Sunday, April 22, 2007

Using Web 2.0 in the Enterprise today...

On Wednesday at the OReillly's Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco, I joined Ross Mayfield, Joe Schueller and Michael Lenz at a panel titled Web 2.0 for the Enterprise: What Corporations Really Want and Use.

It was an interesting discussion, reported on by InfoWorld and InternetNews, and the questions indicated how much companies are hungry for practical guidance on adopting these modern tools within workplaces that might be, well, resistant.

When we were discussing the propensity of people to purchase wiki software with their credit card to begin collaborating without corporate approval, it was widely hailed as positive. The question is, how do you strike a balance? Ross, of course, didn't mind the credit card purchases. Michael, on the other hand, said he wanted to encourage people to use new tools, but instead of charge their credit card, it would be better to put it towards a common pool so IT could fund the right solutions to the problem.

That seems to put us back where we started, doesn't it?

When we were discussing Ensemble with an IT executive recently, he was intrigued, saying that he loved it at the same time they hated it. He desperately needed to wrap his arms around all of the rogue web applications in his enterprise without changing the way his people worked, and he was thrilled that it could do just that. After all, the minute you try to control people, they will find another way using consumer tools. But he worried about the air of legitimacy Ensemble would give these tools. In other words, while he was very pro-wiki, there were other rogue efforts he was trying to constrain, and having Ensemble made it harder to argue against them. After all, they were safe now, weren't they?

I say let your employees do what makes them productive, just give yourself the tools to govern and manage it. In other words, don't prevent people from misbehaving, but make sure that they are accountable when they do misbehave. Because in general, people surprise us in positive ways, especially when we do what we can to make their jobs more fun, or at least... less frustrating.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Have will, find way

In a recent study by McKinsey it seems that Web 2.0 adoption is being thwarted by nervous executives who fear two things:

  • IT ceding control
  • Disruption of the "knowledge economy"
  • IT ceding control...

    This thorough study found that 33% of executives invest in wikis, 32% invest in blogs, while just 21% invest in "mash-ups." First of all, those numbers are big. Secondly, often there is more deployed than management thinks: almost no executive knows which wikis are out there. When we did a research roadshow in 2005 we asked companies how many unmanaged web applications were in their enterprise. Typically, people said they had very few. Then, we went through category after category (including wikis) and found that the average company had around 100 unmanaged web apps.

    The article notes:

    Jacques Bughin: "The reason why blogs and wikis, in particular, aren't well used is that companies are still afraid," he posits. "How do you basically regulate how to contribute?" He also thinks the wisdom of crowds isn't always sharp and that companies are worried about getting bad information on a collaborative document, such as a wiki.

    The basics of these problems have been solved in a lot of wiki platforms (import your users from LDAP, use security, etc.). The remainder of the control problems are solved by Ensemble. As for getting bad information out of a collaborative document, it all comes back to traceability. If you know who edited what, when, using a page version history as well as a component version history you can easily solve this problem (Pages).

    Disruption of the "knowledge economy"...

    The conceit here is that since people are valued for their knowledge, recording their knowledge in a wiki threatens their status, so they won't contribute. Solution: celebrate the contributers, and let the others leave the company. Successful organizations of the future will be transparent, the idea people will be celebrated, and the knowledge hoarders will simply have no place. The first step? Put together the right feedback mechanisms to determine who is really valuable (in terms of contributing knowledge) in your organization. Yes, maybe this is a plug for Pathways.

    Monday, April 9, 2007

    Widget insertion, oh yeah...

    Tech Crunch posted an article today on Widget Publishing, noting "Getting a widget onto a website, whether its a blog or a MySpace page or anything else, is a bit of a pain." And the "pain" is having to copy a snippet of javascript onto your web page. The solution discussed is a way to email widgets around to make the process easier.

    Okay, that might constitute pain on the web, but that is
    in the enterprise. In the enterprise, as we know, widget insertion generally requires cracking open an IDE.

    The exciting thing is the explosion of activity for Web widgets. Widgets aren't new. Anyone who ever played with Microsoft's 1997 foray into Active Desktop will find this area familiar. But with this secondary explosion comes evolving standards, such as W3C's Widget working draft, as well as evolving technologies, such as ATOM and RSS.

    Ensemble brings the web ease into the enterprise. Just as you copy and paste widgets into your blog, now you can do it into any enterprise web site, replete with security and governance.

    Next year you will be able to consume everything in your enterprise as if it is RSS and GData, in a way that makes IT calm and encouraging. I just hope they don't start clogging my email...

    Monday, April 2, 2007

    Tag Clouds coming out of my ears...


    So Pathways has another tag cloud, big deal. I have tag clouds all over the place, its a nice metaphor. I might be able to find an enterprise document quicker with an enterprise tag cloud, but it isn't that exciting... until, maybe, you constrain it.

    The tag clouds you use on the web tend to be public. That makes sense since most of the web is public. But not the web in your enterprise.

    Pathways takes a novel approach to the tag cloud in adding the concepts of context, security, and views. Context means that as you click on tags they are additive, and your tag cloud shifts as you drill deeper. Security means you can only see tags on documents you have access too. Both of these are cool (and make the engine driving the tag cloud pretty complicated), but I want to spend a moment on Views. Views are really cool.

    A View allows you to see the tag cloud as applied by a certain group of users. In other words, it gives you a perspective from a group of people. This can be very powerful, since it can show me how Developers view material I'm interested in as opposed to Sales people (yes, different types of people...)

    Let me take a case in point. I was just looking for some CSS styleguide stuff internally. It just so happens that my company has a ton of documentation on a Core Security Service, handily abbreviated CSS. So all this irrelevant (to me) stuff came back. I switched my view to the UI teams, and I quickly found the documents I wanted. (And then I found the people I wanted, through the Experts functionality... how circular!)

    Your organization is filled with intelligence, we just haven't had the tools to expose it in simple ways. The first release will just be the beginning, but I'm looking forward to answering questions like... which product managers are most influential with sales? Which salespeople understand the products the best? Let them work and have your systems figure it out...