Quote of the week: Dion Hinchcliffe (Enterprise 2.0 blog)

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This week’s
QOTW comes from Dion Hinchcliffe’s Enterprise
2.0 blog
on CNET’s News.com. His latest post, called “Enable richer business
outcomes: Free your intranet with Web 2.0
,” discusses the role of Web
2.0 within the context of traditional enterprise IT systems and software and “…how Web 2.0 seems to directly address a lot of issues with
existing software models in the enterprise
.”



In his blog,
Hinchcliffe references Andrew McAfee’s article on Enterprise 2.0: The Dawn of Emergent Collaboration (in
MIT Sloan Management Review), which he says is “…one of
the most compelling descriptions of the use of Web 2.0 in the enterprise

and then goes on to comment on it, saying:


It's about
enabling rich, dynamic outcomes from our IT systems, which we are now learning
by watching what's happening today out on the Web, are still too structured,
rigid, and make too many upfront assumptions to enable effective levels of
innovation, viral adoption, and increases in productivity. 
This is only exacerbated
today by the need for increasingly dynamic collaborative business software to
access the potential of things like tacit interactions, which is the core activity of
productive business work…

Of course,
the practice right now in most enterprises is to have a great deal of structure
and control in our IT systems.  The revolution that the PC originally
ushered in, putting the choice and control of IT systems in any user's hands —
and making a mess for the IT department along the way — has fortunately or
possibly unfortunately been largely cleaned up. 
Things are so tidy and
well ordered that one could argue it's almost antiseptic, even antithetical, to
the creativity and innovation that are hallmarks the most valuable business
activities.

We're now
learning that the barriers and harmful upfront control that traditional IT systems
— admittedly which most of us thought was a good thing for a long time — are
often actually hampering effective work and putting up barriers to the
possibilities and potential of less structured, emergent systems that co-evolve
with their users.


Having said
all that, Hinchcliffe then prescribed six important factors that can help IT
teams strive towards Enterprise
2.0—here’s a brief summary:


1. Freeform: Only minimal upfront structure…

2. Zero Training/Simple: Any barrier
to use means that automatically fewer people will use the application or its
more complicated features…

3. Software as a Service:
Online software,
with its functionality and information available on any computer, home or work,
anywhere in the world, day or night, is the most productive and useful software
possible…

4. Easily Changed: If a user can't easily make the
necessary change to the structure or the behavior of a system, he or she must
have an expert — usually in the IT deparment — to do it, and get in line to
wait for it, not to mention pay for it…

5. Unintended Uses: Preconcieved notions about how an
IT system will be used can cut it off from the most valuable uses down the road…

6. Social: Enterprise Web 2.0 software
enables pull-based systems that enable people to come together and collaborate
when they need to and are entirely uncoupled when they don'…


Finally,
Hinchcliffe ends off with this to say:


At the risk
of sounding silly, and having seen with my own eyes the value of the this type
of software in many if not most business situations, I am here putting out the
call to demand easy access to intranet blogs and wikis.  Yes, demand them,
and start using them, introduce your colleagues, and you'll be surprised at
what springs forth.  And lastly yes, Web 2.0 in the enterprise is
certainly much more than just blogs and wikis, but if you don't have them, it's
clearly an excellent place to start.


All this
really made me think of a recent experience I had, when I was trying to
implement an enterprise-wiki solution as the underlying infrastructure for a
secure extranet site to support some external contractors. When the contract
for this wiki solution was reviewed by the IT department, the first thing that
came back was an immediate (negative) reaction because they thought the
solution might be suspiciously similar to MySpace.com
and would therefore not be allowed.

Although I
was eventually able to convince them that it was not a MySpace-type solution (and neither was that its intended purpose),
what it really demonstrated to me was that—just as Hinchcliffe described in his
blog—ironically, instead of being the key supporters of moving towards
Enterprise 2.0, traditional enterprise IT groups may in fact be one of the
biggest barriers to achieving it. Sigh…


July ET&T Report: Wufoo / ClickTale / Zune / Wikis / Digg v3

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I can’t
believe that it’s almost the end of July already. I feel like I’m still
catching up with all the news that’s happened over the last few weeks or so and
there’s no sign of it slowing down. So, in a bid to try and keep up, here’s a summary
of some interesting emerging technologies and trends (ET&T) that I’ve come
across lately:


Wufoo is
a simple AJAX-ish tool “…that helps anyone build
and host amazing online forms…[such as] a mailing list, a contact form, a
marketing survey or even a complete customer management system.

It does for forms (in general) what services like Survey Monkey and Zoomerang have done for customer feedback
surveys. I hope to give it a try in the upcoming weeks, but after having a
quick look around, I must say that I’m highly impressed by the excellent
form-building and report-management/analysis tools. It looks like a fantastic
tool for business users who don’t want the hassle of involving IT in building
forms and I suspect it may even spell trouble for the likes of Survey Monkey
and other traditional web-survey services. Check out Wufoo reviews on the Read/Write Web
and TechCrunch.
To quote Marshall Kirkpatrick from TechCrunch: “Wufoo makes great use
of AJAX to create a very nice user experience on the admin side of things…Form
creation is an important function and the team behind Wufoo has leveraged some
of the best in contemporary technology. I think this one’s a winner.”


ClickTale is another interesting new web application for gathering site
statistics. Unlike traditional services which simply provide lots of numbers
for analysis and/or some graphical overlays (like Google Analytics—formerly Urchin), ClickTale
goes one step further. In support of their mantra (“because every user has a
story
”), ClickTale records movies of how users interact with your website. Here’s
what they state in their FAQ
section
: ClickTale is a brand new approach
to website analysis and optimization. While web analytics provide aggregated
user data, we focus on the atomic user behavior. We show website owners exactly
how individual users interact with their website. By watching movies of
browsing sessions, website owners gain a deeper understanding of visitor
behavior; which leads to improved website usability, enhanced navigation, and
increased overall website effectiveness
. For more info, check
out the detailed TechCrunch
(p)review
, the huge
buzz on Digg
, and the ClickTale blog.


It turns
out that the MS iPod challenger (see my blog here)
is “Argo” no more—it’s now called
Zune and it
appears to not only be an iPod competitor, but also iTunes as well.
Microsoft recently admitted/announced
it on Billboard, but the link doesn’t seem to
be working now. And supporting “Microsoft’s new,
holistic approach to music and entertainment
” is ZuneInsider—the “official” Zune blog. You
can also visit ComingZune, which appears
to be some kind of holding page with an “interesting” animation of a man, a
rabbit, and a boy the size of the rabbit (I don’t quite get it). One key differentiator:
it looks like WiFi will be built in to this device. More info at…

 - An excellent report
by Michael Gartenberg

 - An insightful piece on
GigaOm and some earlier thoughts
by Michael Wolf

 - Also see: Engadget,
CNET,
ZuneNation

  

Lots of wiki
news on CNET’s News.com
, particularly in the enterprise wiki realm. Some
recent highlights include:
JotSpot’s release
of version
2.0
, which includes an impressive facelift and some nice new features (quote:
Rather than
simply make a Web page, a person can create a spreadsheet, a shared calendar,
file-sharing site, or a photo-sharing page…The advantage is that these document
types have more specialized features and structure than a plain Web page
”).

Socialtext also announced
a new open source version of their app, called Socialtext Open, which is now available
for download as a beta version on SourceForge. More info on Ross Mayfield’s
blog
.

On a similar note, a new challenger has emerged in the open source enterprise
wiki arena: “MindTouch,
founded by former Microsoft employees…announced the creation of an open-source
project around MindTouch Dream software for building distributed Web
applications using Microsoft .Net development tools
The appliance
includes a modified version of MediaWiki, the software
behind Wikipedia, and a server that can be updated remotely…MindTouch changed
MediaWiki to make it easier to use for workers sharing Microsoft Office
documents
.” Full story here.

Also worth reading, is a short blog by Mike Yamamoto on “Wikis vs. Microsoft Office
as well as “Wiki 2.0 -
JotSpot launches Web Office Wiki
” on Richard MacManus’ blog (quote:
JotSpot is
doing the right thing morphing their wiki application products into office
tools, because this is tapping into a growing market for web-based office tools
and will also push the boundaries of what office tools can be in the Web Office
era
.”)


Digg recently released
version 3.0
of their “user driven social content website” to the
public and, shortly thereafter, also launched
two cool new tools
as part of the new Digg
Labs
: Digg Stack and Digg Swarm. You can read about the
new Digg tools
on TechCrunch, and also listen to TalkCrunch for a podcast
on Digg v3
with Digg founders, Kevin Rose and Jay Adelson.

Essentially, “Digg Stack is a Flash based visualization application that
shows diggs occuring on stories in real time…[and] Digg Swarm…shows stories…that
are larger based on the number of Diggs…The combination of Swarm and Stack,
along with the existing Digg Spy, will give
users more information on what news is developing in real time, over and above
what can be viewed on the Digg home page or individual topic pages
.”

On the topic of Digg, CyberNet recently
published an excellent, in-depth article on the “Digg effect,” called “CyberNotes:
The Analysis of a Digg Effect 4X in 10 Days
.” To quote the
article, The
“Digg Effect” as it’s called, really does affect a website in more ways than
one. Each time an article makes the front page of Digg we end up with more RSS
subscribers and dedicated readers—something that any blog such as CyberNet
strives for. It also makes for some good entertainment after all is said and
done and you’re left with roller coaster appearing stats and graphs
.
If you’re trying to understand how Digg works or how you can benefit from
Diggi-ing, I highly recommend reading it. And as a follow up to that, you might
also want to read “Digg
stats analysis
” on the Read/Write Web
blog. Of course, to learn more about Digg, you can always read their blog or simply digg Digg.

Quote of the week: Jason Fried (Founder, 37signals)

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On the theme of new management rules and how the Fortune article reminded me of talks by Jason Fried (see my last post), I thought it would only be appropriate that this week’s QOTW come from two of Fried’s previous presentations.Just look below at some of what he has to say about the 37signals style of doing business and compare these with the “new rules” column in the Fortune article and I’m sure you’ll see some pretty clear similarities right away.  Firstly, a 13 min presentation, called “Less is More,” from the 2005 Web 2.0 Conference. Here’s the first few minutes of his talk intro:

So what I want to talk about today is this idea of “less.” And specifically, this idea of less as a competitive advantage. Traditionally, people think of less as a bad thing. They think they have to do more. So they have a competitor and they think they have to outdo the competitor. If the competitor has 5 features, they need to build 6. If the competitor is spending 30 million, they need to spend 50 million. They need to keep outdoing people.

And while I think that system may work, I don’t really think it’s the best way of doing things anymore. It’s painful; it’s expensive; takes a long time; takes a lot of resources. It’s a very cold war mentality way of doing things, trying to one-up everybody. So what I would suggest is that people start thinking about “one-downing” people. And, not out-doing, but “under-doing” people. Under-doing your competitors. Beating them with less is really the way to move forward, I think, in this new era of light-weight apps and simple products. So what I want to talk about are five specific things that you actually need less of; that you probably think you need more of…

Fried then goes on to elaborate on the following five topics:

1. Less Money
2.
Less People
3.
Less Time
4.
Less Abstractions
5.
Less Software

Check out the rest of the talk here.

Along the same notion and almost as a follow up to the above, the following is taken from Fried’s 15 min interview on the Business Jive podcast, which I thought was quite fitting in terms of the “new rules” of management. Specifically, the statement below refers to “Functional Specifications Document” (a.k.a. Functional Requirements Document) and his dislike for them;
but more than that, I think it really feeds into the “old vs. new” way of thinking …

You can’t make decisions about things when you don’t have a lot of information and the time you don’t have a lot of information, is the time when you get started—that’s the point when you have the least amount of information about something. As you begin building something, you have more and more information about it. What’s going to work? What isn’t going to work? What the costs are. Does this make sense? What doesn’t make sense? Over the years I’ve just realized that trying to make all these decisions up front, doesn’t make any sense at all…To say that you know everything on day one; you’re lying to yourself. A whole bunch of things change over three or six months, so if you’re stuck to this old way of doing things and this old plan, and the future is based on these things that you did in the past, then you’re just lying to yourself, you’re cheating your clients, and you’re cheating your customers.


Fortune to Welch: Hit the Road, Jack!

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The current
issue of Fortune magazine features
a cover with a “no entry sign” over a picture of Jack Welch—former CEO of GE,
author of Winning,
and an early champion of the Six
Sigma
process. In big print are the words “Sorry
Jack!
followed in
smaller print byWelch’s Rules for Winning
Don’t Work Anymore (But We’ve Got 7 New Ones That Do)
.



This excellent
article, called “Tearing up the Jack Welch playbook” by Betsy
Morris (Senior Writer, Fortune), discusses traditional (Welch-esque) “rules of
management” that have been typically employed by more established
corporations—like GE—and compares them with new and emerging management trends
that have propelled some of the newer, growing companies—such as Google—and contributed
to their success.

Here’s a table
comparing the old vs. new rules, followed by a brief abstract from the intro of
the article:

OLD
RULES

NEW RULES

Big
dogs own the street

Agile is best; being big can bite you

Be No.
1 or No. 2 in your market

Find a niche, create something new

Shareholders
rule

The customer is king

Be
lean and mean

Look out, not in

Rank
your players; go with the A's

Hire passionate people

Hire a
charismatic CEO

Hire a courageous CEO

Admire
my might

Admire my soul


In executive suites across the country, a dramatic rethinking is
underway about fundamental assumptions that defined Welch and his era. Is an
emphasis on market share really the prime directive? Is a company's near-term
stock price – and the quarterly earnings per share that drive it – really the
best measure of a CEO's success? In what ways is managing a company to please
Wall Street bad for competitiveness in the long run?

Sorry, Jack, but we don't buy it. The practices that brought Welch…and
others such success were developed to battle problems specific to a time and
place in history. And they worked. No one questions today that bloated
bureaucracy can kill a business. No one forgets the shareholder – far from it.
Yet those threats have receded. And they have been replaced by new ones.
The risk we now face is applying old solutions to new problems.


I really enjoyed
this article overall and the ideas and concepts that it covers reminded me of several
different things…

Firstly and
mostly, many of the new rules reminded me of the stuff that I’d heard in talks by
Jason Fried (Founder, 37signals). For
example, listen to Smaller,
Lighter, Faster
(MP3 audio file) from SxSW 2006, Small is Beautiful
(WMV video file) from the 2006
Collaborative Technologies Conference
, and Lessons Learned while
Building Basecamp
from ETech 2005. Also, check out
their eBook Getting Real
(I admit—I’ve only read the free chapters so far) and the 37signals blog, Signal vs. Noise, for more ideas on
such emerging management trends.

It also
reminded me of several articles/essays that I’ve read recently, such as Paul Graham’s How to Start a Startup
and The Hardest
Lessons for Startups to Learn
, Rod Boothby’s quintessential
white paper on Turning
Knowledge Workers into Innovation Creators
and Andrew McCafee’s post
on The
Trends Underlying Enterprise 2.0
, as well as the recent Business Week
article entitled Web
2.0 Has Corporate America Spinning
(which I blogged about here).

Of course,
it also felt like the article was reiterating some of the points discussed in my previous posts,
such as Marissa Mayer’s 9
Notions of Innovation
—which I discussed in my post called A License
to Pursue Dreams
—as well as Web 2.0 and
the CEO
and my QOTW by Michelle
Conlin
.

Overall, I
thought it was a great article, especially for anyone considering a startup or in
an early stage business at the moment. And as for bigger, more established
companies, this is a good wake up call—as slow as it may take the boat to turn,
I think it’s at least time to take another look at the compass and start turning
the wheel in the right direction.

By the way,
if you think Jack Welch let this article go by quietly, you’d be absolutely
wrong. Here
is Welch’s retort
to the article. Also check out some of the great comments
and discussion in the Fortune Talkback
section.

Quote of the week: Vint Cerf (VP, Google) / Google: Behind the Screen

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This week’s
QOTW comes from a very intriguing and thought-provoking Australian documentary
by Dutch director, IJsbrand van Veelen (VPRO
Television
), entitled “Google:
Behind the Screen
” (watch in order: Parts 1—5).

As implied
by the title, the documentary takes an in-depth look at Google’s culture and
philosophy, including interviews with prominent Googlers like Marissa Mayer, Vint Cerf, and Nikesh Arora. It
also challenges Google’s mission statement (“…to organize the world’s content”)
and their quasi-motto (“Don’t be Evil”), particularly on the issues of privacy
and trust.

While the
documentary steered away from a cheerful and composed Brin & Page presentation
(in fact, Larry and Sergey were nowhere to be seen), it seemed to be skewed in
a somewhat negative fashion—almost like they were out to “get” Google,
seemingly trying to paint a pre-Scoble, Microsoft-like, “evil-empire” image on
them. It felt like the underlying theme of the whole thing was “How can a
single web entity, as large and powerful as Google, ever be completely
unbiased, trustworthy, and truthful?

I am by no
means a 100% pro-Google fanatic, nor am I trying to defend Google in any way,
but I did feel that the documentary—even if it was trying to be objective—was
fairly pessimistic and aggressive. I even felt bad for some of the Googlers as
they struggled with some tough, blunt questions, like “How can you take fears away that [Google] is a ‘big brother’ company?
and “…with all due respect, that almost
sounds naïve, considering the scale on which Google works
” (in response to
a statement that Google is “simply responding to peoples needs” and are not
governmental officials or policy makers on a global scale).

So after
watching most of the documentary, it was with much amusement and satisfaction
that I heard Vint Cerf’s reply to the interviewer’s thematic (almost repetitive)
question/statement, “As an ignorant consumer, you’re implicitly saying to me:
Trust Me?
” in the last 3-4 mins of the program.

So, here’s
Cerf’s response, which is also the QOTW:


I sense
that you’re really trying to hammer this point through about “Trust Me.
Could I suggest to you that in the business you’re in—the production of
television programs—you’re saying the same thing to the audience…“Trust Me.
You have every opportunity to manipulate this interview and any other—if you
chose to do so—to bias it according to a particular philosophy that you have.
And yet, I’m sure you would tell me that your intent is not to do that; that
you’re trying to get all sides of the picture in place, so that the viewer gets
to decide what is true and what isn’t true.  It’s true in all media that there is an
implicit potential for that kind of bias.


I guess
there’s no real etech or trend lesson to be learned from this one. Just a good
quote to keep in mind when we—the pots of the world—start calling other kettles black.

If you get
a chance, watch all
five parts
of this provocative documentary—I found it fascinating
and enlightening, despite the negative slant. 

From Rubel with Love: Advice for Dell (that we could all learn from)

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Dell

recently launched a
blog
, called one2one.
While the desired effect was probably to attract more attention (which they succeeded),
unfortunately for them, it came with a lot of heat and flames as well. Not only
were they getting complaints
about their hardware and service
, but they were also getting
flack
for the way they were blogging.

In light of all this, Steve Rubel (Senior
VP, Edelman)—via his Micro Persuasion blog—decided to dispense
some free advice
to Dell, in order to help them disperse the growing ominous
cloud that is hovering over the their blog at the moment. However, even though
it is directed at Dell, Rubel provides some very relevant advice
that would probably apply to anyone who is considering a corporate blog in the
near future. Here’s a brief summary of his main points:


1. Continue to
Acknowledge the Conversation
2. Find Common Ground with Bloggers
3. Use the Blog to Break News in a Human Voice
4. Open Yourself Up to Suggestions


Most of these points may be obvious,
but even the big one’s (like Dell) can get it “wrong,” so we should all be
careful to work at getting it as “right” as possible and not simply do for the
sake of doing.

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