User approach, processes and ambient metrics differentiate Enterprise 2.0 strategies


Guest post by Billy Cripe
The enterprise band wagon is getting big. In fact, it's more like the Enterprise 2.0 barge now. Most enterprise software that is new or has been updated in the last several years tries to lay claim to some E20 credibility. Whether in its SOA-ness, SLATES conformity, or simply its addition of some rounded corners, reflections and drop shadows, they all seem to have some E20 in there. Asking "Is it E20?" is almost like asking, "Will it blend?" The answer is always, "YES." So where is the uniqueness that sets E20 systems and strategies apart?

The answer to these questions, I believe, can be found in some emerging Enterprise 2.0 trends. The rash of recent conferences (Gilbane, Collaborate 2010, AIIM and the Web 2.0 Expo), analyst reports and punditry converge on three important trends in Enterprise 2.0:

  • Users first (after all there is no E20 without them)
  • Process importance (because this is where "real" work gets done)
  • Ambient metrics (because this predicts what really matters)

Users first

The big shift to a user-centric model (and away from a techno-centric, feature-bloat model) was called out in mid 2009 by Larry Hawes reporting on the Gilbane conference. This "yay users!" perspective has since seen focus from across nearly all the major ECM and E20 software vendors. At the Collaborate 2010 conference this past April, Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) President Charles Phillips and EVP Thomas Kurian echoed the sentiment. They outlined how user-centric design is penetrating the typically techno-feature-bloat Oracle apps and middleware stack. 

The importance of the end user focus is both demonstrated and exacerbated by the success of the myriad Web 2.0 solutions that have made their way into the enterprise. Whether it is Wikis, department blogging solutions or Yammer for the enterprise these systems typically enjoy quick uptake and viral adoption because of their easy and enticing user experience. But the information they produce remains largely siloed, ungoverned and unable to boost organizational efficiencies in any kind of a cooperative and scalable way.

Business process

This is why businesses are turning their gazes inwards to their core business processes, the second theme. They are needed in order to provide context for the tasks the newly empowered and 2.0-ified employees are supposed to execute as part of their day jobs. This is an important evolutionary step for Enterprise 2.0. Businesses are waking up to the fact that the “If you build it they will come” model doesn’t necessarily boost the bottom line. Yet there is still a sense that this whole Enterprise 2.0 thing is important. So they think, “What if we use the new technology to help us achieve our specific, core business processes?” The specific business processes become areas that can be enhanced, solved, and boosted with the application of user-centric Enterprise 2.0 technology. It doesn’t take long before the rest of the dominos start falling and businesses see real, tangible, positive results. 

This was demonstrated and explained by real users from real companies at the recent AIIM conference. One example was explained by Tom Showalter of JP Morgan Chase during the AIIM panel keynote address (skip ahead to the 1:30 mark to see his response). The contextualizing benefits of business process on Enterprise 2.0 is also called out specifically by Sameer Patel of Pretzel Logic in his recent analysis of SuccessFactors' acquisition of CubeTree.

Ambient metrics

The third and final emerging trend is something that I termed "ambient metrics" in my recent Collaborate presentation, "Information Architecture for Men in Kilts." Ambient metrics center on business intelligence that comes not from rows and cells in a database, but rather from unstructured content itself. This is different than website analytics like might be provided by an Omniture or Webtrends. It is also different from data warehouse analytics that might be provided by a Cognos, OBIEE or Microsoft. Tracking and identifying consumption patterns of similar kinds of users in an organization can yield actionable intelligence. Oracle's E20 strategy of combining the WebCenter framework with Oracle ECM allows user patterns to be mashed up and fed into prediction engines like their "Real Time Decisions" software. This allows relevant content from one part of a company to be suggested to a worker in another part of the company though she was not previously aware of it-–much like suggests items you might like to buy based on what other similar buyers have purchased. 

IBM's research on business analytics and the intelligent enterprise has similar findings. The intelligent enterprise is the one that understands how to leverage the content it has already and deliver it to the people who need it--even before they know that it exists. This closely mirrors my own writing (from 2008 and 2010) on the convergence of business intelligence, content management and Enterprise 2.0. 

Most recently, Jeff Wilfong over at E2.0Pros writes on this trend as it was manifested at the Web2.0 expo. He says, "Figure out the business case for collaboration. If your business is building widgets, then you want to measure the frequency of value add in the conversation." Dissecting those two sentences we find all three E20 trends. Collaboration and conversation are about people first. The widget process and business case are the corporate processes that contextualize the interactions and scope the content. They help determine relevancy and uniqueness. The measuring of frequency and the determination of the value add is awareness of ambient metrics. 

It is awareness of the ambient metrics that allows predict intelligent information delivery. What makes that information uniquely relevant is its contextual appropriateness to the business problem or business process at hand. What makes any of it workable at all is user-centricity; the experiences that entice and seduce users with good design and ease of use--not to mention those rounded corners, reflections and drop-shadows.

Billy Cripe is the VP of marketing for Oracle E20 Partner, Fishbowl Solutions. Prior to this position he was the Director of Product Management for Oracle ECM and E20. Billy is co-author of the book "Reshaping Your Business With Web 2.0" (McGraw-Hill 2008) and has over 10 years of experience in the ECM industry as a client, developer, consultant and product strategist. He has been widely published online and in print on Enterprise 2.0 and Social Enterprise Information Management. You can keep up with him on Twitter at @billycripe or on his Fishbowl Solutions and Enterprise 2.0 blogs.

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