Each year the Enterprise 2.0 Conference has been different for me, this was my third year in a row attending. Two years ago there were a organizations trying these tools (other than on a server under somebody’s desk), tool makers were trying to catch-up to potential customer desires, and most consultants were trying to apply old models of thinking to Enterprise 2.0 (which broke most of their models). Last year the tools started to catch-up with offerings that were much closer to customer desires, a much broader set of businesses were interested and looking for understanding, and the big consulting firms were touting their successes with out understanding what they did.
This year at Enterprise 2.0 had a very different feel. There is getting to be good depth of understanding of the potential capabilities from customers. The tool makers are really hitting stride and solving some of the tricky problems that come with a six months to a year of use inside an organization (see sub-head below "Open Source Tools as First Step") to understand what the tool makers are doing is valuable. Consultants are getting it, but the big consulting firms continue to have value in individuals and not the firms. The most impressive consultants (and analysts) are the solo players and small firms.
Twitter and Microsharing for Enterprise
There were a handful of very well attended sessions on Twitter and similar microsharing tools for the enterprise this year (last year only one). The sessions were largely love-fests of "isn’t this great" and "here is the value", which is good. But, there are some downsides that need addressing and sticking my head in a few sessions (too packed to get a seat) and talking with others who attended the sessions, the downsides (they have solutions, but not quite built yet) were not highlighted nor were the potential solutions.
I am skipping the positives of these tools as they are can be found quite readily. The cautions and lessons learned relate to two points the volume & velocity of information and use/reuse of the snippets.
Nearly every organization that has successful adoption with microsharing tools quickly believes there can be too much of a good thing. Like my presentation last year at Enterprise 2.0 (After Noah: Making sense of the flood (of information) microsharing has great content flowing through it, but it needs filters (on who and what) as well as as attractors for grabbing things that are valuable that pass through when the user is not looking (the "if it is valuable it will find you" is not something that you want your organization to depend upon).
The second issue is use and reuse of that information. The information snippets running through the microsharing tools are often valuable, some have future value and are received out of the context of need, while others have current value. Most of the tools only focus on sharing the snippets not holding on to them or easily turning them into other valuable information forms (documents, blogs, aggregation of related items for discussion, etc.). Without thinking of what comes next with information flows in the organization’s ecosystem problems get created quickly from the cool adoption. That is not to say that the solutions are difficult or around the corner, but they are not in most products yet.
One service that I saw in the exhibit hall that used the organization’s ecosystem well was Brainpark. Brainpark is a mix of microsharing, aggregation of information and objects, and builds off of experience across the organization. It is a hosted solution that is a fully open space and transparent across the organization (depending on your organization that is good or less than optimal (Sarbanes Oxley peeks in).
Case Studies Predominantly from Government and Government Contractors
This year, just like the past two a majority of the case studies were government or government contractors. Susan Scrupski asked in a Tweet why this was so. One reason (having worked inside government as a contractor doing this things nearly a decade ago) is freedom to talk about what is going on. Many businesses look at these tools as competitive advantage and will talk about the their success on a high level, but lessons learned (downsides) start running into SEC regulations and admissions of less than optimal results (a downside for stocks). Also many of the companies using the new breed of social tools are technology related companies and often they are considering how to turn what they have deployed into a product they can sell in the future or at least a service offering. This sharing can run a foul of SEC restrictions. The government organizations and government contracting companies are freer to discuss their implementation of these tools and the contracting companies see this as a means to pitch their capabilities.
Last year Lockheed Martin generated a lot of buzz with their discussion of the platform they assembled and built. This year they discussed it in more depth, but the point that the only two infringements on their service were one person selling their car (no commerce is allowed) and one person criticizing a decision by the CEO (nobody is allow to criticize the CEO) were good for demonstrating how well people use the social tools with little concern (although the buzz from LM’s presentation to a person this year was "I will never work for LM because you can’t criticize the CEO").
Booz Allen Hamilton was the Open Enterprise winner and discussed in-depth their tool deployment and their use of open source tools and low cost for deploying. This was quite a different perspective from Lockheed Martin’s deployment last year that was incredibly costly.
Open Source Tools as First Step
One thing that I have seen across the years, not only at Enterprise 2.0 but prior, is that many organizations start their social tool endeavors with open source tools. While I am a big proponent of open source tools, one has to be mindful of the disadvantages as well as the advantages (just like every other tool). Open source tools are a good first step to see how tools could be used in an organization, but many of the tools need extensive customization to scale and to meet the the user experience and social needs of those who are not an organization’s early adopters.
In my presentation last year "After Noah…" most of the downsides and lessons learned came from people deploying Scuttle as their social bookmarking tool. Scuttle is a decent tool for small deployments in-house that do not need to scale, but the management of the tools and the lack of intelligence in Scuttle that is needed to deliver solid knowledge and understanding around the organization are not in it. There are many elements in Scuttle that limit adoption, unless in a very tech savvy environment, and require moving to a real social bookmarking and tagging solution after six month or a year. Not only is adoption hindered, but easily surfacing information, knowledge, and intelligence captured in the tool is really difficult. Scuttle lacks the algorithms, social understanding, contextual engine, and user experience to be a long term (more than one year) solution for anything more than a small division.
The other open source tool that is widely deployed and equally as problematic as Scuttle is MediaWiki. I continually see MediaWiki deployed because it is “what is under Wikipedia”. While that is well and good to get started, MediaWiki falls into the same problems as Scuttle with adoption, scale, lack of the essentials, and missing intelligence engines. MediaWiki requires heavy modifications to work around these problems. One of the problems that is most problematic are those around human social interactions, which nearly every organization I talk with lacks in their resources as they development and design teams that build, implement, and incrementally improve their products.
Both of these tool types (social bookmarking and wikis) have great commercial products that provide much better overall adoption opportunities as well as have full-time staff who understand what is needed to get the most value out of what is contributed and how to include the difficult pieces around sociality, which greatly increase adoption and long term use.
More Than Just Tools
This year there was quite a bit of discussion at Enterprise 2.0 around tools are good, but there is much much more than just tools as as a solution. Adoption practices were discussed broadly, but some of the best snippets that echo my experience were in the video clips captured by and used by Stowe Boyd and Oliver Marks in their Open Enterprise session (the full collection of unedited video interviews are available at Enterprise 2.0 - Open Enterprise [http://enterprise2blog.com/category/open-enterprise-2009/]). One snippet that rang very true was from Charlene Li where she talked about a large hindrance to adoption was people lacking the understanding of what openness is in the enterprise and that it is a possibility. I often find most organizations need to have the conceptual model (understanding of what the tools are and freedom and control put in the people’s hands as well as it is their organization allowing them to do this) into people’s head is the first step and not talking "carrots and sticks", which often lead to less than optimal long term outcomes and often are counter productive.
It was great to hear other people discussing this in sessions as well as the hallway conversations. If this is of interest the full videos have been made available to the community to listen to and use as an open resource. Please go take advantage of it and use them to help get informed.
Gaps in Sociality
Much of my discussions with my clients and potential clients as well as my 13 years of experience building, maintaining, and improving social tools for use involves focusing on what holds back adoption and use of tools. There are four elements that need to be in balance: Tools, user experience (ease of use), sociality, and adoption/engagement resources. Much of that was discussed in sessions at Enterprise 2.0 this year was tools and adoption/engagement strategies (as just stated there were some large holes in adoption and engagement strategies). On the exhibit hall floor the vendors were touting their ease of use and user experience that is built into their products.
The big gap that was really weak was sociality. As those who have deployed tools and worked to improve them have found how people interact with other people in these digital social tools is a large area that needs addressing. This is one area that really needs to be addressed within the tools as the depth of understanding needed inside organizations to add this is rarely there. There is a large education effort needed to explain what all of this is, how to think about it, how to evaluate tools/solutions around it, how to assess existing deployments, and how to then improve them. When I have IT shops or developers in my workshops this is an area that is really not familiar to most of them. Some of the user experience designers have an understanding of the need, but lack the skills to get the back end development in place to feed the front end components. Most decision makers do not have this on their radar (unless they have had tools and services running for 6 months to a year and are looking for that next step up), but even when they do they only understand something there is broken and lack enough understanding to know how to understand the problems and then address it.
As I talked with people in the hallways and late at night and mentioned scenarios that are indicators of problems in tools around sociality, nearly everybody said yes we see a lot. To a person not one of them had thought of sociality as a problem or even knew of anybody who could help understand it and address it.
This is the next hurdle to start getting over. Hopefully next year and at this Fall’s Enterprise 2.0 in San Francisco, this will be subject matter that is covered so to highlight where the problems lay and how to start working with vendors and developers on ways to improve on what is there.
[If you are looking to get a grounding in this I am finally offering workshops on Social Design for Enterprise, which is described in more depth in the Rock Stars of Social CRM. The real stories, experience, value to organizations, tethering CRM and interaction in social tools not only was great from a showing the power of use of tools in a manner that had deep business value, but the stories of real use and lack of tools and services around optimized use of the tools. This session really should have been not only in the main tracks, but could have stood out enough to have been a main session. It added credibility and depth of understanding social tools from a business perspective in a manner that makes the usual social media discussions look incredibly thin. Radian6, Chris Brogan, Paul Greenberg, Brent Leary, Frank Eliason, and Michael Thomas (National President of the CRM Association) did a killer job with this session and totally rocked the house.
Lastly, tagging. While there was not tagging focussed session and tagging has become the sleeping giant (nearly every social software consultant with deep background asked why there was not a session on tagging as they are finding it is one of the most valuable resources in their tool belt for driving value to their customers). Connectbeam and Lotus Connections Dogear were on the Exhibition floor and were getting attention, I heard nearly every other vendor touting they have tagging in their offerings. This is a good thing and something that is also problematic.
About four years ago I prognosticated tagging would be in most tools, but that reality was going to be problematic unless tagging was done well (at a minimum object being tagged, tag, and cross tool identity of the person tagging). Well this last year I had one large client hit that problem and since I have heard of it five or six more times. While some commercial tools have done tagging well most home grown or open source solutions (see the WikiMedia mention above) do not.
My presentation from last year is even more relevant this year and there is a dire need for aggregation and disambiguation across tagging in various tools. At the Enterprise 2.0 conference I heard this echoed many times when I started asking about tagging in deployments. There is much more to write on this and to share (yes the book is still coming and much of this will be addressed there as well as in future posts).
Enterprise 2.0 has become my favorite conference as the problems I have been seeing for years and working on resolutions are echoed here. The reality of Web 2.0 and social interaction hits home here, particularly the lack of depth and problems in the Web 2.0 tools (which also need to be addressed, but with millions of users it looks like success not a really small percentage of adoption).
I am looking forward to next year as well as the Enterprise 2.0 San Francisco conference in the Fall.