Thursday, January 31, 2008

Xythos: Extending its Collaboration Efforts

In a recent news article Xythos announced its release of Xythos Enterprise Document Management and Digital Locker 7.0 Suites. Xythos is known for their collaboration software, but these new suites offer support for Web 2.0 features such as RSS feeds, content tagging, and Wikis.

We have seen major launches in enterprise social networking in this New Year, such as Moli and Plaxo Pulse, so it’s about time companies like Xythos offer a web based solution to support this trend. Joseph Cevetello, Director of Academic Technology at Loyola Marymount University comments:

"While it may be acceptable for to use Google or Facebook for casual collaboration or media exchange, we still want to manage the services employees use to conduct vital research or manage important business processes."

Sharing content within the Enterprise is essential for daily operations of a business. Not only does it allow for document collaboration through a common web interface, but it is cheaper than most ECM systems currently out there. Kevin Wiggen, CTO at Xythos mentions:

"With the new 7.0 product suites we wanted to make sure customers had the tools they needed to capture content at the point of collaboration, so that they could retain complete records of business processes and enhance knowledge sharing."

Finally companies are starting to embrace Web 2.0 capabilities in the enterprise, instead of trying to restrict it. Vendors still have a long way to go, but clearly Xythos seems to be on track…

Enterprise 2.0 and your workforce: Start offline

In a recent post by Scott Gavin, he discusses how to get your enterprise up and rolling along the Enterprise 2.0 front. After a lot of consulting with many companies, he decided you have to approach your employees in a form they already know. Here were his six suggestions on how to get your employees involved:

1. Give them business cards with tiny bits of information about what enterprise 2.0 is.
2. Print out signs that detail aspects of E 2.0 and place them in high traffic areas so employees begin to understand what it is.
3. Print out posters that give encouragement.
4. Start to pass out handouts that give guidelines on how to use the tools that your company is trying to adapt.
5. Bring experts into your workplace and have them give speeches and educate your staff.
6. Organize internal meetings such as “Lunch 2.0” when you can personally discuss with your staff what to do.

Now you have your employees interested. Keep them intrigued and by giving them more information. Your company is on the way to achieving Enterprise 2.0!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Moli: The next big step in social networking

A recent article in EWeek discusses the launch of the new social networking site, Moli.

Christos Cotsakos, who was the CEO of E*Trade for six years, developed Moli to fully adapt to a social network for everyone. Moli is targeting engineers, architects, scientist and filmmakers. Cotsakos is targeting people in the age range of 25 to 55.

The focus of the website is to have more control over the information that is shared with other members. One account can have multiple profiles, and they can be set on settings of public, private or hidden. This technology is possible because of CoVibe. According to the article, CoVibe:
CoVibe, crafted from the open-source LAMP stack, analyzes aggregate member data and triggers targeted behavioral marketing while protecting the member's personal information.
Future plans include upgrading the network so it can be used on mobile phones.

Do you think that this service will surpass Facebook? Does it have the ability to LinkedIn? I think that this program could surpass Facebook, only after challenging a market that is very overwhelmed by all the possibilities. Would you adapt to a new platform if it allowed you to have two different profiles for all your contacts?

Why Have One When You Can Have Them All!

Enterprise executives are constantly battling the question what social application should I keep? With so many business partners scattered across all of these applications, this can be a tough decision to make. Well, now there is a way to keep all social profiles while maintaining a constant watch eye.

Our recent post discusses Prologue’s new status update tool, but the last thing a business executive needs is another social network to add to the list. The latest post on Mashable highlights the newest feature of Plaxo Pulse, which is a two-way sync between status updates on Plaxo Pulse and Twitter.

Plaxo already serves as a social networking aggregator since it has access to all your favorite enterprise networking sites like Digg, Twitter, and Flickr just to name a few. Since the majority of industry executives are already on LinkedIn and Facebook, I would expect a similar sync to be released shortly. If Plaxo plays their cards right, it can go on to become “The Enterprise Networking Site”.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Blogs: Successful with Business Travelers

In a recent article in the New York Times, the popularity of business travel blogs is revealed. Some of the travel companies that have their own blogs are: Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Marriott International, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines. According to Jane Levere of the New York Times, these corporations have introduced blogs to promote both products and brand images.

Research has shown that 21% of all business travelers read blogs on the internet. This includes business blogs and others including finance, sports and others. These new blogs geared towards the business traveler provide many uses, from where to flu shots in airports to the best places to eat in a new city.

The overall theme of each blog started was that it allowed each company to connect with its customers.

One of the most popular blogs is written by J.W. Marriott JU, who is the chairman of Marriott International. He has a blog called “Marriott on the Move.” His blog has gotten 345,000 since it launched. He commented:

“I love it. I read an awful lot of responses we’re getting,” he said. “It gives us a chance to communicate with the world and a chance for people to communicate back.”

At Southwest, after starting their blog, they changed company policy about when customers could purchase their tickets. These blogs not only allow for readers to gain insight to what’s going on in the company, but also to allow the employees of the company to communicate. On many of these blogs listed above, the employees are the people who post. This allows them to share open communication as a team, and find out what the rest of their company is doing aside from their department. This level of communication allows companies to expand and grow as more collaboration takes place, both between the employees themselves and a business to customer perspective.

How has your corporate blog help expand your use of Enterprise 2.0? Does allowing customers to make comments on your current projects help your business expand?

Twitter Watch Out!

Matt Mullenweg’s new post introduces Automattic’s launch of Prologue, which is a Twitter style service for groups. Could this new platform give Twitter a run for its money?

In Prologue, users are able to input short messages about what they’re doing…sort of like the status portion on the Facebook application. What’s interesting though is the ability to subscribe to RSS feeds for the author, the prologues, and the tags itself. So why is all this important? Prologue’s service will allow users to connect to each other on a personal level.

Prologue is offering their template on an open source basis, whereas Twitter offers a centralized service. With these differences in hand it will be interesting to see how the newcomer Prologue will do against the established Twitter. After all, Twitter has already knocked out competitors like Jaiku…

So what does this mean for the Enterprise? Twitter in general has not been significantly used by enterprises, but these tools and features in Prologue give industry users a chance to determine what they truly find useful. And what will happen to corporate executives who rely heavily on their blackberries for one to one communication. How will social blog sites like Prologue and Twitter help businesses shape and improve on group communications?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Are you tired of the applications on Facebook?

A solution has finally come. In this post at ReadWrite Web, they point out a new application they’ve found so you can block all application requests except friends, groups and event notifications. At, after installing their application there will be more requests to join the vampire group or join the virtual cocktail party. Now your professional Facebook profile is one click closer.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Five Challenges to address right now for Enterprises

A recent post at Profy, they draw an analogy between the way the Marines are adapting to the new war in Iraq to the way enterprises must adapt to the fast changing ways of technology in the enterprise environment.

Companies must respond quickly to the way Web 2.0 is changing businesses. In this post, they outlined five ways to do so.

1) Outsourcing partnerships – Venders are now strategic partners who participate in where the enterprise is going. However, it is difficult to fluidly collaborate with other partners on a daily business.
2) Hyper-informed customers – Today, with access to the interest, information spreads at the speed of light. This combined with the fact that customers accept and absorb the information really fast, companies must acknowledge this. Companies must join the conversation on the internet or be left out.
3) True globalization -- Companies are world wide now, and the competition they find across the globe is sought by many companies through out the world. Adapting to international situations is key for a company to survive.
4) Communication and collaboration across distributed teams: A team must communicate openly and have the same vision for the company. All the tools we’ve been writing about, the Enterprise 2.0 tools, help this process. The promotion of collaboration and the ability to share it quickly are a great way to meet struggle #4.
5) The dominance of search: SEO. SEO must be a priority to any enterprise. Because in the eye of the buyer, if you aren’t on the first page of Google, you don’t exist.

These trends are here to say. Either a corporation must adapt to them now, or fall behind in the future.

What is you’re companies biggest weakness when it comes to these five challenges?

Mashups in the Air!

Finally, an application that will allow employees to populate a webpage with services that they feel are useful to the context to their jobs has arrived! The latest article on InformationWeek highlights the release of IBM’s Lotus Mashup Builder, which allows users to build their own mashups on a webpage and share it with the rest of the organization.

IBM has always been an innovator in introducing Web 2.0 tools in the Enterprise, but I think this application takes home the trophy. Employees can embed useful applications like a Google search bar, a Wikipedia page, or any other useful tool. The next step in this process is getting IT folks to understand the business value of mashups in order to include these webpages within a corporate profile. But that is another conversation in itself…

What else is great about this Mashup Builder is that it can track vital information such as who is building/sharing the mashups, the services that are being used, and a lot more. This will definitely show tech laggards that Web 2.0 is here to stay.

IBM seems to be the leader in the mashup biz for now, but I’m sure other giants will soon follow. I have a good feeling about this one…

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What do CEOs have to say about Facebook?

A recent post at ZD Net lists the reactions to twelve CEOs and their view point on Facebook.

Nicholas Bellenberg says he doesn’t see it as a business tool:

“It doesn't strike me as being a business tool. I am signed up to LinkedIn and Plaxo. LinkedIn seems to be used most by the people I know, and does seem to generate useful connections or re-connections. Plaxo doesn't seem to do much for me, apart from provide the promise that my contacts are backed up somewhere."

The ICT manager at European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Studies, Floretin Albu uses many social networking sites, and Facebook has the lowest scores:

"The most useful tool for me is by far LinkedIn. The only drawback is that it is largely US and UK oriented. My business is pan-European, and for the EU space I found Xing [ex- OpenBC] to be more effective and popular than LinkedIn. The drawback of Xing is that it is also somewhat less flexible than LinkedIn.”

Paul Hopkins, who is the director of ISS at the University of Newcastle, had a different spin on the subject:

"For all of us 'oldies', Facebook et al seem awkward and don't fit our way of working but I would urge IT managers to persevere--because this is the environment that your new employees will be expecting to use. I would urge people to look at the possibility of developing some simple Facebook apps for their customers, suppliers or staff to use."

Personally, I feel that it is risky to mix business with this application. Personal lives should not be judged when it comes to business work. The new generation of employees grew up with this application through out college, and has a different view of how it is to be used. We’ve asked many times before, but do you feel Facebook should be used in corporate settings?

We Need RSS

I could not survive a day in the enterprise without access to my RSS feeds, yet why do so many organizations still not know what it is, or restrict access to it? The latest post in Adventures in Knowledge discusses how companies still do not see the business value in RSS.

Truth of the matter is that RSS feeds simplify our means of communication and learning. Not only can I subscribe to my boss’s feed to know exactly what’s on his mind on a project, but I can subscribe to thousands of blogs that will keep me in the know and further enrich my understanding on the subject matter. Web 2.0 tools like RSS can help make the enterprise a smaller place, helping to connect people all over the world. Let us take a step towards that path and start reaping the benefits today…

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

More on Alfresco

Last year, we posted about Alfresco and their use of Facebook as a wiki. See that post here at our old blog. In a recent post at Mashable, they discuss how this company is growing. They just announced that they received an extra $9 million in funding from SAP Ventures, as well as funding from Accel Providers and Mayfield which totaled $19 million.

What makes Alfresco different from all the other companies trying to bring Web 2.0 to the business world is that they work with everyday applications already in the office. They focus on brining new application to Facebook (like creating document collaboration tools for the platform) and Google. This is shows that they want to bring these applications to the enterprise now. Not in three years with a new program.

Alfresco’s business is picking up, according to CEO and founder John Powell. They’ve already had clients that include top ten investment banks, Electronic Arts, KLM and H&R Block.

How Do You Motivate People to Collaborate and Share

Researching the blogosphere I came across this presentation from David in which he helps IBM’s customers in Bangkok better understand Web 2.0 social tools, and how they can use it to improve on collaboration. It’s a great presentation discussing creating a “knowledge sharing culture”, so I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Facebook evolving

In a new article on CNet, the divulge that Facebook is making several changes to the way they operate in the first quarter of 2008.
They are:
-- Friend list privacy controls
-- Facebook in new languages
-- Blasting messages to groups with more than 1,000 members

The business world has been waiting for the first change. Now, will this propel Facebook up the list of preferred networking sites for professionals?

The move for Facebook to create more languages is obvious. Obviously, it is used around the world, but now that they are creating a new way for users to read in their own language, membership should climb.

And finally, Facebook will add messaging a group with more than 1,000 members. It will serve a need that business lookers have been searching for, the ability to spread news and communicate as a whole group.

In a post in December, we wrote about Serena Software and how they use Facebook as their corporate intranet. So now, we might not only see Facebook as a way to network with other professionals, but we will begin to see corporations use it on a daily business. With the ease of collaboration that Facebook provides with groups and communication, mass messaging employees will now be possible. Will this encourage companies to adapt Facebook, not to mention that now employees will be able to separate their personal life from their professional life, as well as the ability to message everyone together?

Businesses turning to blogs for promotion

In a recent article by Bill Ives, he discusses how many businesses are turning to new media to advertise. He references Steve Rubel who points out that every company can effectively market on the Internet if they put some resources into the effort. But the most important reason companies are turning to blogs is because customers are trying to avoid advertising and now have the tools to do this such as TiVos, DVRs, and satellite radio.

This is where the blogs are the most effective. This is where users solicit the enterprise for a specific purpose. It is a perfect place to start a blog and communicate with your community exactly what your company stands for and what your can contribute. A recent post in the Content Economy has recently listed the key things that need to be in place for an enterprise to effectively start running a corporate blog: easy access, ease of use, single point of administration, freedom of choice, mobility, and tagging. Is one of these things holding your corporate blog back?

Flock 1.1

ReadWrite Web recently posted about the new updates to Flock. Flock, the social web browser, announced the update it’s making in two weeks. With the launch of Flock 1.1, the social web browser will expand its base of Internet applications by just the click of a button.

Yahoo and Gmail and Picassa features will be enhanced on this new browser. The mail function will have new tabs so that you can share pictures, bookmarks, articles and links when you click on the “Click to compose” button in the toolbar.

For Picassa, dragging a picture to the tool bar and dropping it will automatically upload it to the web. As with all other social web pages, friends will be able to see all changes you have made to your profile and will show up on a news feed.

Wikis in the workplace: Corporate Examples

In a recent post by Stewart Mader, he gives seven examples of companies currently successfully using wikis in their workplace.

He starts off by stating when he enters into a company to help them begin building a wiki, he notices that many times there are already mini wikis in place around different departments of the organization.

Then, he gives us a list of seven companies that are successfully using wikis already.

They are:
1. SAP
2. Pixar
3. Sun Microsystems
4. Red Ant
5. Sony Ericcson
6. Carbon 5
7. IBM

Many executives are scared, but these seven companies have overcome the fear of Enterprise 2.0 and started to use it to their advantage. Now will your company take the next step?

Enterprise Blogging

When organizations have their own corporate blog, employees are expected to know how to blog, but what if they don’t know. Well luckily I came across this post by John Chow that outlines 5 tips to become a better blogger. Here’s a quick recap:

  1. Don’t ever talk about many page hits or visitors you come across on a daily basis. That is something bad bloggers do and it will detract from the message that you are trying to give.
  2. Do not discuss failures because although it might make you seem more “real”, it will also make your readers doubt your abilities. Instead, try blogging about a massive success and your advice can actually mean something.
  3. Getting back to the 2nd tip, do not gloat about your success. Yes if your success is worthy about being bragged about then mention it, but if its just about having a certain number of visitors from Digg or any other source then it’s best to keep that to yourself.
  4. You must write with authority. A blogger that lacks confidence might offer mere suggestions while a confident blogger will specifically get into detail and offer examples of success.
  5. Even if you are not an expert on the subject, research can help you seem “experienced”. So read up on your materials and use confident language.

So here you go, 5 tips to help you become a better enterprise blogger. Enjoy!

Microsoft: Taking the Lead in Enterprise Search

Google and IBM are two of the largest vendors in the Enterprise search realm, but it seems that Microsoft is making bold moves to catch up with these giants. Microsoft recently agreed to acquire Fast Search, which specializes in Enterprise Search. eWeek’s latest article describes how this recent acquisition can bolster Microsoft’s current Enterprise product line, which includes Microsoft Search Server 2008, Search Server 2008 Express, and Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007.

The software helps employees track down what they are looking for, usually behind a company’s firewall. eWeek gives an example of searching for a single staffer from a human resources database of thousand of employees. Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division makes a quick mention of how Enterprise search is changing:

"Until now organizations have been forced to choose between powerful, high-end search technologies or more mainstream, infrastructure solutions. The combination of Microsoft and Fast gives customers a new choice: a single vendor with solutions that span the full range of customer needs."

Acquiring Fast will most definitely give Microsoft a strong position in this market. It will be interesting to see if Google and IBM plan to revamp their current Enterprise search applications to compete with Microsoft…

Industrial Style Management: Posing problems to the evolution of the enterprise

In a recent post by Mike Gotta at the Collaborative Thinking blog, he discusses the current style of management and how it will influence the growth of enterprise 2.0.

The majority of current management structures today focus on these key things: formal hierarchies, boundaries that are set up by either function or geography, decision making that starts at the top and moves down, defines the process of structure that defines official work activities, workers are given roles that define their rights and participation levels, and workers are valued based on their productivity.

What does this foster? It allows employees to experience leadership, decision making and an information sharing environment. This, however, does not support innovation, growth, or the management of human capital. All three are things that are vital to the process we are now calling Enterprise 2.0.

This type of environment also neglects and does not know how to deal with social networking. This also neglects to see the value of a highly collaborative environment that also encourages knowledge sharing. So what can be lost by the current industrial style management? The actual enterprise can be lost. The survival of the fittest applies business as well. This type of management must keep up with the necessary changes. Because whether we are talking about social software, knowledge management, or human capital management, the evolution of the enterprise must keep up or they will get left behind.

Let’s Get Corporate Blogging Up and Running!

Enterprise blogging is an effective way to collaborate between teams and share vital information. There are though, some pre-requisites organizations must take before firing up a blogging platform. I came across an interesting post on The Content Economy which highlights essential aspects that a blogging platform must adhere to. Here are a few:

1. The blogs and blog tools like RSS feeds must be easy to access from any computer as well as any mobile device.
2. The blogging platform should be easy to use; there should be huge buttons for editing, creating, and publishing posts. Employees should have no trouble on the blog site.
3. Employees should be able to administer all of their blogs from one single point.
4. There must be freedom of choice when it comes to selecting a RSS reader. If an internal RSS reader is used, it must allow subscription to an external RSS reader.
5. Since most employees are always on the go, they must be able to publish and create posts via e-mail and text messaging from their mobile devices.
6. Lastly, tagging is essential for employees to manage their blog posts and allow users to search by interest areas.

Enterprise 2.0: Is there any more room for growth?

I found a very interesting post this morning at the Social Glass blog. Jeremy Thomas posed this question: Is Enterprise 2.0 stagnating?

He goes on to state that although certain theories have been brought about by Andrew McAfee and Dion Henchcliffe, they basically represent the same points. They are:

  1. Links
  2. Social Bookmarking
  3. Search
  4. Authorship
  5. Signals/Syndication
  6. Social Networking
  7. Folksonomies

He is quick to point out that this is from the perspective of technology. What do you think? Are there any more changes that can be brought about in Enterprise 2.0? Or do you think that these online collaborative tools are the complete set for everyone to begin using?

Twitter: Is There True Enterprise Value?

To the naked eye Twitter seems like a dumping ground for details on the activities of complete strangers, but there is more than meets the eye. Employees generally misunderstand what Twitter can bring to the Enterprise. Michael Krigsman’s latest blog entry quotes Dwight Silverman, a Houston Chronicler and an active Twitter user:

“Don’t even try using Twitter in the way its regulars do….To really understand Twitter as a journalist, I think you have to live with it for a while, just as you would when reviewing a software program.”

The real business value emerges when employees engage in a community of peers, co-workers, colleagues, and friends. Twitter feeds maximize effective collaboration and enables file-sharing in the enterprise. Just like with any other social networking platform, talking to oneself is not great fun. The real action comes from subscribing to feeds and maintaining relevant relationships. Imagine subscribing to your boss’s twitter feed and knowing what’s on his mind regarding future and current projects while he is hundreds of miles away. This is where Twitter truly shines…

Next in Search Engines: Human-powered?

In an article today posted at CNet, they discuss the new search engine Wikia. This just launched search engine is completely open. It is the public who will determine what information is found and they also have many other ways to contribute to the search.

This search engine combines three of the main new tools on the Internet: human ranking of pages, a mini wiki and social networking.

To launch the site, spiders will crawl the web to bring up initial pages. But after that, the humans that take over. People will individually rank the sites they come across. After the pages are ranked by humans, the highest rated page will appear at the top on the search page. At the top of the page there will be a wiki about the search subject. The public will maintain this. As for the social networking, you can network with those who have left comments and edited the wiki. In addition to all of this, this site is a complete open source. Users can also tweak the code of the website.

Most interesting is that since the pages are rated by people, SEO will not be a factor in this search engine. I believe that the ability for people to rank the pages is far more valuable than anything we’ve seen before. If we set this in the environment of a corporation, the power of the knowledge that can be generated is huge. It is a chance for collaboration to shine; the most informational web pages can rise to the top. This concept might not take off at first, but I see an advantage to having human generated web pages. Would you use a search engine like this?

Enterprise Intranets: A Detailed Picture

In a recent post at Web Strategy by Jeremiah, he details the evolution of enterprise intranet, along with the challenges, and what has to be successful. I was surprised that many of the topics were things that we’ve been stressing here in our blog, such as the ease of many of the procedures that are necessary for a corporate intranet to go fully successful in an enterprise, as well as the complications that present themselves in the process.

First off, Jeremiah discusses the challenges of the intranet. They are:
-- Leadership is not employee focused
-- IT does not give the corporate intranet the time of day
-- The value of it is not recognized
-- There are too many people trying to have their input into the intranet
-- The people who make the decisions are oblivious.

The point that catches my interest the most is that too many people are trying to have their input. In Jeremiah’s example, he states that many people from marketing, HR, IT, and many other business units are trying to give their two cents on how things are put together. If too many people are trying to give their input, it’s very easy for a project like this to be set aside, and never returned too.

Second, Jeremiah gives the stages of evolution:
1) Disparate – This is when one person in the company sees the opportunity the value of thecorporate intranet and starts the process
2) Common user experience – A company realizes that the intranet is available 24/7 allaround the world, unlike email. At this point, an intranet team may emerge to helpmanage the program.
3) Unified content management system – The need for the proper software begins toemerge. The Intranet team wants to help find the tools to make this happen, and a CMStool is usually found.
4) Personalization and Enterprise Search – Massive content is starting to frequent thesystem. Many pages and lots of documents are uploaded on the system. A commonsearch tool is developed to sort through all these things.
5) Collaboration – These tools are created and uploaded as businesses realize thatcollaboration can happen around the world on this single site.
6) Socialization – Exactly what we see from Facebook and LinkedIn. Employees begin toshare about themselves, as well as ideas and other information with others on theintranet.
7) The Future -- According to Jeremiah, this probably has to do with the portable phonerevolution. Who knows the next step in this rapidly expanding world, but it will probablyhave to do with the evolution of technology such as the Blackberry.

However, Jeremiah believes that there can be several things that hold back the intranet revolution: a centralized body that controls the User Experience, business and personal users have freedom to publish, expiration of content, IT gets ahead of the need, and it could become a social sandbox for employees.

A which step is your company in the process? Have you seen any of the road bumps that Jeremiah describes?

To Ban or Not to Ban: Social Networking in the workplace

Recently, I came across some white papers from CMS Wire that discuss the pros and cons of allowing employees to be able to access social networking sites at the work place.

This paper points out that employers do allow employees to use the internet for personal reasons in reasonable amounts of time. There are policies in place that state what the employees are allowed to do on the internet. But social networking is an all together a different type of problem. It takes away from productivity if the employee gets too involved. It also allows employers to view some aspect of the personal lives of the employees when they have access to this personal information on company servers.

So: Do you trust your employees to keep up personal productivity and allow them to access social networking sites or do you ban the use at the workplace all together? In the UK, 43% of employers have banned social networking all together. Not only is this because of personal productivity levels, but employers also see threats to the security of their business. There are several laws in place that protect the privacy of individuals, but many of them have no clauses on what these laws are when it comes to the internet.

This paper concludes with a very interesting point: there is no right answer to this. However, there are many wrong answers. Is banning these sits against your company culture? Also – as we’ve asked many times before – is banning the social networking infringing upon the potential success you could have by allowing networking to take place on these sites?

Oracle and BEA: A Day of Reckoning for Portal Implementers

Blogger: Craig Roth

The reports today that

  • Oracle succeeded yesterday in forging an $8.5 billion deal to acquire rival BEA Systems Inc., a maker of programs known as middleware that had resisted an unsolicited bid from Oracle in October. The $19.38-per-share price is about 14% higher than Oracle originally offered, but below the $21 figure that BEA sought.
Despite Alfred Chuang's statement during the analyst call that "our two businesses are a natural strategic fit", I would say that their two businesses are instead natural competitors for much of what BEA offers.

In particular, portal buyers have reason to be dismayed. As I wrote in The Four Portals of the Apocalypse back in October, both Oracle and BEA offer two overlapping portal products. I don't buy the argument that they are meant for different audiences. It is true that different products may serve certain audiences better, but slicing a market into segments like that would require building products with those segments in mind and all four products were built from the ground up to do their best at meeting a broad set of needs even if they were strongest in one area (like BEA Portal for infrastructure developers or Oracle WebCenter for Web 2.0). This acquisition puts enterprises that have any of these four portal products in production or has need for a portal product to be purchased within the next year into a state of limbo.

Here's my initial handicapping of the portal options (not based on any inside information):

BEA AquaLogic User Interaction: Still perhaps the strongest pure portal product of the bunch, but getting a bit long in the tooth as trends have moved to Web 2.0. I don't see this disappearing anytime soon due to its install base, but Oracle may just raid it for piece parts (e.g., the service bus, collaboration server, portlets) and it would not get marketing push for expansion.

BEA WebLogic Portal: I think this product is more likely to suffer a quick decline. For current owners of the product, they will get some relief from the fact that BEA Portal is very standards compliant and it's infrastructure-like nature may mean that applications built on top of it could port with some effort to another Java-based platform.

Oracle Portal: Oracle Portal is in the same boat as BEA Portal. It's the "old" portal at a company that has something shinier and sexier in WebCenter. It would probably have been eliminated by now if it wasn't for a good install base (the full extent of which is not known since the product is kind of "free" and isn't licensed individually).

Oracle WebCenter: This may be the winner of the bunch and the foundation upon which piece parts from the other 3 portal products can be attached. It provides a modern, web 2.0 foundation.

It's impossible to know for sure which portal products will be eliminated and when. I believe that, long term, it is possible to sustain at best two portal products (if significant architectural work is done to shape them for their constituencies). So by that logic, 50% of these products will cease getting much new funding and eventually stagnate. That's equal to flipping a coin for any current or potential implementers of these solutions, something that these folks are unlikely to enjoy doing for a major infrastructure commitment.

My advice continues to be to isolate the product specifics as much as possible during implementation. This means:

  • Leveraging external products for collaboration, content management, workflow, and analytics that can easily integrate into the current portal or any of the others you may choose. For the BEA+Oracle list, this means Java-based portals. Not only will the implementer gain best-of-breed functionality, but in the event the portal platform changes the repositories, metadata, and other setup will not need to go through a painful migration
  • Building web services with thin, standards-based portal shims on top. Sorting through portlets coded with portal-specific APIs will be a nightmare if the portal platform changes. JSR168 (and JSR 286)-based portlets or WSRP can help create portable portlets, but the best option is to put as much code as possible into web services. All these platforms provide ways to perform discovery on a web service by scraping the WSDL and helping to quickly generate a portlet to access it. Not only is this highly portable (only the re-creation of the portlets would need to be repeated), but this opens up access to applications other than the portal that may want to access the information.

With this architectural guidance (and a little luck), owners of one of these four portals can get through the transition with minimal damage.

Web 2.0 Skepticism: It Still Exists

While reading the latest technewsworld article I realized that many Fortune 500 companies still fear Web 2.0 technology within the enterprise. Ideally, Web 2.0 applications lead to reduced costs and increased efficiency within the workplace, even though a clear ROI has still not been established. So why does the business world fear Web 2.0?

Businesses fear what they don’t understand. They fear the amount invested in sustaining Web 2.0 technologies will not reap great benefits. Web 2.0 is here to stay in 2008, and I only see a bright future ahead of its path. Here’s a funny comic depicting reluctance found in the business world to accept Web 2.0 technologies.

IBM in 2008

The outdated face-to-face meetings with employees will soon be a thing of the past. IBM is rarely seen as an innovator, unlike Google, but the spotlight has definitely put turned around with its plan to roll out Web 2.0 technologies in the upcoming year. The latest article in eWeek shines a light all of these technologies, including IBM Metaverse, which is there virtual reality software.

Mike Ackerbauer, innovation manager for collaboration development at IBM shares his enthusiasm with the future IBM’s future release:

"We'll go beyond showing the flat two-dimensional presentation. Right now the business value is that I can do a presentation in the Metaverse and see all of my team together."

IBM is going beyond Second Life in their attempts to give “business meetings” a new feel. Along with their virtual reality technology IBM also plans to release new mashup services that include employee profiles from their internal Blue Pages directory, graphs that show real time locations of employees, and a relationship chart that shows who works with who and for whom.

In terms of taking Enterprise 2.0 to the next level in 2008, IBM seems to be on the right path. What updates on Web 2.0 applications can we look forward to from your company in the new year?

ImageNow to Interact With Microsoft SharePoint

Perceptive Software’s ImageNow, an enterprise document management application, recently announced its release of ImageNow Interact for Microsoft Sharepoint. This article on PrimeNewswire explains how the integration will work. ImageNow documents will be hosted in SharePoint portals in order to provide direct access to employees, all that is needed is a secure internet connection. Matt Prentis, Perceptive Software manager of enterprise products and solutions, mentions:

"Interact for Microsoft SharePoint represents a significant addition to the ImageNow Interact product suite by providing a steadfast integration between the SharePoint and ImageNow platforms. Best-of-breed features from each environment can now be presented in a single, cohesive interface, delivering content to audiences at any scale."

PrimeNewswire gives the example of HR staff being able to effectively manage and update employee records. Think about it for a second, HR forms can easily be hosted on SharePoint portals where employees can easily access and update their information, thus eliminating unnecessary assistance from the HR staff. Well, what do you know, Web 2.0 tools in the enterprise does save time, money, and resources!

Open source software predictions in 2008

Dave Rosenberg’s latest post predicts what he envisions happening in 2008 with the software industry. He sees that the only way to start a company that involves software is to have it enable open sources or SAAS.

Some of the major things he sees for open source are:
-- Break-out stars (like MySQL)
--Consolidation by big vendors (like Oracle) or stronger OSS players (like Red Hat)
-- Fire sales at the companies that got funded but couldn't make it happen.

Dave also expects to see more business people becoming involved with the open source scene, and that business models will become more prevalent when it comes to the industry. What do you foresee happening this year?

Keep your employees on board: Uncap the power of Enterprise 2.0

A recent story in the CIO takes an in-depth look at how enterprises in the UK are dealing with social networks in the work place and also how to harness their power and use it to recruit a better workforce.

The first point the article makes is that it should be a company’s priority to attract and keep the brightest young workers. How is this to be done? Have the best internal systems by embracing web 2.0 also known as blogs, wikis and social networks. The problem a company has with fully embracing allowing employees to access this: over 233 million hours are lost a month because employees are not working. This leaves a company with two options: go with the flow and hope employees will see what they can do or harness the technology and ban employees from accessing it at work. Gartner embraced the new technology which has led to what they call a high performance workplace. They looked at the matter from a staff standpoint.

They have two very different internal departments that see the benefits of this technology. The HR department sees it as a way to recruit, manage, motivate and retain the best work force. IT sees it as a way to provide the best people in the work force with the best tools so that these employees can perform to their highest potential.

With all the best employees working together, many opportunities appear. Since collaboration can happen between two people that never meet, as well as people that span a continent, innovation is more likely to occur.

The new workforce expects this technology to be available in the workplace. If your company can’t provide it for them, they will find another workplace that they feel is better suited for their lifestyle. This leads to the problem of retention. If you retain your staff, they can use to fully utilize all the Web 2.0 tools that you provide for them. So, if you find high performance people, and use the capabilities of Web 2.0 to encourage them to stay at your company, then it is possible to have a highly collaborative workplace that uses this technology for the growth of you enterprise.

Happy Birthday Wikipedia!

The web page giant that has quite possibly contributed to the knowledge of on or the most important Enterprise 2.0 tools turns 7. That’s right, Wikipedia publically launched on January 15, 2001. This article at ReadWriteWeb fills us in on a little of the history of this web giant.So let’s look at the numbers. The English version (the original) has 2,174,371 articles, is the 9th most popular site on the Internet, and has 6 side projects (Wiktionary, Wikibooks, Wikinews, Wikiquote, Wikisource, Wikiversity).

WikiCharts allows one to see the top 100 viewed Wikipedia pages, and the most popular thing is actually viewing Wikipedia define itself. Wikirange is also another popular tool which monitors the most edited entries over the past 24 hours, as of January 16, 2008, that would be MacBook Air.

This website just goes to show how valuable information is that can be kept up to date constantly with details that can be mind blowing. Just imagine what a wiki for your organization could do, no matter whether it was the history of your organization or it was the current processes of how things work in your company.

Enterprise 2.0 on the Move!

It brings shear satisfaction when I get word that companies are beginning to embrace the Web 2.0 movement, despite some of its skepticism it has received regarding office efficiency within the past couple of months. While reading CIO Today’s article we can still see that many businesses still block access to social networking sites like Facebook that hinder business development and effective collaboration between employees. The informality of blogs, social networking sites, and wikis attract the brightest employees and maximizes internal communications.

Fortunately, we see giants like Gartner, an I.T. research firm, embrace Web 2.0 tools and applications. This is how Jorge Lopez, industry research chief at Gartner, defines a business in the new age:

"A high-performance workplace combines technologies, processes and management so workers can create more value. This area integrates multiple technology perspectives, including collaboration, information access, content and knowledge management, messaging, portals, e-learning and productivity tools."

With the growing number of young executives entering corporate America, Web 2.0 tools will become more and more accepted as time goes on, especially with industry giants such as IBM, Cisco, Microsoft, and now Gartner making bold moves. The key is to keep employees motivated, and that means giving them full access to exploit blogs, wikis, and social networking sites.

Coghead: A Step in the Right Path

The latest post on the CogBlog introduces Coghead’s latest Web-based enterprise-application development service called Coghead 2.0. What’s interesting about this new user interface is that it will include features such as new drag and drop widgets, support for Open ID, and a new redesigned authoring environment.

Coghead is also now hosted on, so that let’s businesses know that they are storing their data with Amazon, not some start-up company. This platform makes it easy to develop applications that run on Amazon’s infrastructure.

Coghead brings a cost-effective way to manage applications in the Enterprise. The new customizable platform will keep things simple for people who are not IT experts. Coghead has delivered Web 2.0 ease of use for the new year, is your company taking advantage?

McAfee v. Davenport: The Debate

I found this article at PC World reviewing the much anticipated debate between Andrew McAfee and Tom Davenport. They came together last week to have a debate on the topic of enterprise 2.0.

Both of these men, both professors at high standing business schools, McAfee at Harvard and Davenport at Boston College, came together to debate the influences that Enterprise 2.0 has.

Surprisingly, both men have very different ideas about Enterprise 2.0. Davenport believes that most of what can be done with new enterprise 2.0 tools could have been done with previous applications such as Lotus Notes. The fact that these tools have not changed the business environment also contributes to why Davenport feels that this “enterprise 2.0” assumption is too dramatic.

McAfee’s view is very different. Although he never viewed Enterprise 2.0 as a way for companies to sweep into a new era of management, the new applications are tools for making enterprise 2.0 much easier and it is also better software.

Then the debate turned to the cultural part of the enterprises. As we have seen before in this blog, both debaters were concerned with management having reluctance to adapt this new technology into their companies. One of the last topics as that enterprise 2.0 is not suited for every company. Blogging is not for every company, and Davenport pointed out that blogging will never replace the face-to-face communication that makes a company keep going. McAfee agreed, but pointed out that internal blogging is a good way of knowing everything that is going on in the company.

What Not to Do in Your Business Blog

A recent post at Business and Blogging lists what enterprises should never do on their corporate blogs. Here’s the list:

  1. Duplicating your press releases on your blog. Why? Your readers come to your website for more informative information, not to be sold on your product.
  2. Failing to participate in the conversation. Respond to the comments left on the posts, interact with your customers. Give them acknowledgement that you’ve noticed that you’re reading their post.
  3. Getting overly defensive on your corporate blog. The conversation is going to take a life of its own. Don’t take offense to the blog gaining traction and developing a life of its own.
  4. Not posting regularly. Once you’ve started a blog, you have to keep it going. So, take time to divvy out the reasonability and keep fresh posts up as much as possible.
  5. Lying on your blog. If you’re searching for real relationships with your clients, lying is not the way to go about fostering the relationships.

Collaboration Tools For the Enterprise

Did you ever wish your company would invest in better collaboration technology that would ease communication amongst employees and business partners? Researching the net, I came across Robin Good 's latest post and it lists several new tools and web services that can instantly improve collaboration in the Enterprise. Here they are, enjoy!

  1. SharedView: An application from Microsoft that allows you to share your screen with up to 15 people.
  2. Yoomba: A downloadable plug-in that allows you to make VOIP calls right from your email inbox
  3. Campfire: Software that allows you to create rooms for chat, uploading files, and sharing images with your team
  4. Bitlbee: A software service(free) that allows you to connect to major IM services using an IRC client
  5. Spipra: A free service software that allows you to leave comments on any page
  6. HiTask: A project management tool that enables you to assign and delegate tasks to team members
  7. Assembla: A free workspace with wikis, alerts, and chat for team members
  8. An application that allows you to create, save, and share mind maps with people

The Importance of Information

In a recent post on The Content Economy they refer to Majid Abai’s analogy about information strategy. As we have written many times in this blog, it is very important to stream line all information and keep up with what is going on in the enterprise, hence things such as social networks and wikis. These things can also represent consistency of data collection throughout the enterprise and minimize the information lost.

Majid Abai gave this analogy:

"As an analogy, one could compare information in an organization to water in a typical metropolis. In the old days, as people built a house, they’d also dig a well in their backyard to reach water needed for drinking, cooking or cleaning. This water was hardly shared and was not necessarily clean...// people matured in the art of city planning, we learned to think of water as a common utility and to integrate, clean, and distribute it from a central organization in the metropolis.""You might say that we, as the residents of a metropolis, have an unsigned contract with our metropolitan water department to provide us with clean, consistent, and timely water. Basically, regardless of where you are in the metropolis, you can trust that the water is consistent, has met certain level of quality, and if you open the faucet, it will flow."

"The same applies to information in the organization. By implementing the same principles as our city planners, we’d be able to capture, integrate, and cleanse the information in a central repository, and to deliver it to our internal and external users in a clean, consistent, and timely manner."