Enterprise 2.0 Camp: John Bruce

Our second breakfast speaker was John Bruce, CEO of iUpload, which is apparently going to undergo a name change in a few weeks. He was previously with the Documentum group within EMC, although not (I think) with Documentum before the acquisition. iUpload creates enterprise social software, that is, a platform for blogs, wikis and other social networking channels for use within an enterprise. They offer only a hosted SaaS solution rather than something that can be installed within the firewall, which might be a bit of a barrier for some enterprises who still don’t get that SaaS can be just as secure and have the same degree of uptime as their own data centre. He made some great points about all the things that you need to think about when implementing social networking applications within the enterprise: workflow, permissions, control, metrics, integration, security, compliance, identity management, versioning, reporting.

He also discussed this in the context of a common Web 2.0 content engine; not a surprising approach for someone coming from an ECM environment, and I’m sure that we’ll be starting to see many of these social networking tools creeping into mainstream ECM offerings before long. In that view, issues like security, user administration, integration and metrics are consolidated in the common engine, and blogs and wikis are just distribution mechanisms for the content.

There was a question from the audience on what metrics exist for measuring the benefits of enterprise social networking applications; Bruce had one example of a hotel chain CEO’s blog where they tracked clickthroughs from the CEO’s blog post on a particular hotel to the specific hotel online booking form through to an actual booking, although he admitted that many enterprise social networking applications are implemented because it’s an executive’s pet project. Given what I saw in the Avenue A|Razorfish intranet wiki project last week, there’s lots of places where a hard ROI could definitely be established in terms of cost savings of wikis over standard web page publishing.

Anthony Williams joined back in for the Q&A, and had an interesting comment on the organizational impacts of social networking in the enterprise: he sees boomers as the senior management in organizations today, and gen X as the middle management who are actively resisting all of this new-fangled Web 2.0 stuff that the net gen is trying to bring in because it threatens their burgeoning fiefdoms. There is justice, after all.

Shared Insights: Two-Day Wrap-Up

Apparently there was no wrap-up session yesterday, so the last session today wrapped up the past two days. Colin White, who has been running this conference for 8 years, was joined by three of his regular presenters: Shawn Shell of Consejo, Tony Byrne of CMS Watch, and Zach Wahl of Project Performance. The discussion was pretty open; I’ll try to attribute to the correct person as I document it.

In looking at what has changed at the conference recently, White found that 2/3 of attendees were building external-facing rather than internal-facing, which he feels to be influenced by Web 2.0. Shell found the audience to be more technical and tactical, and very focussed on building portals to connect with customers and employees. Byrne commented on how layered that portals are becoming, sometimes with several portal products being used simultaneously, and how the sheer diversity of integration technologies is making a more complex portal ecosystem. He feels that many organizations are out-growing some of the lightweight tools provided by portals, such as document management, and thinks that traditional portal vendors are having problems figuring out how to do Web 2.0 in their products. Wahl mentioned a higher caliber audience (by which it appears that he means “more technical”, however frightening the implications of that statement), and sees that the outward-facing portals that are being developed provide a stronger tie-in to ROI.

They then moved on to audience questions, and I can’t attribute the responses to any of the four participants.

Q: How are organizations using blogs?

A:

  • Attend the Razorfish session tomorrow for a case study. [I did]
  • It’s still a “cautious” activity for organizations, and is often still a top-down corporate communications “fake blog” from C-level executives rather than true blogs.
  • Blogs are useful for technical organizations [I scratched my head over that one, although I admit that one of the most successful organizations that I’ve seen using blogs internally is IBM]
  • Many people inside corporations “don’t have anything to say that’s universally consumable”. [This statement made me cringe; it totally misses the point of blogs]
  • A corporate ethos of content sharing can provide the right environment for blogging.

My conclusion: half of the 4 speakers don’t get blogging.

Q: How much of Web 2.0 is hype versus reality for the enterprise?

A: “There’s some organizations for which this isn’t going to work”. [The speaker quite erroneously equated Web 2.0 in the enterprise with publishing corporate content on the public internet]

Q: What are the future directions in PCC?

A:

  • There’s an increasing diversity of products rather than consolidation in the market, leading to more competition.
  • Major vendors, such as Oracle and BEA, are leapfrogging technologies to meet new standards and stay competitive.
  • The dynamism in PCC right now is in the add-ons, such as BPM, rather than the underlying portal technology. [This resulted in a specific discussion about how BEA’s BPM is driving portal sales, although I’m not sure that’s true]
  • Portal vendors are moving into the add-on market to take more of the enterprise pie.

There was also a discussion about getting started with search and taxonomy: for example, using the Google search appliance as a starter for search/taxonomy, and the need for a simple start to taxonomy in particular. We finished with a brief discussion about the perceived dilemma of SharePoint proliferation: is it out of control or a necessary state of departmental document collaboration?

Shared Insights PCC: Taxonomy Deployment and Governance

Seth Earley gave a presentation on taxonomy governance; he’s obviously a Very Important Taxonomist, and made sure that we knew it by having his flunky deliver his Starbucks Cafe Americano to him during the presentation instead of just grabbing a coffee from the service provided by the conference right outside the room. Yes, I’m cranky, I just flew 5 hours to get here and don’t have a lot of patience for a prima donna who wastes my time during the presentation talking about how he needs his 4 shots of espresso. Grrr.

Earley appears to be an anti-folksonomist: he believes that tags should be part of a controlled vocabulary, and that folksonomies are really only appropriate for identifying candidate terms, that is, terms recommended for admission to the change management process that would promote a tag into the formal taxonomy. The implication is that users aren’t qualified to define new tags/terms, but that it requires a “tagging expert”. Presumably like him.

Shared Insights PCC: Picking the right tool: e-mail, IM, post or publish

I arrived in Las Vegas late this morning for my presentation tomorrow morning, just in time for lunch at the conference. Sometimes, timing is everything.

For the first afternoon breakout session, I sat in on Craig Roth of the Burton Group discussing how to pick between modes of communication and collaboration. His main premise is that we often use the wrong tools for communication and collaboration — where e-mail is likely the most widely used and the worst — and he presents a chart for figuring out which method to use for which types of interactions.

This chart, and using it, formed the bulk of the presentation, and it was pretty interesting. Basically, it has four quadrants, with divisions by “communication” and “collaboration” on one axis, and “asynchronous” and “synchronous” on the other axis. For example, synchronous communication channels includes IM, telephony and audio/video chat; asynchronous communication channels include e-mail, RSS feeds and alerts; synchronous collaboration channels include web conferencing and whiteboarding; and asynchronous collaboration channels include wikis and discussion forums. It sounds a bit complicated, but it’s actually quite elegant and obvious when you see it.

He then overlays a decision flowchart on the 4-quadrant chart to show how you decide which quadrant that you should be in, then which tools in that quadrant to use. For example, the initial decision is “purpose of interaction”, where “telling” puts you into the communication half, and “collaborating on goal” puts you into collaboration. Once you’re in the communication half, the next decision is “when are responses expected”; either “now” or “today” puts you into the synchronous communication quadrant, with different channels for each of those two responses, whereas “over time” puts you into asynchronous communication. There’s a number of tools and channels that he doesn’t include here, which he still considers to be under the radar; surprisingly, workflow is included in that group, although it’s not clear what he means by that or why it’s under anyone’s radar.

In general, his quadrant chart could be a pretty useful tool, although I find some of the distinctions by content type to be a bit fuzzy. He has some great recommendations on battling dysfunctional behaviours and getting people to use some of the new tools as well.

Watch what you type

I missed this story on Friday, but the Globe & Mail (and I’m sure many other sources) reported that new federal litigation rules in the U.S. went into effect Friday whereby emails, instant messages and all other electronic “documents” must be maintained by corporations and available for legal discovery. This includes things such as the contents of removable memory cards, work-related pictures on your cell phone and pretty much anything else that you do on an electronic device. This isn’t hugely different than some of the existing compliance requirements, but apparently has a much broader scope in terms of content.

Compliance is one of those areas where content and process overlap significantly: the content is what has to be maintained for compliance purposes, but BPM is often used to route and track the content through the compliance process.

Comments on the IBM-FileNet acquisition

Questions and comments about the IBM-FileNet acquisition have been coming at me since last Thursday when it was announced, asking for my perspective — many people know that I was FileNet’s Director of eBusiness Evangelism in 2000-01, and that FileNet is still an occasional client of mine, and I also have a number of friends and colleagues who are current or past employees of FileNet. As a shareholder, I’m also monitoring the stories and stock price online to see if it looks like another suitor might jump in — with the current price running higher than the offer price, the market seems to be indicating that that’s a possibility, or at least a pipe dream.

To clarify my “speechless” state of last week when this news was announced, I wasn’t surprised that FileNet is being acquired, since rumours of acquisition were rampant even when I was at FileNet and before; I’m just surprised that it’s IBM, since I always figured that it would be Oracle. Phil Ayres has a thoughtful post on how all the IBM and FileNet pieces might fit together, but I’m not convinced that FileNet’s content management has much of a future within IBM. I found Connie Moore’s (Forrester) comment interesting (in this article, among others) that BPM is FileNet’s “crown jewel” — I agree with her sentiment, but think that’s it’s a bit of a hidden gem, unfortunately.

I listened to two of the conference calls on Thursday: a very brief one for investors (it was over before I got on it live, but listened to the replay later; for a conference call about the acquisition of a content management vendor, it was pretty content-free), and a longer press call. Ambuj Goyal, the GM of the Information Management unit that will be eating FileNet whole, delivered the usual blah-blah about how the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, how FileNet partners will benefit from an “enhanced ecosystem” and how IBM will preserve and enhance customer investments in both companies’ platforms. Yeah, right. He also referred to FileNet’s BPM as “content-centric”, which means that there’s some pretty fundamental misunderstandings by people how matter about the current state of the product.

Then Lee Roberts, CEO of FileNet, started with “we’re all very excited about this announcement”, and I swear that I could hear the rigging on his platinum parachute twanging in the background. During the Q&A, Roberts said that both he and Ron Ercanbrack (FileNet’s president, to whom I reported when I worked there) would be moving over to IBM — it’s worth noting that they’re both former IBM employees — and that “a vast majority [of FileNet’s workforce] will migrate over to IBM”. He also said that the cultures of the two companies are very similar, words that could only come from a former IBMer, I think. FileNet employees: resistance is futile! Prepare to be assimilated!

Bruce Silver also caught the conference call and had a few comments, and Cote from Redmonk did a mindmap of the calls.

Tons of interesting commentary all over the web:

  • IBM Acquisition Aimed at Microsoft?: “The purchase could be seen as an expensive play by IBM to compete head-to-head with Microsoft, which plans to integrate its own content management capabilities into Office SharePoint Server 2007.”
  • Why IBM bought FileNet (hint: it wasn’t for the technology): “Indeed the only feasible reason I can see – other than the fact that IBM just wanted to have to compete with one fewer vendor – is that FileNet deployments usually need a fair element of services, so FileNet brings in services partners including Unisys, EDS, Accenture, Capgemini, BearingPoint, Fujitsu and many more. Now that IBM owns FileNet, it will try to mop up most of that services business itself.”
  • IBM acquires FileNet – who really stands to gain?: “If IBM believes that the ECM/BPM market is set for a period of significant ongoing growth, it is highly plausible that buying FileNET is the most cost-effective way of making sure it takes a leading share in that market.”
  • BPM Market Changes: “This is a very interesting acquisition that addresses a gaping hole in IBM’s BPM strategy while signifying the importance of the BPM market to even the biggest players in the software industry.”
  • IBM Snaps up FileNet for $1.6B: “Despite FileNet’s worthy product developments over the past few years, the acquisition is hardly about technology. With the exception of some industry-specific applications built on the FileNet platform, IBM already has all the technology pieces. The motivation for the move is more likely acquiring customers and gaining a better competitive position relative to the ECM market and the enterprise IT market as a whole.”
  • IBM’s FileNet bid proof of ECM consolidation: “IBM Corp.’s intention to acquire FileNet Corp. points to a major shift underway in the ECM software market as systems infrastructure companies encroach on pure-play ECM vendors’ turf.”
  • Mr. Palmisano, this is American Express. We’ve noticed some unusual activity on your account …: “The acquisition will strengthen IBM’s position in a very lucrative market.”
  • FileNet to be acquired – first thoughts: “Lee Roberts CEO (and ex IBM’er) will also do very well – but I am not sure I would be too happy if I were a FileNet customer, or for that matter a member of FileNet’s staff.”
  • IBM acquires nice customer list: “This is what analysts call a “customer acquisition”.”
  • Morning news: Block, drop, gobble, charge, crunch: “IBM buys software company FileNet for $1.6 billion, and papers everywhere remark on the “recent trend” of big companies gobbling up small companies — which is like remarking on the recent trend of panthers gobbling up gazelle.”
  • IBM Embraces BPM 2.0 Model: “IBM moved on a fast track to adopt the BPM 2.0 model with its proposed acquisition of FileNet.”
  • And lastly, advice for other ECM vendors from A World without FileNet: “Those who used FileNet as their model and who are working in the thin air of the enterprise market had better find some breathing apparatus because being sandwiched in the top of the market pyramid between Oracle, IBM and EMC will suck the air right out of your lungs.”

I also received a hilarious comment from someone I know at FileNet: “Back in the liberal ‘70s of my youth, working for Big Blue was your worst nightmare! What a long, strange trip it’s been and now I am one of them — wake me up!!”

IBM buys FileNet

I did not see this coming (thanks to Elizabeth at ebizQ for tipping me off). [Disclosure: FileNet is a customer, and I’m a shareholder. I still didn’t see it coming.]

Back in 2000-01, when I worked for FileNet as their BPM evangelist, there were always rumours swirling around about someone bigger buying them out. Usually Oracle was named as the potential suitor, but never IBM as they were too directly competitive, particularly on the content management side. From FileNet’s press release (IBM doesn’t have one out yet as of 9am Eastern), the plan is to:

  • Combine FileNet’s operations with IBM’s Content Management business in the Information Management unit. Since this is the area where they compete most directly, I suspect that this means that FileNet’s content management could eventually be subsumed into IBM’s Content Manager product.
  • Integrate IBM’s BPM and Service Oriented Architecture technologies with the FileNet platform. This is an area where FileNet provides a quite different and possibly complementary product to IBM, so I think that FileNet’s BPM product could actually survive, get properly integrated with the IBM integration substructure, and become the product that it should have been years ago.

These are only my speculations as an outsider; I have no inside information and knew nothing of the transaction before it hit the wires this morning.

All in all, I’m still totally speechless.

Stats that never seem to go away

I’ve been watching statistics like this ever since I started in the BPM/document management field over 15 years ago, and they never seem to really go away. These ones were published by AIIM earlier this year:

400 Hours — Number of hours per year the average employee spends searching for paper documents. (Source: Datapro/Gartner Group)

$6 – $12 Million — The amount the typical enterprise with 1,000 knowledge workers wastes per year per year searching for nonexistent information, failing to find existing information, or recreating information that cannot be found. (Source: IDG)

25 Percent — Percentage of enterprise paper documents that are misplaced and will never be located. (Source: Datapro/Gartner Group)

The last one puts me in mind of a contract that I did a few years back for a manufacturing organization. A very old company, they were converting their engineering drawings (some dating back 100 years) and aperature cards [a pre-historic storage medium that consisted of a piece of microfiche embedded in a computer-readable punched card containing the indexing information] to scanned images, eventually to be redrawn as CAD files, and implementing some basic change request and approval workflow. I had an internal company email address, as I often do when working with customers, and one day was copied on the following mass internal email:

Found: an aperture card, reference #xxxxxx, on the road between building A and building B.

You can be pretty sure that this is one of the misplaced ones.

WCM resurgence

This article in Intelligent Enterprise last week questions why ECM vendors — including Hummingbird, FileNet and Open Text — have been highlighting their WCM products lately, but they miss the mark on the answer:

Is it the fact that online advertising and e-commerce initiatives are back? Is it the prospect of capturing fast growth in the mid-market–the rationale Hummingbird cited for its Red Dot deal? Is it a defensive move in response to Microsoft’s recent signal that it will consolidate the SharePoint Portal and Microsoft Content Manger products? I suspect it’s all of the above, plus a healthy slice of pressure from Wall Street to fuel growth through new license revenue as well as services income.

A big part of the answer should be “compliance”, that is, for companies where their compliance requirements include control of the creation and delivery of content via the web, such as securities. WCM as a part of ECM is key for web compliance requirements, because it allows tight control over the processes of how something is published, and also provides a record of what content was available on what dates.

Why is it that everything that I see these days becomes compliance? 🙂