Friday, September 07, 2007

Does Office2.0 help me build a better washing machine?

The line that stood out for me at the Office 2.0 Conference panel discussion hosted by Dan Farber is "Does this Office2.0 stuff help me build a better washing machine?" In other words, the customers care about their businesses, how to optimize profits and building better products- and Office2.0 or Web2.0 is no different than any other tool- customers will bite if and only if it helps us do our jobs better.

Farber started off by provocatively calling incumbent technology "crap" - probably to get the incumbents (SAP and Oracle) to respond. Zimbra was the first to comment.

Scott Dietzen, President and CTO, Zimbra says they tried to surprise the user with the web user experience by helping users mashup email with their daily use web-based or enterprise applications. Users are creating ad-hoc flows using this mashup capability.

Etay Gafni, Architect, SAP points out that SAP is allowing enterprise users to implement this kind of functionality without bypassing IT.

Sam Lawrence, Chief Marketing Officer, Jive Software says they are trying to make it really really easy to use.

Oliver Marks, Senior Project Manager, Sony Computer Entertainment America was the only non-vendor on the panel. Sony is pretty obsessive about ensuring that they have access to the underlying source code so that if the company selling the product were to disappear, the investment would protected.

Oracle's very own Paul Pedrazzi and Oracle AppsLab Director talked about how they are exploring the shift from document centric approach of the past to a people centric approach. For example, the IdeaFactory - a forum for sharing ideas - allows you to see my ideas, how it was voted on and the kudos one receives.

Dan then asked them which particular facet of Web2.0 was standing out. Oliver said that they have internalized Web2.0 but they have to still stay within the firewall. They are not going to adopt a technology that is hosted. A word of advice for start-ups: "We are willing to pay pretty handsomely for products that I can install and control."

Jay Simons, Senior Director of Product Marketing, BEA Systems points out that there is a shift within the enterprise and they are looking at adopting these new technologies.

Etay mentioned that SAP is in a listening mode when it comes to Web2.0 and are primarily trying new technologies internally. They are looking at using this new technology to provide process visibility to users. "Processes were not written in blood. But they were written in money".

Paul described how the internal Connect (a Facebook-like or Linked-in like) application was built and grew. His small team of 2-3 developers built this application over 3 days. Paul then sent an email to some of his friends and a day later there were 800 users. It got the attention of executive management at Oracle who wanted to know how did they get such wide adoption.

Paul pointed out how the implicit trust within the organization actually helps make the Web2.0 applications more useful. Shared bookmarks within the context of a shared organization such as the corporation (Oracle in his case). He isn't really interested in what some guy on the internet finds interesting about a website but he is interested in what his co-workers are working on.

Etay of SAP pointed out that just because its Web2.0 - it doesn't mean that they sales cycle is much different. If you want wide adoption, you still have to convince someone within the organization - except the rare organic adoption before asking for approval.

Oliver pointed out that at the end of the day its about getting the job done. The question is: Did a consumer electronics company build a better washing machine because of Web2.0?

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