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Information R/evolution

Really cool video, if you’re reading this in a feed, it’s worth clicking through. I bet it will be on TechMeme soon.

hat tip: Dave Fleet

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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 😉 )

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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

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Web 2.0 & Enterprise, Round 3: Enterprise Software for Small Businesses

(Updated)

This post is a continuation of Web 2.0 in the Enterprise – Round 2 in which I reflected on some thoughts brought up by Stephen Bryant in Five Reasons Web 2.0 and Enterprises Don’t Mix.

The Web 2.0 in the Enterprise TIE event I previously referred to was hectic, trying to cover way too many subjects in 90 minutes, with one common underlying assumption: Enterprise means large corporations. The theme of the night was how these Web 2.0 technologies and business/communication approaches will “seep in” to the large enterprise from the bottom up.
What is then Enterprise Software? Typically SAP, Oracle et al come to mind, and I can hear the roar “Enterprise Software is Dead” – well, is it?
If we define Enterprise Software as the traditional heavyweight, expensive, pay-huge-license-fees-upfront, then try-to-implement-forever model it is certainly challenged from two ends, by Open Source and the SaaS model. But there is another definition that is largely being overlooked:
Software that allows a company to conduct it’s everyday business, supporting most of the core, fairly standard business processes any company performs repeatedly.

With this definition, Enterprise Software has a whole new, largely unpenetrated market to enter: that of small businesses, referred to as the SMB or SME segment. Such enterprise functionality has traditionally been beyond reach for a typical small business, for two major reasons:

  • Cost (license, hardware, implementation, maintenance ..etc)
  • Lack of IT resources (integrating applications, designing processes, dealing with multiple vendors ..etc)

SaaS is the right answer for both, since it allows the SMB user to start using the functionality without an upfront investment, does not require implementation, upgrades, maintenance, worrying about backups and security ..etc.

Of course several Open Source packages are available completely free, which is a perfect solution for the cost problem, but I think most of these packages are by geeks for geeks; i.e. you really have to be quite IT-savy to implement, integrate, upgrade them, and as we stated most small businesses simply do not have that type of resource. Yes, that means the Silicon Valley tech-startups are not a true representation of the SMB world
Likewise, I don’t believe SOA, best-of-breed packages working together are an option for the SMB market, for the same reason. They will play an increasingly critical role in larger enterprises with a professional IT organization, but for a few more years SMB’s are far better off with integrated, All-In-One type On-Demand solutions.

Of the Web 2.0 companies Stephen mentions in Five Reasons Web 2.0 and Enterprises Don’t Mix two are offering Integrated On-Demand solutions:

  • NetSuite
    Stephen lists NetSuite along with Salesforce.com, and while they are in the same club, the significant difference is that Salesforce.com is only CRM, while NetSuite offers an integrated CRM+ERP package. They both are trying to become a “platform” via NetFlex and AppExchange, respectively. Both companies are definitely pushing upstream, going after the Enterprise market as in the first definition, i.e. large (or midsize) corporate customers.
  • 24SevenOffice
    Coming from Europe this company is lesser known. They focus on the SMB market and offer a modular but integrated system with a breath of functionality I simply haven’t seen elsewhere: Accounting, CRM (Contacts, Lead Mgt, SFA), ERP (Supply Chain, Orders, Products), Communication, Group Scheduling, HR, Project Management, Publishing, Intranet. Essentially a NetSuite+Communication, Collaboration. I’ve taken their test-drive (currently IE only) and liked it. I would debate how they structure their menu-system, as functions like Product, Inventory, SCM are all hidden under Financials.

Back to the economics: if SMB’s could not in the past afford Enterprise Software, the same held true for the Software Industry: they could not afford SMB’s, since there was just no way to make the numbers work. The cost of customer acquisition vs. the very low license fees made it an uneconomical model, whether via direct or channel sales.
Once again, technology comes to the rescue: the Internet, and largely Search Engine Marketing changes everything. Joe Kraus, Founder of JotSpot and previously Excite sums it up:
“ Ten years ago to reach the market, we had to do expensive distribution deals. We advertised on television and radio and print. We spent a crap-load of money. There’s an old adage in television advertising “I know half my money is wasted. Trouble is, I don’t know what half”. That was us. It’s an obvious statement to say that search engine marketing changes everything. But the real revolution is the ability to affordably reach small markets. You can know what works and what doesn’t. And, search not only allows niche marketing, it’s global popularity allows mass marketing as well (if you can buy enough keywords). “

Another benefit of SEM is that while traditional advertising can pick the right demographic groups, it cannot pick the right time, only a fraction of the target audience is in “change mode”, looking for a solution. That’s the beauty of Search Engine Marketing: obviously if you are searching, you have a problem and are looking for a solution, which is half a win from the vendor’s point of view.
Small Business Trends recently published a survey on “Selling to Small Businesses”, which supports the increasing importance of SEM: “A full 73% of vendors attract small business customers through search engine results”

Finally a quote from Ziff Davis again: “Products for the long tail and SMB market, where 72 million businesses spend $5k or less each year, are a much easier play” Wow, I don’t know where those numbers come from, but if I were a SMB-focused software vendor, I’d certainly like them … there’s a goldmine out there.

Update (2/22): Perfect timing for this report to come out just now: U.S. SMBs to Spend $2.2 Billion on Software in 2006, Says AMI-Partners

Update (4/17): Interprise Suite (recently debuted at Demo 2006) claims to be “The FIRST Accounting / ERP / CRM Solution to Bring the Power of the Internet to Small and Mid-sized Business“. While I take issue withe the claim to be “first”, considering the breadth of functionality it’s definitely an option to consider for SMB’s .

Related posts:


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The Authentic Web 2.0 Validator

Forget checklists, playing the Web Bingo … go to the one-and-only automated Web 2.0 authentication tool (hat tip: Vinnie Mirchandani).

Here’s the verdict on just how compliant some blogs are:

  • techcrunch 8 out of 17
  • crunchnotes 2 out of 18
  • businessweek/the_thread/blogspotting/ 5 out of 18
  • battellemedia/ 2 out of 17
  • dealarchitect.typepad 14 out of 20
  • micropersuasion/ 7 out of 14
  • blog.softtechvc/ 8 out of 19
  • bubble20.blogspot 4 out of 19
  • ross.typepad/ 4 out of 16
  • sapventures.typepad 5 out of 16
  • horsepigcow/ 10 out of 14
  • Minding the Planet 6 out of 20
  • zoliblog 6 out of 15

Oh, well, the Web 2.0 workgroup must be 100%, let’s see:

  • web20workgroup/ 7 out of 18

How about some applications?

  • zimbra 3 out of 15
  • zvents 5 out of 18
  • writely 1 out of 20
  • sphere 3 out of 18
  • meebo 0 out of 14
  • loomia 6 out of 19
  • Goowy 2 out of 17
  • flock 4 out of 18
  • TailRank 5 out of 19
  • sqlfusion 2 out of 18
  • 24sevenoffice 1 out of 17

Search Engines? Wow, look at who has the lead:

  • google 1 out of 18
  • yahoo 3 out of 17
  • msn 4 out of 20

Surprising results from the “Old World“:

  • sap 4 out of 17
  • oracle 2 out of 19
  • ibm 3 out of 16
  • walmart 2 out of 18
  • ge 3 out of 19

All right, for all of you not happy with your own score … do you have a suspicion? Confirm or clear it here.

Then, perhaps, buy the T-shirt here. (Charlie, I’m expecting a fat commission check…)

Update (11/16) : The Great Web 2.0 Joke List