Enterprise 2.0 Innovate 2012 Notes: The Right Way to Select Emerging Technologies for the Enterprise – Part One

I am pleased to attend Enterprise 2.0 Innovate on the West Coast for the first time. It is occurring November 12 – 15 in the Santa Clara Convention Center. Here my notes from this year’s Enterprise 2.0 2012 conference in Boston. Here are my notes from the workshop: The Right Way to Select Emerging Technologies for the Enterprise led by Tony Byrne, President Real Story Group. Here is the description.

“The accelerating pace of enterprise technology change offers unprecedented opportunities – along with major stress — for business and IT leaders alike.  Business units looking to exploit new opportunities presented by emerging technologies has given rise to “Shadow IT” and the broad proliferation of tools and suppliers in the enterprise.  Obvious gains in short-term agility have been accompanied by longer-term architectural and sustainability challenges. Designed for enterprise architects, IT planners, and tech-savvy business leaders, this workshop will help you get out in front of emerging technologies.  It will offer you tools to pro-actively identify which technologies will bring the most business value in your specific environment, as well as the savvy to avoid common pitfalls. The workshop will examine the challenge and benefits of emerging technologies in particular technology segments where business and IT interests overlap – and sometimes come into conflict.”

Prior to the session Tony and I were talking about tools used to support SharePoint. I had seen a survey that reported that the top three tools to support social in SharePoint were Yammer at 19%, Newgator at 10%, and Jive at 4%. Tony mentioned that there are three ways to supplement SharePoint in the social space. You can extend it by building your own. You can supplement it through tools like Newsgator, and you can complement it with tools like Yammer and Jive. I found this distinction very useful.

Tony said he is going to offer a means to select technologies for the enterprise. This is the mission of Real Story Group. They only work with customers of vendors and not the vendors themselves, giving them more independence.  There are four traditional approaches to selecting software that often do not work. First, love at first sight. Second, horse race approach – who is leading in the magic quadrant. Third, my cousin Vinne approach – my friend uses it so it must be good. Fourth is happiness is a strong set of requirements. So you create a big checklist.

The best way is to embed your selection within you own unique requirements. You need to get out in front of emerging business needs.  You need to identify common areas where business units are self-procuring to find common solutions. You also need to understand the business use cases.

He began with a discussion of the transition from the intranet to the digital workplace. The consumerization of IT relates to this.  People come to work not excited about their tools but focused on their tasks. The digital workplace goes way beyond traditional intranets to offer many more capabilities that focus on getting work tasks done.

There are two ways to look at this. There is the traditional enterprise architecture approach. The second way is the user experience approach or “glass backwards.”  This bottom up view is increasingly more important.  You need to do both. The bottom up approach often leads to self-procurement if the enterprise IT services do not meet their needs. Activity streams that are emerged in the work process can be very useful like Salesforce Chatter for Salesforce users. However, this can led to siloed activities.

Next Tony covered platforms vs. products. Consumerization of IT means that apps need to be simpler and more agile. There are a whole range of offerings that vary from comprehensive platforms to simple individual products. Microsoft published some data that for every dollar spent on SharePoint, 6 – 9 dollars were spent on services, making SharePoint a platform, not a product. Platforms are more costly but also more comprehensive. With enough time and money you can get SharePoint to do almost anything. This opens up a lot of business for the system integrators. With products, tools work right away.

Tony passed out a very useful product map using the subway system metaphor. You can download it from the Real Story site for free. He said that ROI justifications are growing each year. There are four main categories, revenue creation, increased productivity, reduce costs, increased culture. Software companies now tend to do better on only one or two.

He offered eleven standard use cases for social technologies.  No one is doing all of them nor is any vendor capable of supporting all of them. Two main groups of use cases are collaborate (work jointly) and network (connect outside a specific goal).  This is more of a continuum than a distinction. He offered some examples. The first was a Q&A app designed to help employees find answers to their questions. The second was ideation and innovation support. Next, was project-oriented collaboration. There are also knowledge management, external collaboration, communities, expertise location, enterprise networking, socializing legacy processes, and enterprise conversation.  These uses cases seem to be a better way to evaluate tools that features like blogs, wikis, etc. This is true especially, if you pick the use cases that are important to your organization.

Entitlements are another important issue. Who is allowed to do what? Groups and roles are often as important as individuals in these access. This is important for scaling in a large enterprise.

He showed social as a separate tab in an enterprise stack. This is too isolated. Social should be a service and not a space. I agree. Social should be a layer and not a module. Activity streams that range over all apps can serve this purpose.  Several vendors are attempting to do this but more progress needs to be made. A key question is how these apps work in a mobile environment. The integration needs to carry over to mobile and it often does not.  The big vendors want to own the whole stack but this will be hard to do.

There are four buckets: platforms, suites, layers, and specialists. In the platforms Microsoft is good at collaboration, IBM on communities and expertise location, and Oracle on socializing legacy processes. Since the big guys do not cover all use cases, there is a rise of specialists to cover the soft spots. IBM is also trying to embed Connections capabilities in some of their other enterprise apps.

Tony next covered versions of the cloud: IaaS, PaaS, SaaS, and managed hosting.  Tony mentioned that most apps are not built for the cloud. For example, Microsoft SharePoint was not built this way originally.  So there is a hybrid model as to what gets shared and what does not.  Microsoft decided to move their own stuff to the cloud. It got very complex with many custom apps to get to the hybrid model. It cost as much as they saved. A big issue is the fact that most transitions are not in a green field environment so there is much old stuff to overcome.  If you do have a green field, like some small businesses, it is easier. For very large enterprises, it gets more complex.

Now there are also cloud file sharing vendors like Drop Box, Google Apps, and Box. Some companies turn off these capabilities on enterprise systems to deny access. In these cases, people go home and use them on their own devices outside enterprise security because they are easier to use than tools like SharePoint. IT cannot stop this. This raises a lot of security issues.  Individuals have access but the enterprise cannot get access unless it signs an enterprise agreement with the vendor. It is important for IT to get in front of this issue so the right tool gets selected with an enterprise view and not just what happens bottom up. The use cases are a good way to start. Box and Accellion cover a lot of them.  Box is cloud only. Accellion offers cloud, hybrid, and on-premise.

Next we took a break and there is enough to read in one post so I will continue this soon in a second post.

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