Performance Blog

Enterprise 2.0 Conference

Posted on: November 4, 2009

I was at the Enterprise 2.0 conference on Nov 3 and 4 at San Francisco. This is my first time at this conference (actually, this is the first time this conference has been held on the West Coast). Although it was in Moscone North, it turned out to be quite small – they shared space with VoiceCon and only had 3 parallel sessions in rooms that hold about 100-120 people. The keynotes had a larger audience which probably included people with expo and other free badges. Next year, the conference is being held in Santa Clara.

On the plus side, it was great to see so many companies with products aimed at the enterprise. Older companies (like BroadVision) have new social products while a whole bunch of new ones (Xwiki, cubetree) showcased collaboration and analysis tools.

The dominant theme of the conference was still how to convince CXO’s and IT of the benefits of web2.0, how to make the business case, measure ROI, etc. Although some large enterprises have taken the leap and some have taken baby steps, the bulk of enterprises still look at social media with suspicion. Surprisingly, user adoption ranked high on the path to resistance for E2.0 (even higher than management and IT resistance). The good news is that Enterprise 2.0 is certainly taking off according to Andrew McAfee who gave a keynote on the opening day. Even in the recession, E2.0 spending has grown, with enterprises typically spending anywhere between 500K to a few million. McAfee also said that the CIA has gone social. If a highly secretive, bureaucratic organization like the CIA can do this, what is the excuse for the rest of us ?

Microsoft and IBM were dominant – from keynotes to speakers to panelists. And of course on the Expo floor. But even companies that don’t have specific products (HP, Cisco) for E2.0 participated in panels and as speakers. In fact, a good portion of the sessions were focused on technology vendors describing how they have adopted social technologies within their own enterprise.

The more interesting sessions for me were the ones in which other large companies like Kaiser Permanente, Booz Allen Hamilton etc. explained how they made the transition to using social communication within their companies. Booz Allen in particular have implemented their own solution using open source technologies and plugging them to their internal data sources (they viewed SharePoint as too document-centric, not conversation-centric).

Some key points that came through for me from the various sessions :

  • User adoption is key. To ensure adoption, the user interfaces must be real easy to use. Single Sign On (SSO) is key. If a tool does not hook into your current LDAP, don’t use it. You can also aid user adoption with a little bit of push e.g. send them an email of recent blog posts from their communities, post profile images/pages/status messages on screens in conspicuous places around the company.
  • Choose technology/tools that allow you to extract the social data. A lot can be gleamed by analyzing such data although the tools are not there yet. This will be the next wave of innovation in E2.0.
  • Social media for customer support is a no-brainer. It has clear ROI and this may be the place to first implement E2.0 if you have a reluctant management and/or are struggling to show the benefits of this technology. Communities for customer support not only can lower cost of support but also provide you a big marketing opportunity to talk to people who directly use your products. It can greatly help to be proactive and resolve issues before they become a nightmare for customers, thus improving credibility and can build customer loyalty.

Being a performance engineer, I must add that I found absolutely no talk of performance at the conference. It is well known that performance and scalability are always after thoughts, but it seems incredible that if a company with 170000 users (like Kaiser) wouldn’t be worrying whether their social infrastructure scales and can handle the volume of traffic if they are really successful and E2.0 takes off. Poor performance can be a huge barrier to adoption as well, but I didn’t hear anyone mention this. Perhaps next year, when we have more adoption and they really start running into performance problems, we will hear more about it !

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