Tag Archives: system

Dow Brook Publishes Free White Paper on Simplifying Content Sharing

Dow Brook Advisory Services has published a new white paper, titled Sharing Simplified: Consolidating Multiple File Sharing Technologies. The paper, authored by Larry Hawes, examines an issue with which nearly every company struggles – sharing files within the organization and with external constituents.

Traditional Enterprise Content Management technologies have controlled content at the expense of making it easily shareable. Groupware technologies address the issue, but limit document sharing to members of closed groups within the organization. As a result, many businesses turn to other technologies and methods to facilitate file sharing, including File Transfer Protocol and Managed File Transfer systems, email, CDs and DVDs, and, most recently, enterprise social software.

Most organizations have multiple file transfer technologies and methods in place. Some are sanctioned by the IT department, but others have been procured or developed by business units and individuals, often without the knowledge of, much less approval from, the IT staff. The result is organizations wasting time and money building, buying, using, and supporting multiple, ineffective file transfer technologies.

Dow Brook’s white paper examines this issue in detail, educates about the characteristics of an ideal content sharing solution, and presents a case study that demonstrates the benefits that organizations may receive by consolidating file sharing technologies. The white paper may be previewed and downloaded below. Please share your comments here, or on SlideShare, after reading it.

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TIBCO Launches tibbr and Demonstrates the Difference Between Social Business and Enterprise 2.0

There has been a debate raging for a couple of months now on whether there is a difference between “Enterprise 2.0” and “Social Business” and, if so, what it is. The debate began concurrently with the Enterprise 2.0 Conference, held in Santa Clara, in November 2010. I weighed in then with my take in this post. Since then, the debate has moved over to Quora, where someone asked, “What are the distinctions between Social Business and Enterprise 2.0”.

In spite of all this discussion, it was not until today that the difference between Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business truly became clear to me. The event that triggered my new-found understanding of these terms was the launch of tibbr, TIBCO’s “social computing tool”.

As TIBCO Chairman and CEO Vivek Ranadivé explained during the launch event, tibbr was built to deliver the right information, to the right people, in the right context. A noble goal indeed. tibbr takes advantage of TIBCO’s well-honed expertise in the management of real-time messaging at scale, their extensive library of enterprise system adapters, and a real-time rules engine that creates context for content.

Note the discrepancy between Ranadivé’s statement and the actual focus of the tool. tibbr is all about systems integration and message delivery; people are incidental objects in the system. This is intentional, as stated in TIBCO’s press release on tibbr:

“tibbr breaks business users free from one-dimensional social tools that focus on people…”

Ram Menon, EVP Worldwide Marketing at TIBCO further underscored the notion that tibbr is not about people relationships in two remarks. In the first instance, Menon described tibbr in terms of “process, subjects, applications, and people”, literally in that order. Later, Menon said that within tibbr, one “can follow people, but most importantly [textual emphasis mine, but reflects his vocal inflection]…can follow applications, can follow data.”

Do you see it? tibbr is the poster child for Enterprise 2.0, as it was originally defined by Professor Andrew McAfee. tibbr is literally about applying Web 2.0 technology design principles to enterprise systems. Social Business, on the other hand, puts people first – before applications, processes, and subject entries in the corporate taxonomy. The difference could not be clearer.

Yes, one can follow another individual in tibbr. However, as Jon Scarpelli, VP of CIBER’s Outsourcing Practice recounted during the launch event, his company switched from Yammer to tibbr because CIBER employees were “more interested in following subjects”.

My point? Social Business is about people first. Enterprise 2.0 is primarily about technology that enables business processes (or, more accurately, barely repeatable processes and process exceptions) via human interaction. Both are valid and valuable approaches to structuring and running an organization, but it is critical to know which one your company values most. Does it want to be a social business that emphasizes and connects people, or an entity that uses Web 2.0 technologies to achieve business goals when rigid, transactional systems can’t help? Answer that question first, then choose your technology solution.

Social Business Transformation: Focus on Small, Not Sweeping, Change

“…transformation happens less by arguing cogently for something new than by generating active, ongoing practices that shift a culture’s experience of the basis for reality.” — Roz and Ben Zander, The Art of Possibility

The recent debates, at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference and in the blogosphere, about E2.0 and Social Business have made one thing clear to me. Too many of us dwell on the transformative aspects of social business. Myself included.

This is likely so because most organizations value other things more highly than their people and act accordingly. Their behaviors cry out for transformation to those who envision a better way of doing business.

However, achieving sweeping transformation of the way that people are considered and treated is the wrong goal for most organizations.

It is important to remember that not all companies wish to transform themselves into social businesses, much less anything else. In fact, most begrudgingly embrace transformation only when they are forced to do so by changes occurring around them.

Instead of concentrating on “big bang” transformation, we should seek to make a series of small changes to a business’s people practices and systems. In other words, leave the organization alone. Do not focus social change efforts directly on organizational structure or culture.

It is more effective to address specific policy, process, and technology problems at the individual or role level. Let those snowflakes of change add up on top of each other to create a snowball that, when put in motion, will continue to grow until it becomes an unstoppable force. Measure impact in the same additive manner instead of seeking the big, single instance of benefit favored by traditional ROI analysis.

Wondering where to start introducing social practices and technologies in your organization? Look around. What specific challenges are customers, employees, and partners turning to each other to overcome? How are they finding someone who can help, and how are they interacting once they have identified that person? How is what they have learned shared with others?

Now imagine and investigate ways that your organization can help all of its constituents work together to solve those problems faster and less expensively. Be sure to consider technology that enables this, but do not forget to examine policy and process changes that could help too.

That is the way to improve your organization while recognizing and supporting its existing, inherent social nature. Forget about large-scale transformation. Focus instead on using people power to solve specific problems and challenges that, while small by themselves, add up to a significant gain for the business when addressed and overcome.

Enterprise 2.0 or Social Business: Who Cares?!

As you may have already observed, the debate about what label to attach to the renewed focus on people in the business world has been rekindled this week, in conjunction with the Enterprise 2.0 Conference. While I will address the label question here, I do not intend to get mired in the debate. Instead, I will focus on whether or not the” people matter” movement should be described with tool talk or addressed in a more holistic fashion.

First, the label. I do not care if you call this renewed focus on people and the connections between them in the business world “Enterprise 2.0” (E2.0), “Social Business”, or anything else. The value to be gained from connecting people within and between organizations is to be found in what’s accomplished as a result of doing so, not in what the notion is called. Sure, it is helpful for the movement to have a lingua franca with which to “sell” the vision to business leaders. However, a consensus label is not necessary. A clearly articulated, holistic approach and value proposition are required.

So forget the label. Instead, focus on the substance of what we (those who believe that people matter in business) are presenting to organizational leaders that are more concerned about traditional issues like process efficiency and financial performance.

Now, on to the real debate. In his latest blog post, Andrew McAfee continues to insist that the message needs to be tool-centric. He says that we should address executives in phrases such as,

“There are some important new (social) technologies available now, and they’ll help you address longstanding and vexing challenges you have”

The movement is not just about tools. In fact, the tool-centric focus to-date of E2.0 is a primary reason why the movement’s core message that people matter has not reached the C-suite, much less sway their thinking. To suggest to a senior executive that the only way to better their organization’s performance is through the application of technology is simply, well, simplistic. We need to discuss all of the levers that they can pull to change the way their organizations consider, enable, incent, and interact with customers, employees, and partners.

To succeed in transforming an organization, leaders must change and communicate what is valued and how people are rewarded for applying those values while attaining stated goals and objectives. We must show those leaders that modifying organizational values to include (or increase) the importance of people to the business can lead to tangible increases in revenue and decreases in operating cost. The benefits statement does not need to be presented as an ROI analysis; anecdotal evidence from efforts within the organization, or from other entities, should suffice. And, yes, technology should be presented as an enabler of both the change effort itself and the new value system guiding the organization.

And one more thing. This movement, however we choose to label and describe it, is NOT a revolution. Senior leaders fear and shun revolutions. So avoid using that word when selling the vision. We are not advocating the overthrow of existing enterprise organizational or IT systems. Instead, we seek to convincingly demonstrate that augmenting the existing ways of conducting and managing business with a complementary, people-centric approach can yield substantial benefits to those organizations who do so. Do not preach revolution; instead, suggest specific actions that leaders can take to better connect people in and outside of their organization and show them the kinds of results that doing so can produce.

Why I Am Ignoring Google Buzz

Note: This post is purely personal opinion based on my preferences and work style. If your are looking for an analysis of Google Buzz based on methodical primary research, abort now.

I have heard many people say that their email inbox is the mother of all social networks. For me, however, email is  the antithesis of a well-built, functioning social network, because it is a communication channel, not a collaboration enabler.

I value my social networks because I can work with members of those communities to get things done. When I worked at IBM, a very large company, my email inbox was more of a proxy for the organizational hierarchy than an instantiation of my social graph. Too much of my email activity was about low value (or value-less) communications and interactions imposed by command and control culture and systems. When I needed to communicate something up or down IBM’s or a project’s chain of command, I used email. When I needed to get something done, I contacted collaborators on Sametime (IBM’s instant messaging product), the phone, or BlueTwit (IBM’s internal-only, experimental microblogging system). In short, the contacts in my large corporation email address book were more reflective of the organizational structure than of my collaborative networks.

That is precisely why Google Buzz is a non-starter for me. The Google Contact list on which it is based does not represent my collaborative network, on which I rely to get work done. Very few of the people with whom I collaborate are represented, because I don’t interact with them via email. At least not often. A quick analysis of my Google Contacts list shows that Google Voice usage contributes more actionable, valuable additions to the list than does Gmail. My Gmail inbox is filled with communications, not action items, and most of them are low-value messages from application and service vendors whose tools I have downloaded or use online.

Google’s design of Buzz demonstrates ignorance of (or disregard for?) the reality that many social interactions happen outside of email. Had I wanted to use my Google Contacts list as a social network, I would have imported it into FriendFeed months ago. Strike One.

I just mentioned FriendFeed, which was my primary social network aggregator for several months. One of the reasons I backed away from heavy usage of FriendFeed was because it became little more than another interface to the Twitter stream. Yes, it is easy to inject updates from other sources into the FriendFeed flow, but, in reality, the vast majority of updates cam from Twitter (and still do.)

I see the same thing happening with Buzz. Too many people have linked their Twitter accounts, so that everything they tweet is duplicated in Buzz. And Buzz doesn’t allow for integration of the vast number of information resources that FriendFeed does. Talk about low-value. Strike Two.

I have not taken enough swings at Google Buzz yet to have recorded Strike Three. So, for now, I have not turned Buzz off. However, I am ignoring it and will not experiment again until Google provides integration with more external social networks.

In the meanwhile, I am still looking for a social tool that blends contacts and information streams from many sources, but lets me filter the flow by one or more sources, as desired. That would allow me to work both formal organizational and informal social networks from the same tool. Gist is promising in that regard, but needs to be able to capture information from more sources with corresponding filters. Hopefully, someone will read this post and either point me to an existing solution or build it. Until then, I will have to continue using multiple tools to communicate and collaborate.

Box.net Offers Proof of Its New Enterprise Strategy

box_logoBox.net announced today that it has integrated its cloud-based document storage and sharing solution with Salesforce.com. Current Box.net customers that want to integrate with Salesforce CRM can contact Box.net directly to activate the service. Salesforce.com customers may now download Box.net from the Salesforce.com AppExchange.

Box.net services will now be available in the Lead, Account, Contact, and Opportunity tabs of Salesforce CRM. In addition, the Box.net native interface and full range of services will be accessible via a dedicted tab on the Salesforce CRM interface. Users can upload new files to Box.net, edit existing files, digitally sign electronic documents, and e-mail or e-fax files. Large enterprise users will be given unlimited Box.net storage. The Box.net video embedded below briefly demonstrates the new Salesforce CRM integration.

While Box.net started as a consumer focused business, today’s announcement marks the first tangible manifestation of its emerging enterprise strategy. Box.net intends to be a cloud-based  document repository that can be accessed through a broad range of enterprise applications.

The content-as-a-service model envisioned by Box.net will gain traction in the coming months. I believe that a centralized content repository, located on-premise or in the cloud, is a key piece of any enterprise’s infrastructure. Moreover, content services — functionality that enables users to create, store, edit, and share content — should be accessible from any enterprise application, including composite applications such as portals or mashups created for specific roles (e.g. sales and/or marketing employees, channel partners, customers). Users should not be required to interact with content only through dedicated tools such as office productivity suites and Content Management Systems (CMS).

Other content authoring and CMS software vendors are beginning to consider, understand, and (in some cases) embrace this deployment model. Box.net is one of the first proprietary software vendors to instantiate it. Adoption statistics of their new Salesforce CRM integration should eventually provide a good reading as to whether or not enterprise customers are also ready to embrace the content-as-a-service model.

Google Wave Protocols: Clearing the Confusion

wavelogoToday is the long-awaited day when 100,000 lucky individuals receive access to an early, but working, version of Google Wave. I hope I am in those ranks! Like many people, I have been reading about Wave, but have not been able to experience it hands-on.

Wave has been a hot topic since it was first shown outside of Google last May. Yet it continues to be quite misunderstood, most likely because it is such an early stage effort and most interested people have not been able to lay hands on the technology.

The confusion surrounding Wave was highlighted for me yesterday in a Twitter exchange on the topic. It all started innocently enough, when Andy McAfee asked:

Andy1

To which I replied:

Larry1

That statement elicited the following comment from Jevon MacDonald of the Dachis Group:

Jevon1

I am not a technologist. I seek to understand technology well enough that I can explain it in layman’s terms to business people, so they understand how technology can help them achieve their business goals. So I generally avoid getting into deep technical discussions. This time, however, I was pretty sure that I was on solid ground, so the conversation between me and Jevon continued:

Larry2

Larry3

Jevon2

Larry4

Now, here we are, at the promised blog post. But, how can Jevon and I both be correct? Simple. Google Wave encompasses not one, but several protocols for communication between system components, as illustrated in the figure below.

wave_protocols

Figure 1: Google Wave Protocols (Source: J. Aaron Farr, http://www.cubiclemuses.com/cm/articles/2009/08/09/waves-web-of-protocols/)

The most discussed of these is the Google Wave Federation protocol, which is an extension of the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP). However, Wave also requires protocols for client-server and robot server- (Web service) Wave server communication. It is also possible, but probably not desirable, for Wave to utilize a client-client protocol.

Jevon was absolutely correct about the XMPP protocol enabling server-server communication in the Google Wave Federation Protocol. The Draft Protocol Specification for the Google Wave Federation Protocol lays out the technical details, which I will not explore here. XMPP provides a reliable mechanism for server-server communication and is a logical choice for that function in Google Wave, because XMPP was originally designed to transmit instant message and presence data.

It turns out that the Google Wave team has not defined a specific protocol to be used in client-server communication. A Google whitepaper entitled Google Wave Data Model and Client-Server Protocol does not mention a specific protocol. The absence of a required or recommended protocol is also confirmed by this blog post. While the Google implementation of Wave does employ HTTP as the client-server protocol, as Jevon stated, it is possible to use XMPP as the basis for client-server communication, as I maintained. ProcessOne demonstrates this use of XMPP in this blog post and demo.

Finally, there is no technical reason that XMPP could not be used to route communications directly from one client to another. However, it would not be desirable to communicate between more than two clients via XMPP. Without a server somewhere in the implementation, Wave would be unable to coordinate message state between multiple clients. In plain English, the Wave clients most likely would not be synchronized, so each would display a different point in the conversation encapsulated in the Wave.

To summarize, Google Wave employs the following protocols:

  • XMPP for server-server communication
  • HTTP for client-server communication in the current Google implementation; XMPP is possible, as demonstrated by ProcessOne
  • HTTP (JSON RPC) for robot server-Wave server communication in the current Google implementation
  • Client-client protocol is not defined, as this mode of communication is most likely not usable in a Wave

I hope this post clarifies the protocols used in the current architecture of Google Wave for you. More importantly, I hope that it highlights just how much additional architectural definition needs to take place before Wave is ready for use by the masses. If I had a second chance to address Andy McAfee’s question, I would unequivocally state that Google Wave is a “concept car” at this point in time.

Postscript: The heretofore mentioned possibilities around XMPP as a client-client protocol are truly revolutionary. The use of XMPP as the primary communication protocol for the Internet, instead of the currently used HTTP protocol, would create a next generation Internet in which centralized servers would no longer serve as intermediaries between users. Web application architectures, even business models, would be changed. See this post for a more detailed explanation of this vision, which requires each user to run a personal server on their computing device.