilbane in order to better take advantage of the work opportunities that are presenting themselves with increasing frequency. In the days ahead, I will continue and build upon the advisory work that I have been doing since April through my own business, Dow Brook Advisory Services. The mission and business model underlying Dow Brook are quite different from Gilbane’s. In fact, I believe that Dow Brook’s subscription advisory service is a better way to serve companies that create and sell enterprise software than are the offerings of most established analyst firms. Time will tell…

There are several other business opportunities swirling about as well, including part-time and contract research and consulting projects. I am also open to any exceptional offers of full-time employment. I intend to give it my all as an independent analyst, but will remain open to any and all career possibilities.

In the short-term, you will probably not notice any changes. I will still be tweeting, blogging, etc. as I have for the last two years. I will still engage all of you to share, learn, and work together. The only real difference is that it will be done under the Dow Brook brand, as well as my name.

So here’s a toast to the past and one to the future! I am looking forward to making the future together with you. Cheers!

Observations from Gilbane Boston 2009

The 2009 version of the Gilbane Boston conference was held last week. It was the second one I have attended and my first as a track coordinator (I designed the Collaboration and Social Software track and made it happen.) The event was well attended (c. 1100 people) and the number of sponsors and exhibitors was up significantly from last year’s Boston conference. Many of the sessions I attended offered valuable insights from speakers and audience members. All in all, I would label the conference a success.

The Collaboration and Social Software track sessions were designed to minimize formal presentation time and encourage open discussion between panelists and audience members instead. Each session focused on either a common collaboration challenge (collaborative content authoring, content sharing, fostering discussions, managing innovation) or on a specific technology offering (Microsoft SharePoint 2010 and Google Wave.) The sessions that dealt with specific technologies produced more active discussion than those that probed general collaboration issues. I am not sure why that was the case, but the SharePoint and Wave sessions spawned the level of interactivity that I had hoped for in all the panels. The audience seemed a bit reticent to join in the others. Perhaps it took them a while to warm up (the SharePoint and Wave sessions were at the end of the track.)

Here are some other, high level observations from the entire Gilbane Boston 2009 conference:

Twitter: Last year (and at Gilbane San Francisco in June 2009) attendees were buzzing about Twitter, wondering what it was and how it could be used in a corporate setting. This year the word “Twitter” was hardly uttered at all, by presenters or attendees. Most audience members seemed to be fixated on their laptop or smartphone during the conference sessions, but the related tweet stream flow was light compared to other events I’ve attended this quarter. The online participation level of folks interested in content management seems to mirror their carbon form patterns. Most are content to listen and watch, while only a few ask questions or make comments. That is true across all audiences, of course, but it seemed especially pronounced at Gilbane Boston.

SharePoint 2010: This topic replaced Twitter as the ubiquitous term at Gilbane Boston. If I had a dollar for every time I heard “SharePoint” at the conference, I would be able to buy a significant stake in Microsoft! Every company I consulted with during the event was seeking to make SharePoint either their primary content management and collaboration platform, or a more important element in their technology mix. Expectations for what will be possible with SharePoint 2010 are very high. If Microsoft can deliver on their vision, they will gain tremendous share in the market; if not, SharePoint may well have seen its zenith. Everything that I have heard and seen suggests the former will occur.

Google Wave: This fledgling technology also generated substantial buzz at Gilbane Boston. The session on Wave was very well attended, especially considering that it was the next-to-last breakout of the conference. An informal poll of the session audience indicated that nearly half have established a Wave account. However, when asked if they used Wave regularly, only about 20% of the registered users responded affirmatively;. Actual participation in the Wave that I created for attendees to take notes and discuss the Collaboration track online underscored the poll results. Most session attendees said they see the potential to collaborate differently, and more effectively and efficiently, in Wave, but cited many obstacles that were preventing them from doing so at this time. Audience members agree that the Wave user experience has a long way to go; functionality is missing and the user interface and features that are there are not easy to use. Most attendees thought Wave’s current shortcomings would be improved or eliminated entirely as they product matures. However, many also noted that collaboration norms within their organization would have to change before Wave is heavily adopted.

Open Source: This was the hot topic of the conference. Everyone was discussing open source content management and collaboration software. An informal poll of the audience at the opening keynote panel suggested that about 40% were using open source content management software. Many of the other attendees wanted to learn more about open source alternatives to the proprietary software they have been using. Clients that I met with asked questions about feature availability, ease of use, cost benefits, and financial viability of providers of open source content management and collaboration software. It was clear that open source is now considered a viable, and perhaps desirable, option by most organizations purchasing enterprise software.

My big take-away from Gilbane Boston 2009 is that we are experiencing an inflection point in the markets for enterprise content management and collaboration software. Monolithic, rigid, proprietary solutions are falling out of favor and interest in more lightweight, flexible, social, open source offerings is rapidly growing. I expect that this trend will continue to manifest itself at Gilbane San Francisco in June 2010, and beyond.

Emerging Enterprise Content Management Trends

Crystal Ball Gazing

I was at the Gilbane Conference in San Francisco last week, where I answered questions as a panelist, moderated another panel, heard many excellent presentations, and joined in many engaging discussions. On the plane ride home, I took some time to piece together the individual bits of information and opinion that I had absorbed during the two-day event. This reflection led to the following observations regarding the state of enterprise content management practices and technologies.

Up With People

Many content software vendors are now focusing on people first, content second. This is a huge shift in perspective, especially when voiced at a content management conference! Kumar Vora, Vice President & General Manager, Enterprise at Adobe was the first person to proclaim this philosophical change during his opening keynote presentation at Gilbane San Francisco. He reported that Adobe has shifted its business philosophy to focus on serving people and their needs, as opposed to thinking about content first. Many other vendor representatives and attendees from end user organizations echoed Kumar’s emphasis on people during the event. It is too early to say definitively what this radical change in perspective means, but we should see more user friendly enterprise content management tools as a result.

Keyword Fail

Keyword search has largely failed end users and incremental improvements haven’t been able to keep up with the explosion in newly created content. Jeff Fried, VP Product Management for Microsoft’s FAST search engine actually proclaimed that “keyword search is dead!” The business world is at a point where alternatives, including machine-generated and social search techniques, must be explored. The latter method was on many attendees minds and lips, which should not surprise, given the shift to people-centric thinking identified above. Social search will be an increasingly hot topic in 2009 and 2010.

SharePoint Upheaval

Microsoft SharePoint 2010 has the potential to completely shake up the information management market. The next version of SharePoint will likely include a raft of (as of yet unconfirmed) Web Content Management features that have been missing or rudimentary. In her keynote address, Tricia Bush, Group Product Manager for SharePoint said that the promise of content management has not yet been realized and that her team is focusing diligently on the opportunity. This increased emphasis on content management is contrary to the first trend that I described above, and the negative perceptions many hold of SharePoint may increase unless Microsoft also better enables people in SharePoint 2010 (it is rumored that the product will also see substantial additions to its currently limited social collaboration functionality.) Those placing bets should do so knowing that Microsoft intends to, and probably will, be a major force in enterprise information management.

Simplicity Trumps Complexity

Enterprise applications and systems managed by IT departments continue to grow in complexity. As this happens, end users turn to simpler alternatives, including consumer oriented Web 2.0 applications, in order to get work done. The “problem” is that these consumer applications aren’t approved or controlled by the IT function. The opportunity is a potentially large market for software vendors that can create enterprise ready versions of Web 2.0 applications by adding security, reliability, and other attributes demanded by CIOs. For those vendors to succeed, however, they must retain the simplicity (intuitiveness and ease of use) that are the hallmark of consumer Web 2.0 applications.

Communication Beats Publishing

Communication applications are increasingly being used by end users to collaborate, because enterprise content management applications have become too complex (see the trend immediately above). Additionally, communication tools are favored by end users because they can use them to simultaneously create and distribute content. This increased speed of content publication also accelerates general business process execution, allowing users of communication tools to be more productive than users of formal enterprise content systems. Communication tools will continue to become an important and growing back channel that employees use to share content when overly complex publishing tools impede or fail them.

Having one’s ideas validated by a reputable peer is always rewarding. John Mancini, President of AIIM, published a blog post in the time between when I first formulated these thoughts on the flight home from San Francisco last week and when I published this post today. Reading John’s post should encourage you to believe that the trends I (and he) have described are for real. The question for all of us now is how will we respond to these emerging realities.

Photo credit: Charles Soper (via Flickr)

The Wiki Turns 14

14th-birthday-cakeYesterday was the 14th anniversary of the wiki’s inception.  The wiki format is a staple of the enterprise social software arsenal.  I wrote about why the wiki has been so successful and what that can teach us about designing collaboration systems over at the Gilbane Group Blog.  Please read the post there and leave a comment.

Back In The Saddle Again

horseback-cowboy

I am pleased to share with you that I have rejoined the workforce today, after having been unemployed for 3.5 months. I am now Lead Analyst, Collaboration and Enterprise Social Software Practice, at the Gilbane Group. I am honored and thrilled to be associated with Frank Gilbane and his stellar roster of analysts and consultants.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Gilbane Group, they are one of, if not the, preeminent analyst firms focused on Content Management practices and technologies. In my new role, I will be heading up Gilbane Group’s Collaboration and Enterprise Social Software Practice. As a practice, we will be working with many constituents to define and deliver on a research agenda examining industry trends related to enterprise collaboration tools and social software. However, our analysis will be different from others’ in that it will focus intensely on the content management aspects and implications of collaboration and social software.

I am very excited to have been blessed with this opportunity to lead a practice, especially at a firm of Gilbane Group’s caliber. I will have much more to say about my new job, collaboration, social software, and content management in the days and weeks to come. I will continue to blog here about the broader aspects of collaboration and social media, but you will also be able to find my thoughts on the content management angle of those technologies at the Gilbane Group Blog. I will, of course, continue to use Twitter to publically explore these subjects as well.

Here is how you may contact me at the Gilbane Group and the URL for the company’s blog:

email: larry@gilbane.com

phone: 617-497-9443 x154

blog: http://gilbane.com/blog

Gilbane 2008 Boston Observations

gilbane-conference-boston-08

I had the pleasure of attending the Gilbane 2008 Conference in Boston this week. It was the first conference that I’ve participating in for quite some time, and I was strongly reminded of a salient reality of such events:

Conference attendees from end user organizations (not analysts, consultants, or vendors) are there because they seriously need guidance.

The Gilbane conference was advertised as being focused on the intersection of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Web/Enterprise 2.0. In reality, discussion of social software and social media nearly drowned out any talk about ECM. Many of the attendees had sound knowledge of, and experience with, ECM tools, but knew very little about social software and media. They were starved for education and strategic guidance. The conference provided some education, but more is needed, and there is a huge opportunity to help organizations figure out why and how they should be using social software and media.

Here are some other key observations I took away from the conference, in no particular order:

  • Most people don’t realize that they are users of social software nearly every day and express the opposite
  • The word “Twitter” is on nearly everyone’s lips, but most don’t understand the unique value produced by microstreaming
  • Social software and media vendors have sewn an incredible amount of confusion in the market, which will ultimately inhibit their success
  • A large majority of end user organizations don’t understand how social software and media can be used to support business strategy
  • Without a defined strategic purpose for using social software and media, most organizations don’t know which tools to use and why
  • Many organizations have not differentiated between internal and external use cases when developing collaboration strategy
  • Most attendees were very concerned about how to demonstrate ROI on social software and media, because it is an increasingly important checkpoint in these awful economic times

The implication of these observations should excite any analyst or consultant operating in the collaboration and KM arena — the current potential opportunity to assist end user organizations is HUGE! On the flip side, if you are involved in introducing social software or media to your organization and are feeling lost at sea, you’re not alone.

There are people out there who are beginning to understand the strategic use of these emergent tools, but they need to develop clear conceptual frameworks, adoption and use data, and strategic guidance so they can better assist the mainstream business world.

Social software and media are early in their life cycle. It’s up to all of us that are involved with it now to advance the market toward, and past, the tipping point. Onward, ho!