Enterprise 2.0: Some Thoughts on Vendors

This post follows from the previous, which discussed strategic and ad-hoc adoption of E2. It will map vendors on to that discussion, in a couple of ways.

First, I want to map four specific vendors on the continuum of E2 adoption, anchored at one end by a purely strategic, top-down approach and at the other by a purely ad-hoc, bottom-up approach. I found myself writing down beside that continuum the following four vendors. I’ll list them in descending order of fit with the strategic approach, and hence in ascending order to fit with the ad-hoc approach.

  1. IBM. I still think of IBM as the enterprise IT vendor that gets in well with top management. That thought may of course be a sign of my age, or of IBM’s.
  2. Acquia. Drupal is ready to go… built-in functionality, combined with… add-on modules, will enable features such as content management, blogs, wiki collaborative authoring, tagging, picture galleries… Already, “Drupal powers sites including the homepages of Warner Brothers Records, The New York Observer, Fast Company, Popular Science, and Amnesty International and project sites by SonyBMG, Forbes, Harvard University…”
  3. Six Apart. 6A provides the best illustration of something that’s true for all vendors: a vendor isn’t a single point in the continuum. Movable Type is further toward the strategic end then TypePad.
  4. Automattic. WordPress requires three easy steps below to start blogging in minutes. Automattic’s projects emphasize the same ease of use and speed.

In case it’s not already obvious, I should point out that the above is a simplification and a starting point. Since first jotting it down, I’ve had conversations (with myself and others) about how to capture the richness of what various vendors offer without obscuring the basic continuum too much. But, having shared the starting point with you, I have another way to look from the strategic/ad-hoc perspective toward vendors.

The starting point for this second half of the post is the claim that some large organizations are in an ad-hoc E2 stage, and are embarking on strategic E2. Such organizations may well decide that their strategy should be based on the lessons and successes of existing ad-hoc E2 efforts. Yes, I am implying that grand strategy is not necessarily better than ad-hocery and tactics, and may often have much to learn from them.

An important challenge, then, is that of managing the diversity of E2 approaches and heterogeneity of tools already present in the organization. One aspect of this is realizing that the organization already has web-based social networks, and deriving from them the social graph.

Did someone say social graph? Brad Fitzpatrick and David Recordon did, and their
Thoughts on the Social Graph aroused much discussion. Their thoughts are couched more in consumer than in enterprise terms.

However, social graph for the enterprise looks like a fascinating arena. The most obvious contender is this arena is, duh, Google, which already has a Social Graph API, on which Brad is currently working.

UK-based Trampoline Systems may also turn out to be a contender. If I were doing E2 strategy for a corporation, and realized that there was a lot of E2 already in that corporation, I’d definitely want to take a look at SONAR Flightdeck, at the server that powers it, and at the API for said server.

I’ve mentioned only half a dozen of the many E2 vendors. That’s fine, by me at least. This post is meant to sketch out ideas, and illustrate them with vendors, rather than to provide detailed comparisons of many vendors. It’s also meant to start discussion…

Social Networks Online at Economist

The Economist‘s recent article on social networks is worth a read. It draws many connections between social networking and email.

If you suspect that there will be little in the article that you haven’t seen elsewhere before, you’re probably right. But an article that brings things together, makes good points, and makes them well is a pleasure to read, and may be a good introduction for people wondering what the fuss is about. Talking of making points well, here’s one about how deals such as Microsoft/Hotmail and AOL/Bebo are sometimes viewed.

The correct half is that a next big thing—web-mail then, social networking now—can indeed quickly become something that consumers expect from their favourite web portal. The non sequitur is to assume that the new service will be a revenue-generating business in its own right.

Social Charlene, Social Cisco

Charlene Li laments “the proliferation of niche social networks” and contrasts it with the reality of a single social graph. She hopes that the Data Portability cavalry will rescue us, and so do I.

Talking of niche social networks, Cisco has just revealed its plans to enable firms to create yet more of them. The firms can then monitor interactions within the networks. It sounds a little bit like spying, but it’s really just market research, wrote Mashable Kristen, thus providing one of the best lines on business 2.0 I’ve ever read.

So Cisco, like Amazon, is part of the proliferation problem. I wondered earlier if Amazon will be part of the solution. Today, I have the same question about Cisco. In particular, I wonder if they will support the Data Portability Workgroup (DPW).

Facebook, Friendship, and the Social Graph

According to Cory Doctorow, Facebook is no paragon of virtue, but there’s no need to worry about it achieving critical mass and threatening the web itself as a platform. His reasoning is based on a central component of Facebook, and of every other social network: the friends list.

It’s socially awkward to refuse to add someone to your friends list — but removing someone from your friend-list is practically a declaration of war. The least-awkward way to get back to a friends list with nothing but friends on it is to reboot: create a new identity on a new system and send out some invites (of course, chances are at least one of those invites will go to someone who’ll groan and wonder why we’re dumb enough to think that we’re pals).

That reminded me of the problem statement in Brad Fitz’s Thoughts on the Social Graph.

What I mean by “social graph” is a the global mapping of everybody and how they’re related… Unfortunately, there doesn’t exist a single social graph (or even multiple which interoperate) that’s comprehensive and decentralized. Rather, there exists hundreds of disperse social graphs, most of dubious quality and many of them walled gardens.

If you want to be able to reboot in the way that Cory describes, this is less of a problem than a blessing, less a bug than a feature, providing as it does a set of refuges from friendship requests. While those working on the social graph problem will see the need for such refuges, and will define the tools to build them, I’m not sure that J. Random Networker wants to learn how to wield such tools.

Email is Social!

Stop the presses at the NY Times! Or at least read the rather good post by Saul Hansell at the NYT’s BITS blog.

Google and Yahoo have come up with new and very similar plans to respond to the challenge from MySpace and Facebook: They hope to turn their e-mail systems and personalized home page services (iGoogle and MyYahoo) into social networks.

Web-based e-mail systems already contain much of what Facebook calls the social graph — the connections between people.

Let’s talk about Yahoo first. Fred Wilson estimates that Yahoo Mail, with 250 million users, is the largest social graph on the planet. But Yahoo’s plans to use this graph make Michael Arrington sad.

Yahoo’s Brad Garlinghouse is talking about creating yet-another-social-network around Yahoo mail… He says the project is called “Inbox 2.0″ internally… It makes me sad because it is absurd for Yahoo to keep launching new social networking products, almost monthly, without what appears to be any sort of high level strategic vision…

I mean, I follow these products for a living, and I can’t keep their strategies straight. Or even figure out if there is a strategy. If Inbox 2.0 is part of Yahoo’s big vision for the future, then tell us more than the bits about the news feed and profile pages. Tell us how it can change the entire company, as OpenSocial appears poised to do with Google.

I have to agree with Michael that a more coherent message is coming from Google. Recognizing Gmail as a social graph fits very well into OpenSocial. For much the same reason, I disagree with Saul when he opens his post with the advice that we ignore OpenSocial.

Other remarks from “usual suspect” blogs include: it’s about time that Yahoo and Google unlocked the social potential of their email user bases; what’s really at issue here are two concepts that Hansell… didn’t name explicitly… RSS and Attention Data; it would make more sense to focus on start pages than on email.

Then there are many good contributions to the conversation in the comments to Saul’s post, and to the other posts referenced above… But this post has gone on long enough already.

Social Graph: Words and Pictures

Among those who dislike the term social graph is Josh Catone (at RWW). Among those who seem to like the term is Brad Fitzpatrick.

Personally, I find the term a lot less ugly than the image Brad used to illustrate his thoughts on graphing. So I was pleased to see Josh including in his post an image less ugly and more appropriate to illustrate this social stuff. I like the image so much that I swiped it. I like its name more than Josh probably does; the file is social-graph.jpg.