Posted by Dean on 16 June 2008
I’m still processing all of the information from the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston. Due to some connectivity hiccups, Gordon and I weren’t able to document our reactions as the events unfolded. The good news is that we’ve both had some time to mull things over.
Vendors on Parade
Most of the conference was dominated by product vendors. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing for the two of us; we got to check out the competition. Most of the other attendees were hoping for insight into other aspects of Enterprise 2.0, though. You can do your vendor and product research anytime online.
I mentally classified the vendors at the booths downstairs into four categories:
- The Old Guard. The usual enterprise software vendors, like OpenText, Microsoft, IBM, and EMC, touted their “2.0” offerings. Their pitch was that E2.0 relies on a bunch of foundational technologies that are already present in the enterprise (and in their product stacks). Collaborative technologies are just another layer in your enterprise architecture. These vendors largely ignored the cultural and social implications of Enterprise 2.0.
- The Barbarians at the Gates. The largest vendor contingent consisted of companies repackaging Web 2.0 tools for use within organizations. Some of them, like Socialtext, Atlassian, and Jive, had been around for a while. Others were young startups. Their pitch was that Web 2.0 had proven itself on the public web and could also be made to work inside organizations. While they embraced the cultural shifts, they didn’t address issues of legacy data or integration with existing systems and processes.
- The Enablers. A handful of vendors showcased specific technologies. Veodia, for example, showed off their video streaming technology. Sun highlighted their series of embeddable social widgets. Their narrow focus made their pitches more cohesive, but it was hard to tell whether they expected to be bought by end users or OEM’d by the other vendors.
- The Odd Ducks. At every conference, there’s always a few vendors that seem out of place. Often, they can tell you the most interesting stories. Sometimes, they leave you wondering what their marketing department was thinking. In the emerging Enterprise 2.0 market, there were quite a few ducks quacking, but I can’t say any of them made a real splash.
And Infovark? Where would we appear in this list? Well, considering our product isn’t for sale yet, we fall into the hidden fifth vendor category: The Silent Ones. We were there to listen and learn from the other attendees. We were one of the companies just doing market research, trying to gauge whether our solution and approach makes sense.
More Than a Trade Show
It’s unfortunate that nearly every conference devolves into a vendor showcase. In the case of Enterprise 2.0, I think it’s far too early for any vendor to claim that they have a solution. We haven’t finished defining the problem yet. Yes, Web 2.0 technology enables different communications paths and organizational structures, but what are these different channels good for? Are they more effective than traditional 1.0 approaches? My gut says that they are, but if we want to move beyond a tiny community of early adopters, we’ll need more than gut feelings to guide us.