Rather than list off a "top ten" list of predictions for 2009, I thought I would briefly layout some topics and areas that business and IT decision-makers should pay attention to when formulating Enterprise 2.0 plans:
Enterprise 2.0: Critical Decisions For 2009
- "SharePoint Next": Call, Raise Or Fold
- Microsoft Office SharePoint 2007 (MOSS) is a disappointing platform for social computing in my opinion. The blog is barely acceptable, the wiki is not, the decision to implement RSS rather than Atom was short-sighted and the "Corporate Facebook" capability is not that impressive. Still, many organizations are deploying SharePoint for many valid reasons unrelated to E2.0 and are "ok" with undertaking extensive customization or adding specific partners (e.g., NewsGator) to augment what SharePoint has in terms of E2.0 capabilities.
- My position for some time has been that the next release will be a tipping point for Microsoft's social computing efforts. Either Microsoft "gets it right" and delivers a forward-looking release with significant improvements that transforms SharePoint into a market-leading social computing platform, or it delivers a release that has only incremental improvements to existing functionality that reflect a backward-looking competitive landscape (circa 2008 as things get locked-down).
- If customers fail to see a forward-looking release and realize that they will again have to wait "another three years' before Microsoft delivers credible capabilities, then I expect to see a sizeable backlash within the SharePoint install-base. Organizations will leverage SharePoint for traditional productivity and content management needs but will look for an alternative social platform to sit alongside SharePoint while a minority of shops that have not over-committed to SharePoint (e.g., WSS only) will de-prioritize the platform.
- The need to focus on non-technology factors rather than the underlying tooling was a consistent theme during client visits and telephone inquiries as well as the field research study I conducted on enterprise social networks. Most IT organizations are not charged with time, money and resources to really focus on adoption issues. IT organizations might not even have the right skills (some clients I talked to have sociologists on staff). Business leaders also need to realize the importance of cultural dynamics and the challenges that go along with changing work models and persuading people to change their behaviors. Consideration of new roles (e.g., community organizers) and new ways of assessing people's participation and contribution (e.g., redefining performance appraisal processes) are not far-fetched ideas.
- Another common point that arose during client visits and telephone briefings was the issue "managing the gaps". Organizations that selected point tools to fill gaps in existing collaboration and content platforms are now faced with products that have grown into mini-suites. A tactical decision to rely on a blog vendor becomes more complicated when that vendor then expands their tool to include a wiki. Ditto for making a tactical decision to select a wiki provider only to find out that the next release does blogs, tagging and social networking. Small vendors need to survive so it's no surprise that they will expand their offerings but that creates additional overlap with enterprise infrastructure and may cause the decision to be re-evaluated.
- The trend now is to downplay reliance on point solutions (e.g., blog vendor, wiki vendor) and think more along the lines of a "social platform" (e.g., a consistent platform that offers blog, wiki, and a social network site). This makes the decision more complicated in some ways but the investment becomes less volatile and the investment has the potential to have more staying power in the market. IT groups generally want to avoid numerous small vendors whose products begin to look more similar over time.
- It was a surprise to me that this space has not taken off. It might be due to a combination of factors. Right now, if you have sources producing feeds and clients that include feed readers then people are generally happy. Workers might have a few feeds they read in a single client (e-mail or browser). There might not be a "killer app" that illustrates the role feed syndication platforms play in the solution. Until there's a critical mass, the need for network bandwidth management, policy management, centralized feed security, etc doesn't make for a clear-cut business case.
- So, I'll repeat myself in 2009 - IT organizations need to look at this space as a middleware decision. And, although we use the term "RSS", please focus on Atom. RSS is a dead-end and architecturally deficient. As I mentioned earlier, it's unfortunate Microsoft implemented RSS within SharePoint - many organizations will be stuck with RSS until this mistake is corrected.
- While this area would include social network analysis (SNA), it would also include all types of social analytics (rankings, ratings, tags/bookmarks, etc). Perhaps we should think of this area as Organizational Intelligence or Organizational Analytics instead of Social Analytics - or just extend our notion of Business Intelligence given the term is well-known. In any case, metrics are important. Without social analytics, it's difficult to know how to measure what's going on within social systems and how to value those interactions and activities. I hope 2009 will be the kick-off of this topic becoming more of a priority.
Enterprise 2.0: Long-term Issues
- Culture: It's not about the technology (per se). I've talked to organizations that have both succeeded, are struggling, or have failed with various E2.0 "tools". Organizations that have effectively leveraged E2.0-related tools most often are those that realized that cultural issues and E2.0 initiatives go hand-in-hand. Governance, change management, community-building and other "people strategies" help organizations leverage cultural dynamics in a positive fashion.
- Generational shifts: GenY and aging workforce trends create opportunities for HR groups to take on a much more strategic role. Employee, retiree and alumni social networks for instance have the potential to help organizations become more resilient and agile by allowing it to capitalize on its internal and extended relationships - often in ways not constrained by formal institutional structures.
- Information & media literacy: This might be a sleeper issue. There are a lot of "v" words here: the volume of information is growing exponentially, the velocity of business is increasing, the virtualization of the workplace continues as organizations are more global or have work models that are more mobile, and the variability of roles an employee may be expected to take on will become more diverse as decision-making is pushed to the line-worker. Workers need to become much more literate in how to leverage information and media sources and associated tools.
- Social networks and identity: As part of the field research study I conducted (social networking within the enterprise), I was surprised to find a disconnect between social networking initiatives and identity management efforts. If employee profiles and the social tools they use to express themselves and establish relationships with others become the "fuzzy front-end of identity", then how those profiles become aligned with identity management becomes a critical issue for business and IT strategists. The interoperability aspect with external environments as digital life and digital work converge clearly comes to the forefront as well.
- Standards: Pretty normal - standards are needed for integration, interoperability, etc.
- Microformats: Hopefully, we will see much more focus on microformats (e.g., hCard, XFN) during 2009. Microformats, Atom/APP and XMPP I believe have compelling synergies when combined with social networking technologies.
- Records management: Also expected - we live in a world where there are numerous industry, regulatory and compliance-related requirements that need to be met.
Enterprise 2.0: Vendors To Watch (alpha order)
- Cisco: The market will only give Cisco so much time to "talk the talk". There needs to be a definitive collaboration solution that gains some noticeable traction in the market.
- IBM: Lotus Connections is holding its own but gaps remain (e.g., native wiki) and I would like to see deep integration with SharePoint.
- Jive: Perhaps the most successful "mini suite" in the market right now and a good option for organizations that don't want to commit to SharePoint and have reservations about IBM.
- Oracle: "Once again into the breach" as the saying goes - Oracle will make another run in to collaboration/E2.0 market. While it has a much improved portfolio of collaboration and content tools this time - can it execute and will the market believe them?
- Telligent: Telligent could be the "Jive of 2009" given its latest release (which rounds out the features), its integration with SharePoint, and alignment with a Microsoft environment overall.
Enterprise 2.0: Open Source Efforts To Watch
- Alfresco: Gaining more media attention with its SharePoint integration.
- Drupal: Continues to come up in client interactions.
- Liferay: Came out with "Social Office" as its E2.0 play.
- Mindtouch: A vendor I hope more organizations consider - sound underling architecture that perhaps is over-branded as a wiki solution but is more of a mash-up server (kinda) based on a hypertext and service-oriented platform.
- Sun Project SocialSite: Another project that I find interesting. I'm not convinced Sun can make it successful in the market but as an architectural model for organizations that want to socially-enabled existing web properties and applications and are interested in OpenSocial - it's well-worth a look.
Enterprise 2.0: Watch This Space
- "Enterprise Twitter": I posted by thoughts here: Enterprise Versions Of Twitter (updated)