Micro-chunking Software: Tibco and Zoho CEOs Sing the Same Song (Just from Different Notes)

puzzle This should probably be a Tweet, but I am not smart enough to squeeze it into 140 characters – perhaps Tumblr or Posterous notes?  Anyway, I am in a rambling mood – but I’ll keep it short, just pointing to stuff I read.  After all, there’s a reason why my personal blog has the tagline Connecting the dots. 🙂

The death knell is ringing for Customer Relationship Management (CRM) packages, according to Vivek Ranadivé, Tibco’s chairman and CEO.

“The enterprise 2.0 world we live in today is transaction based, but we are now entering an era where events will replace transactions. We will move from this world where we continually have to ask questions and seek information into one where the information will seek you.”

The technical enabler is the reduction of costs for solid-state memory and the arrival of larger multi-core processors – the result is software that reacts  to what we’re doing at any moment in time, instead of us pulling up big monolithic applications.

The other “dot” I’m connecting this to is a blog post by Zoho CEO Sridhar Vembu:

One of the architectural themes that is driving our evolution is the focus on the user’s context and workflow and avoiding the context switch as much as possible. Context switching is expensive. It destroys the flow and rhythm of a users, and is a real productivity killer,  as I discussed with Larry Dignan of ZDNet last week…

…the boundary between apps tends to dissolve, as data flows contextually across apps. Apps move to the background, data and context start to dominate. In the cloud world, data is not the slave of any particular application, but flows to whichever context that needs it.

My take: CRM?  I don’t even know what it means anymore… just ask Paul Greenberg about the ever expanding definition of Social CRM. It’s certainly not just one application.  Same for ERP.  Or Office, for that matter.

Applications will go away.  Instead, we’ll have functions.  Functions that sense what we are doing and offer up the right options – based on both data and perhaps our own activity profile (example: looking at a table – some might process it with a spreadsheet, others prefer a database or word processor).  Or just self-acting agents.  Micro-chunked functions served up software. I first discussed the concept two years ago.

Now, isn’t this in sharp contrast to what I said about Application Suites?  No: first of all, that was a market-reality based view vs. visioning here. Second, it’s Suites are not necessarily monolithic giants, it’s about the integration of apps, bringing the right micro-functions available to the user at the right time in the right context, no matter what the “App” is called, and doing it all in a unified UI environment.  Read more on the componentization of software here.

Wow.  This is definitely not Twitter-sized. 🙂

(Disclosure: Zoho is CloudAve’s exclusive Sponsor)

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve)


Dachis Acquisition Machine Reaches the 2.0 Adoption Council

20-adoption-council Emerging Enterprise 2.0 Consultancy the Dachis Group has just acquired The 2.0 Adoption Council.

I have mixed feelings about the deal. On one hand I am happy for Susan Scrupski, fellow Enterprise Irregular and E2.0 evangelist / thought leader.

On the other hand I would have preferred to see the Council remain independent – I’ve always thought this independent, peer-to-peer nature was part of the attraction for members, and that the formula worked especially well without a heavy-weight “owner” – Susan’s role, while trying to build a for-pofit business was more a facilitator in a self-driven peer-to-peer group.

But I guess business is business, and Susan likely had good financial reasons to join Dachis.  And for being “Social Business” experts I assume Dachis will have the smarts to find a formula that will allow Susan to enjoy more than usual autonomy, and the Council to remain independent – however difficult it may be.

The Enterprise Irregulars group is abuzz with talk of the deal – incidentally this is the third Dachis acquisition affecting one of our members.  Ramana Rao hit the nail on its head:

Just sayin’ in a 2nd beer sorta way, are we now Razorfishing Social Enterprise?

Spot on! I’ve always considered the Dachis Group  (and previously nGenera)  a classical roll-up business.  This is the third generation I’m witnessing, having seen firms emerge and hit $$$ big time in the 90’s ERP era, then the Internet era, and now it’s time for Social Enterprise.  (And I suppose some players have  learned the lesson of getting out earlier this time…)

Not that there’s anything wrong with it, it’s just business – and in the meantime Dachis clearly has the best names now.

And now all eyes focus on Toronto 🙂

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve)


Competitors Rush to bring the Latest Timesinks to the Enterprise

It’s nice to see competitors come together to bring the most popular timesinks productivity boosters to the Enterprise.

We’ve long been predicting Foursquare would soon hit the Enterprise, and no the wait is over, with Atlassian releasing Fourwalls.


There’s a lot we can learn from this app – otherwise how would I know that @barconati spends way too much time in the kitchen? (unless he is cooking a new Confluence soup).

Let’s not forget competition – how could archrival Socialtext leave this field to Atlassian?  No way… and there they are, releasing Chatroulette for the Enterprise.

A true revolution in Randomized Productivity Management (RPM) 🙂

(Cross-posted @ CloudAve )


SocialText Becomes Really Social

Socialtext, the enterprise wiki company is no more… a wiki company, that is.  Not since Socialtext 3.0, the new release announced today.   Founder and Chairman Ross Mayfield calls his new baby a Connected Collaboration Platform, that’s modular, built on a widget framework, and consists of:

A fourth piece, Socialtext Signals is in the works, in private beta testing – I guess we could call it Twitter (Yammer?  ESME?) for the Enterprise.  Actually more, since it involves active microblogging – quick messages – as well as pulling in what users do elsewhere (FriendFeed?)

The platform is flexible, easy to customize via widgets, clearly the vision is that in an enterprise environment actionable information is pulled in from the transactional systems, too – i.e. ERP, CRM.

Knowing Ross as the uber-social guy something tells me this is what he always wanted to to: create Social Software.  But I tend to agree with Jevon MacDonald, who differentiates social software from the wiki, which is primarily a collaboration tool.  So Ross was really in the collaboration business and given his name became synonymous with wiki evangelism, he will no doubt have a hard time changing that image. smile_wink

This is not to say the wiki part, should be neglected… It is the primary collaboration facility for anything not well handled by process-driven, transactional systems, and all this social layer is just the glue that holds it all together.  (Hint: you will hear a lot more about Glue soon).

I had in the past been quite critical of Socialtext’s wiki component, and am looking forward to revisit it, as part of our wiki-series in the coming weeks @ CloudAve.  In the meantime, enjoy this video:


Beating Social Media’s 90:9:1 Rule in the Enterprise

The 80/20 rule is out (so last century), 90:9:1 is in: the rule of participation in public communities, social networks, wikis:

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute).
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time.
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs.

90:9:1 is a pretty good fit for most public wikis, starting with Wikipedia. Ben Gardner observed very different numbers: 50:25:x (he does not specify “x”). The interesting number here is 25, or it’s relationship to 50, meaning:

When the same question was asked about our corporate wiki ~50% of those present had used it but about ~50% of those had edited it.

Active participation in a corporate environment is much higher than in the public domain – this is not really a surprise, since the corporate wiki is used by people of real identities and reputations, and most importantly, shared objectives. This is also why Prof. Andrew McAfee hasn’t seen vandalism – a plague of public wikis – in the corporate world at all.

I suspect that 25% can go a lot higher, depending on the purpose of the wiki. When after the initial “grassroots movement” management fully embraces the wiki not as an optional, after-the-fact knowledge-sharing tool, but the primary facility to conduct work, it becomes the fabric of everyday business, where people create, collaborate, and in the process capture information. When the wiki is the primary work / collaboration platform, participation is no longer optional. Not when the answer to almost any question is “it’s on the wiki.” smile_wink

My earlier posts on this subject:

(hat tip: Stewart Mader)


Romulan Attack Because of Microsoft Office

The Romulans attack the Federation for they can’t read the Peace Treaty sent to them in Word 2307 format… they only have Word 2303. A hilarious cartoon by Geek and Poke. Joke? Perhaps … or not.

Yesterday I attended a (so-called) Enterprise 3.0 event hosted by the MIT Club of Northern California. So-called, as nobody really used the term, other than the moderator, Sramana Mitra. The panelists politely put the title on their slides, and then distanced themselves from the concept, Google’s Jonathan Rochelle being most outspoken: “we did not even get to Enterprise 2.0, why 3.0 now?” (Update: read JR’s follow-up post).

That said, it was an interesting event, clearly focused on Software as a Service (SaaS). 3 of the 4 presenters came with PowerPoint decks – kudos to Microsoft’s Cliff Reeves who only had 1 slide. In the spirit of eating one’s own dogfood JR’s “presentation” was a public Google Spreadsheet.

Next came Captain Picard Sramana: her slides suffered the same faith the Federation’s Peace Treaty did: they were created in a different version, and could not be opened on the presenters’s laptop. Host Nicolas Saint-Arnaud made a heroic effort trying to download a converter, but failed, so Sramana could not show her presentation. This happened in a room discussing SaaS where at least two (well, one and a half) online presentation tools were represented: Google’s future presentation app by Jonathan, and the existing Zoho Show by Sridhar. With a Web 2.0 tool, there s no dependency on having the correct software version on your machine, there are no updates, patches (in fact there are, managed behind-the-scenes by the service provider) – your slides (data) are instantly available anywhere, anytime.

I somewhat wonder if this was an intentional ploy on Sramana’s behalf: after all we can talk all we want about the benefits of working on the Web, nothing delivers a punchline as forcefully as a publicly failed download/patch… or the Romulan nukes, for that matter. (Will they still use nukes in the 24th Century?)

(Side-note to anyone delivering presentations: don’t ever try to download and apply an upgrade publicly, on a projection screen. Murphy’s Law will apply)

Update: See Sramana’s Nuggets from the event, including the slides. She says it was not a ploy… (but I may just have given her an idea 😉 )


Enterprise 3.0: Where Is It Headed? – Interesting Panel with the Wrong Title

I’m not a big fan of the whole 2.0 /3.0 theme, but I have to accept the fact that Web 2.0 and related concepts have become commonplace, everyday terms that today we’re taking for granted. Enterprise 2.0, on the other hand is far more debated. Definitions range from loosely saying “Web 2.0 tools in the Enterprise” through Harvard Prof Andrew McAfee’s “Use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers” to MR Rangaswami’s much broader synergy of a new set of technologies , development models and delivery methods that are used to develop business software and deliver it to users.” Then we have a set of attempts to simply “get to the point”, without long academic debate, like lightweight software, or Meet Charlie, a simple yet effective slideshow that personalizes the story.

One thing there is agreement about is that there is no agreement – in terms of a definition, that is… but that does not prevent us from attending conferences like Enterprise 2.0 or Office 2.0, and more importantly, businesses from embracing Enterprise 2.0 to varying degrees. It is happening, whether we have a “final” definition or not.

However, I really don’t think we’re ready for Enterprise 3.0 – not now, not ever. There are quite a few articles on the subject, but they all come from the same author, Sramana Mitra (except for two old ZDNet articles quoting Shai Agassi and JP Rangaswami). Sramana has certainly “cornered” the market – except there really is no “market” if she’s the only one using the term. Her definition: Enterprise 3.0 = SaaS + EE. What’s EE? Extended Enterprise:

The modern enterprise is no longer one, monolithic organization. Customers, Partners, Suppliers, Outsourcers, Distributors, Resellers, … all kinds of entities extend and expand the boundaries of the enterprise, and make “collaboration” and “sharing” important.

Let’s take some examples. The Salesforce needs to share leads with distributors and resellers. The Product Design team needs to share CAD files with parts suppliers. Customers and Vendors need to share workspace often. Consultants, Contractors, Outsourcers often need to seamlessly participate in the workflow of a project, share files, upload information. All this, across a secure, seamlessly authenticated system.

Sounds familiar? Of course, back in the 90’s this is what we called (Extended) Supply Chain. I’m not sure we need to create another label just yet. But if and when something is so significant that it deserves a new name, let’s get a bit more creative … I’m with fellow Enterprise Irregular Thomas Otter, who humorously ranted:

  • The car isn’t called horse 2.0.
  • The lightbulb isn’t called candle 2.0
  • Fax (Facsimile) isn’t called letter 2.0

If we are so innovative in the 21st century, the least we can do is to think of some new terms that inspire. Think ROBOT, Television, Velcro, Radio, even scuba (Self-Contained Underwater-Breathing Apparatus) … If this stuff is really that innovative then it deserves a proper word.

Back to Sramana and “Enterprise 3.0”: next week she will be moderating a panel discussion of the MIT Club of Northern California, with the ambitious title: Enterprise 3.0: Where Is It Headed?. Excerpt from the event description:

Collaboration, wikis, blogs and social networking are new tools igniting the enterprise market. Service based models are emerging as alternates to desktop software and enterprise servers. In March 2007, Cisco acquired WebEx for $3.2 billion, stepping in with a splash in the enterprise collaboration space. Meanwhile, Google has assembled a whole suite of word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet tools and just acquired Postini, an email management company. Microsoft has been adding collaboration and knowledge management capabilities to its Windows Platform and just announced plans to offer Web-based versions of its applications. Then, there are exciting startups that are offering alternatives.

This panel will explore the impact of Web 2.0 on the prosumer i.e. the individual user in the enterprise and the evolution and integration of office tools, communication and collaboration technologies.

Sounds vintage Enterprise 2.0, if you ask me.smile_wink That said, I think it’s an exciting subject, and they will certainly have a first-rate panel:

  • Tom Cole, General Partner, Trinity Ventures
  • Cliff Reeves, GM, Emerging Business Unit Team, Microsoft
  • Jonathan Rochelle, Product Manager, Google Docs and Spreadsheets
  • Sridhar Vembu, Founder, CEO, Zoho / Adventnet last minute change: the event site now lists Tim Harvey, VP Planning, Webex, Cisco Systems instead of Sridhar Vembu.

Whatever we call it, I plan to be there. If you are reading this blog, chances are you’re also interested in these subjects, so if you happen to be in the Bay Area Wednesday evening, perhaps I’ll see you there. Here’s the registration page. (Warning: the form is way too long, asking for way too much information – vintage 1.0 stylesmile_omg)

Additional reading: Open Gardens, Portals and KM, Anne Zelenka, Luis Suarez, the FASTForward Blog, Read/WriteWeb, Chris Pirillo, Fake Steve Jobs smile_tongue , just to name a few…

Update (8/21): as much as I hate this 2.0-3.0 labeling, I like Don Dodge’s new formula: Web 2.0 = web app + 2 founders + 0 revenue


Socialtext 2.0: Usability vs. Usefulness

Socialtext recently announced version 2.0 of it’s enterprise wiki. The two big news are a completely revamped user interface, aiming to make Socialtext a lot easier to use, and the publication of the REST APIs to support integration and mashup development. For more information watch this screencast by CEO Ross Mayfield, and see this review at TechCrunch.

The revamped UI is a huge deal, and it’s been long overdue. For some background check out Jeff Nolan on the “UI sucks” issue. One may agree or disagree, but as long as there are reviews like this:

I have tried on at least four separate occasions to use and like Socialtext but I can’t…I just can’t use this application.” – well, you definitely know you have a problem.

Interestingly enough Socialtext, the company realizes how important ease of use is, and they are contributing resources to bringing WYSIWYG Wikiwyg editing to Wikipedia. But let’s focus on Socialtext, the product for now.

The new UI is aesthetically pleasing, has nice colors (somewhat reminds me of JotSpot’s blue), but most importantly it’s clean, simple, in short it passes the “blink test“.

thumbs_up The Home Page is of key importance in the new release: a Dashboard gives users a quick glance of a shared whiteboard, personal notepad, customizable watchlist, a listing of what’s new (i.e. recently changed pages) as well as the users active workspaces (i.e. wikis). The Home page has become the central place where you can access all extended features, like a listing of all pages, files, tags, or change settings. You can start adding information using the New Page button, which, just like the Edit and Comment buttons on all subsequent pages clearly stands out, again, passing the “blink test”. I love the new colored side-boxes for tags, inbound links and attachments.

I can’t emphasize enough how important inbound links (backlinks in the previous releases) are – a wiki is all about associating pieces of information with each other, and the inbound link shows you where the information on the current page is used elsewhere. In wiki systems without this feature on would manually have to create them, a task most often forgotten (as it does not fit the natural flow of creating new pages), thus those systems don’t offer the full potential of a wiki. I can’t for the life of me understand why inbound links haven’t yet made it into the standard feature-set in JotSpot 2.0, when it’s been long (for more than a year) available as a downloadable plugin on the Jot Development wiki – but how many users search the development wiki? In contrast, Atlassian’s Confluence has long supported incoming links.

We know from Ross and others that in creating the new design the primary objective was to increase ease of use, and in doing so Socialtext conducted customer usability studies. The number one customer request was to reduce clutter, which was quite abundant in Socialtext 1.x. They certainly achieved this objective – perhaps too much. Playing around with the beta I run into trouble trying to create a page from an already existing page – I simply did not find the New Page button. “This is something too obvious to be a bug”, I thought, and Ross proved me right: It’s all part of “getting rid of the clutter” and doing what customers had requested.

Socialtext believes this helps eliminate a frequent problem: the existence of orphan pages in wikis. (Orphan pages are valid, existing pages that no inbound hyperlinks point to; thus it’s difficult to find them, other than by searching or listing all pages).

I am not sure binding users to the Home page is a good idea (it’s not just the “new page”button, all other extended features/tools are anchored here). To me the natural flow is typically top-down: one would create a subpage from the parent where the summary level thought flows, thus creating a parent-child relationship. In a business wiki, where after a while you’ll end up having a large number of pages, the further away you are from the right place (the parent), the more likely you will forget to create a link to the new page, thus may end up with a proliferation of orphan pages.

Interestingly enough, the most elegant solution to the orphan problem comes from two products at the opposite end of the spectrum: Wetpaint, the friendliest consumer/community focused wiki (actually a blend of wiki-forum-blog features) and Atlassian’s Confluence, the market-leading enterprise wiki. Other than the standard user-created links within the flow of text, these products also offer an automatic index of subpages along with each page. JotSpot‘s 2.0 release offers a less foolproof but reasonable solution: when you create a page by using the “new page” button, technically it becomes an orphan, however when you hit “save”, you’ll find yourself at the parent level where a quick alert pops up proposing to create a link to the child page you just set up.

There’s a fool-proof way of creating new pages that can’t become orphans: create a link before the page, and forget the “new page” button. While typing, wherever you want to branch out to a new page, insert a link to the page about to be created, typically by highlighting text and using the “link” icon, or in JotSpot you have the option of simply typing a WikiWord (also referred to as CamelCase), it becomes a link automatically. This “trick” creates a shell, essentially a placeholder for your new page: you can add content later, but since it’s already linked to, it can’t become orphan. All the wikis I’ve talked about allow this method, but Wetpaint and Confluence don’t really need it, since they provide navigation based on the auto-index of child pages. (Update [2/17/07]: I’ve just discivered a perfect existing term for what I am trying to epxlain here: LinkAsYouThink.)

Back to Socialtext, perhaps there is more to the new design than the desire to create a very simple, clutter-free user experience: the underlying philosophical difference between hierarchical structures, parent-child data relationship vs. everything being flat (created at the home page ) and only associated through links embedded in page text. But hierarchy, structure are not necessarily evil; only pre-existing ones are.

smile_wink We tend to think in structures, need organizing principles – there is a reason why books have a table of contents. Wikis, as unstructured as they are in “virgin state” are a good tool to create structure – our own one. The assumption of a parent-child relationship mimics our usual workflow, and it does not impose a rigid structure, since through through cross-linking we can still have alternate structures, no matter where we create a page.

Perhaps that’s the fundamental difference between Socialtext and the other wikis I’ve mentioned – which would explain why it doesn’t have breadcrumbs (navigational line at the top): this standard feature of all the other three products (Confluence, Wetpaint, Jot) does not really fit in Socialtext’s flat world.

My other issue about with Socialtext 2.0: I really would have expected to see document versioning by now: when you upload an attachment (typically doc, ppt or xls file), Jot and Confluence shows the current version, indicating the most recent version number and the user who changed the document last. Click for details, and you get all previous versions and details. Confluence even allows you to label every instance of the attachment with a comment. Socialtext simply lists all documents with the same title (or not), not recognizing them as version of the same file.


Finally, a minor gripe: it would be nice to see threaded commenting, like Wetpaint and Confluence does, allowing users to enter comments to a page itself or to a previous comment. Socialtext, just like Jot, only has a flat list of comments.

Summing up, the new Socialtext 2.0 Beta is really good-looking, but in my view limits functionality for (perceived) ease of use. That said, it’s a beta, and Ross conformed repeatedly that they are seriously evaluating test user comments and it’s possible that the final 2.0 release will have a better solution for the edit/navigation/orphan problem.


Last, but not least, let’s revisit document versioning. It’s very-very important. In my “prior life” where as corporate VP I introduced a wiki-based intranet to the company, we used it for document management first, before exploring more of the native wiki functions. But here’s the catch: document versioning in wikis solves a very old problem, but solves it on the bases on yesterday’s (OK, today’s ) technology. Even with proper versioning one has to download documents, locally update them, then upload them back up to the wiki. The process is a lot easier using Office 2.0 applications, be it an editor, spreadsheet or presentation. There is no uploading/downloading, all updates happen online, if need be by multiple users at the same time, and instead of attaching them, one would simply link to, say a Zoho Sheet or Presentation from the wiki.

My ‘dream setup’ for corporate collaboration: a wiki with an integrated Office 2.0 Suite. The next step will be the wiki integration with ‘traditional’ , transactional enterprise systems – that’s a little further away (although … reading this, who knows?

smile_wink ) I hope to discuss many of these concepts with my readers next week in San Francisco, at the Office 2.0 Conference.

Update (9/5): For more insight read Socialtext 2 Design.

Update (11/1): Usability review on InfoSpaces.