Larry Cannell

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Larry Cannell
Research Director
2 years at Gartner
25 years IT industry

Larry Cannell is a research director for Gartner Research, in Gartner's Burton IT1 Collaboration and Content Strategies service. Mr. Cannell covers search, content management, collaborative workspaces, as well as open-source collaboration and content solutions. Read Full Bio

Is This the Beginning of the End for SharePoint and Lync?

by Larry Cannell  |  July 23, 2012  |  5 Comments

Given that Microsoft is now saying that their focus is on delivering cloud-based offerings first, then the Office 365 Beta should provide hints as to how Office will evolve. My initial conclusion is that the Office 365 product is subsuming a number of existing Office products, whose identities are being eliminated.

In particular, Office 365’s navigation makes no mention of SharePoint or Lync, although it provides features we assume (if you look at the URLs) from these servers.

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My primary navigation menu for Office 365 (captured above) has these selections:

  • Outlook (which takes me to email)
  • Calendar (provided by Outlook.com)
  • People (contacts, also provided by Outlook.com)
  • Newsfeed (provided by SharePoint.com, a social network site that can also track activities across all of the SharePoint.com-provided features)
  • SkyDrive (provided by SharePoint.com, document libraries)
  • Sites (provided by SharePoint.com, I have the choice to go to a preconfigured team site or a public website)

There is also no mention of Lync. However, if I click the down-arrow next to my name then I am able to change my presence state (note: this only works when I am looking at my email, probably a bug in the beta).

A few questions come to mind based on this:

  • Will the identities of the Office servers (i.e., Lync, SharePoint, and possibly Exchange) will be subsumed into the Office 365 product?
  • Some brands stay within Office 365. In particular, Outlook and SkyDrive. Perhaps Yammer becomes the brand that replaces “Newsfeed”?
  • How long will it take Microsoft to resolve the inconsistencies in this unified Office experience? For example, contact cards found under the “People” tab do not link to SharePoint profiles. Office 365 has (at least) two contact cards.
  • How similar will this experience be to an on-premises installation?
  • Will Microsoft provide a unified desktop experience? The Word, Excel, and PowerPoint brands are probably too recognizable to eliminate. Others?
  • Will Microsoft merge other capabilities that cross today’s Office Server boundaries? These could include contact information (mentioned above), messages (e.g., unified message store across email, IM, and social network site), or search? Others?

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Search and the Enterprise Social Network

by Larry Cannell  |  April 9, 2012  |  3 Comments

Many people have pointed out the similarities between the messaging in email and enterprise social network sites. However, the synergy between search and enterprise social network sites is discussed far less. As enterprise social network sites integrate with more business applications, the similarities between enterprise social network sites and search will become evident from two perspectives. First, from the point of view of how workers will expect to interact with business application information via a social network site. Second, there are significant similarities between how business application information is aggregated into a social network site with how the same is done with search-based applications.

I’ve previously blogged about how enterprise frictionless sharing should become "the norm and what architects aspire to provide". In other words, information about what is happening in business applications should be surfaced within an enterprise social network site. For example, let’s assume that several business applications are integrated with an enterprise social network site. Entities within these applications (e.g., a customer in a CRM system, a project workspace, or a product in a release management system) are shadowed with non-person entities in the social network site. These entities should even have their own profile page, similar to a Facebook fan page except you would follow a customer’s CRM record instead of being a fan of Lady Gaga.

As changes occur to these business application entities (e.g., a customer makes an inquiry, a document is uploaded, or a product is released to pre-production) anyone following the shadowed social network entity are notified of these changes in their activity stream. For example, if I follow customer "ABC" within the social network site, then events involving the customer record "ABC" in the CRM system (e.g., a new opportunity for customer “ABC” is created) generate notifications within my activity stream.

Notifications can also spark conversations. For example, a notification from a CRM system could provide the opportunity for someone to offer additional information (e.g., "Be careful with this customer, I’ve had problems with them"). Or the conversation could be used to resolve an exception flagged by the business application (e.g., "I’m trying to determine why this release was kicked back to testing"). The notification and resulting interaction happening within the activity stream are compelling reasons for implementing these types of integrations.

In addition, these integrations offer longer-term opportunities to build the enterprise social network into a powerful knowledgebase that consolidates information across business applications; much like the role enterprise search can play today.

Think about how our previous example (several applications integrated with an enterprise social network site) will shape worker expectations for finding information. The social network site’s search function should naturally include results from these notifications. While workers may want to search for older events (before the business application was integrated with the social network site), it could be a matter of time before the social network site’s search results contain much of the workers’ needed information. The richness of the information contained within the notifications (e.g., changes to a customer record) and the descriptions reflected in the entity profiles (e.g., a customer’s demographic or contact information) will impact the effectiveness of these social network-based searches.

As multiple business applications become integrated with a social network site, a significant challenge will be the normalization of business entities across applications. For example, aligning a customer record in a CRM system with the same customer record in a warranty claims system. Without this alignment, cross-business application relationships cannot be captured within the site’s social graph and workers participating in the network will see duplicate customer profiles (one from the CRM system, the other from the warranty claims system).

Another important question regarding these types of integrations will be the role of security semantics managed by the originating business applications. Should the social network site enforce the same access control specified in the business application or should a different set of controls apply to this information? In other words, should revoking a worker’s view permission to a customer’s record automatically revoke this access to the entity’s shadowed social network profile? Replicating a single business application’s security semantics with the social network site may difficult. A more daunting task will be normalizing security semantics across multiple business applications feeding the social network site. As a result, compromises may be required, such as creating a new set of access controls within the social network site.

Many of these information aggregation challenges are not new. They share similar qualities to those being addressed by today’s enterprise search solutions (as well as data warehouse applications). Now, I am not talking about the simple keyword search, but rather search-based applications that aggregate information across multiple sources of business information. These applications often offer rich navigation methods for exploring the information and finding previously unseen relationships.

In short, I expect many of the disciplines involved in search-based application integration (as well as those involved in other types of data aggregation, such as ETL and data warehousing) will be important when striving to integrate business applications with enterprise social network sites.

Subscribers to Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) can read more about the similarities between search and enterprise social network sites in the report “The Post-2.0 Era: Social in the Context of My Work,” where the concept of a Social Online Workplace is introduced. If your company is a Gartner customer you may already be able to access this and other GTP reports. To see if you do, contact your company’s Gartner Membership Administrator. If you do not know who that is ask Gartner.

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Frictionless Sharing and the Enterprise Social Network

by Larry Cannell  |  January 27, 2012  |  Comments Off

Facebook’s new “frictionless sharing” enables someone to automatically post what they are doing online in a stream of status updates. To some, this is a little too much sharing. However, “enterprise frictionless sharing” should be the norm for internal social network sites.

As a result of Facebook’s frictionless sharing I am constantly seeing what songs some of my friends are listening to through Spotify or what news articles they are reading on Yahoo. If granted permission, Facebook applications (e.g., Spotify or the Yahoo news reader) are able to write to your wall without requiring explicit acknowledgement. In essence, these updates become a by-product of some (non-social network-related) action you perform, such as listening to a song or reading an online article.

Many in the blogosphere have criticized this new level of sharing and even go so far as to say that "Facebook is ruining sharing." Personally, I have stopped clicking links coming from one of the "frictionless" news readers because I know it will first ask me to install a Facebook application, implying that I too want my Facebook friends to see all the articles I am reading on Yahoo (for example). To me, this is just too much information to share with friends on Facebook.

What About Enterprise Social Network Sites?

However, for enterprise social network sites "frictionless sharing" should be the norm and what architects aspire to provide. It represents a new core IT capability that can turn social network sites from a seemingly interesting diversion ("Oh look, a corporate version of Facebook") to something that becomes an indispensable tool that information workers like to use because it can help them get their job done.

I should first explain that my use of “frictionless sharing” (let’s call it “enterprise frictionless sharing”) is slightly different than how Facebook uses the term. Instead of posting an update about every song I listen to on Spotify (or every article I click on Yahoo), “enterprise frictionless sharing” entails monitoring a business application for significant changes to an entity of interest (e.g., a customer in a CRM system, activity within a project workspace, or a release in a product management system). Similar to Spotify, these updates are posted to a social network activity stream as a by-product of something happening within the application (e.g., a customer makes an inquiry, a document is uploaded, or a product is released to production). So, instead of having to go to a business application in order to check on the progress of (for example) a product release, appropriate workers (e.g., managers, analysts, or engineers) can simply "follow" the product release through their social network site feed to learn of any significant change.

Now granted, there is a risk that notifications of these activities will over-run a news feed (and, in my opinion, the effectiveness of these feeds will differentiate products in this market). However, the surfacing of application-generated activities have the opportunity to turn an internal social network into a dynamic work environment that:

  • Improves the effectiveness of individuals through proactively bringing them information they need. By offering something of value to them, more people are likely to want to use the social network, rather than viewing it as yet another place to go.
  • Provide opportunities to spark conversations in response to events (e.g., someone posts a comment stating they have friend who works for a potential new customer).
  • Build a powerful knowledgebase that can be searched in the future (e.g. to help an information worker avoid answering the same question again and again).

The Social Online Workplace

In a recently published report, called “The Post-2.0 Era: Social in the Context of My Work,” I refer to this environment as the Social Online Workplace and describe it this way:

An enterprise social network platform plays a foundational role in the Social Online Workplace, but its effectiveness and relevance to the information worker is supported through the integration of events coming from collaborative content tools and business applications. This provides an environment that both improves the productivity of individuals (by enabling them to maintain awareness of activities within their sphere of responsibility) and allows people to interact and contribute comments and other forms of feedback in response to work-driven activities (in addition to social messages posted by colleagues) in a familiar collaborative context (i.e., the social network).

Subscribers to Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) can read more about the Post-2.0 era here. If your company is a Gartner customer you may already be able to access this and other GTP reports. To see if you do, contact your company’s Gartner Membership Administrator. If you do not know who that is ask Gartner.

** Support My Enterprise 2.0 Submission **

I have submitted a proposed session to the Enterprise 2.0 Conference that covers the concepts discussed above. Details about the session and how you can help get it on the agenda are available on this blog post.

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Email and the Enterprise Social Network

by Larry Cannell  |  January 20, 2012  |  2 Comments

Are enterprise social network sites an opportunity to remove the burden of email from information workers’ workload and move into a more collaborative messaging environment? While social networks have the opportunity to redefine messaging within enterprises, replacing email should not be a primary goal of their deployment.

First off, let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that email is the best and only answer for passing messages within a company just because email has always seemed to be here. The global email system we have today is an evolution of complex workarounds that started years ago from a set of simple protocols for exchanging text-based communications. Quite frankly, it is a testament to the Internet’s open source-driven innovation and the creativity of email product vendors that the global email system works as well as it does. However, what we are learning from enterprise social network sites is that how we communicate within companies can be different to how we communicate with most of the outside world.

Enterprises are leaving an incredible amount of intellectual property locked inside of their email system and forcing their employees to spend far too much time “managing” messages, many of which they likely do not need or want. There are many use cases that would be better suited in a social network site (group messaging via distribution lists is a good example). Social network products have the luxury of learning from email and other forms of messaging systems, particularly in regards to assumptions about privacy of messages, recipient inclusion/exclusion, and longer-term sharing/KM opportunities. Social network sites are emerging to fill the role of a robust internal messaging platform that enables a more open and reusable flow of intersecting and persistent conversations, which can also form the basis of a powerful knowledgebase.

However, social network sites are still in relative infancy and haven’t gone through the school of hard knocks like email. In addition, most information workers have at least developed a basic set of skills and are quite familiar with email. While Facebook may be the most popular activity on the Internet, use of enterprise social networks is far from common. For now, even though there is plenty of overlap between email and social networks, plenty of room exists for both to operate. The curmudgeon in me seriously doubts email will ever be completely eliminated.

Instead of just comparing email with social networks, a more productive approach is to consider the type of messaging that meets the immediate needs of individuals and can also benefit a company in the long term. The context in which messages are exchanged makes a huge difference in regards to enabling the reuse of information contained within them and managing participation in the threads that emerge. Email is assumed to be private. Social networks, while they can accommodate private messages, are assumed to be public (or semi-public, in the case of an intranet). These differing assumptions alone shows that email and social network sites will co-exist for the foreseeable future.

Subscribers to Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) can read more about the relationship between email and enterprise social network sites in the report “The Post-2.0 Era: Social in the Context of My Work,” where the concept of a Social Online Workplace is introduced. If your company is a Gartner customer you may already be able to access this and other GTP reports. To see if you do, contact your company’s Gartner Membership Administrator. If you do not know who that is ask Gartner.

** Support My Enterprise 2.0 Conference Submission **

I have submitted a proposed session to the Enterprise 2.0 Conference that covers the concepts discussed above. Details about the session and how you can help get it on the agenda are available in this blog post.

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My Enterprise 2.0 Session Proposal

by Larry Cannell  |  January 6, 2012  |  Comments Off

Just a quick note to let you know that I have submitted a session proposal to the Enterprise 2.0 Conference and to ask for your support in getting this on the agenda. You can help by posting a comment or “Liking” the submission (available here).

The session is based on a Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) report by the same title. You can read more in this blog post.

Session details

The Post-2.0 Era: Social in the Context of My Work

The widespread adoption of Facebook, the embrace of activity streams by business applications, and the success of smartphone applications have significantly changed information worker expectations since Enterprise 2.0 was introduced in 2006. Post-2.0 technologies are enabling the Social Online Workplace, a worker-centric yet social environment facilitating ongoing discussions that are seeded by messages coming from individuals, business applications, and collaborative tools.

This is an opportunity for the IT organization to get out in front of this change and start planning how to provide social infrastructure within an enterprise architecture. While the initial application of these new architectural components should be on improving worker effectiveness by enabling ambient awareness of activities within a sphere of responsibilities, the social online workplace can also become a powerful new knowledgebase.

Attendees of this session will learn:

  • The relevance of activity streams and social network sites to enterprise IT environments
  • The concept of the Social Online Workplace
  • The value of a consolidated activity stream and social graph
  • How social infrastructure can be contextually surfaced to support natural work flows
  • The impact of social infrastructure on existing IT components, such as email, document management, and search

Thank you for your support. The session proposal is available here.

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The Post-2.0 Era: Social in the Context of My Work

by Larry Cannell  |  January 5, 2012  |  1 Comment

Let’s face it. Enterprise 2.0 is getting old. Coined in 2006, the term originally implied using Web 2.0 technologies within company networks. Almost six years later “Enterprise 2.0” hardly has the metaphorical oomph it may have once had, which is why we’ve seen the emergence of new labels such as “Social Business” or “Social Collaboration.” However, in my opinion, the change we are now experiencing is much more fundamental. We are now at the start of a Post-2.0 era, where the role social infrastructure will play within an IT stack is becoming clearer. This is an opportunity for the IT organization to get out in front of this change, help describe a vision for how these technologies can be applied to improve worker effectiveness, and start planning support for enterprise social infrastructure.

Now, I have been a strong supporter of Enterprise 2.0 for as long as anyone and even played a role in the formation of the conference that goes by the same name. Personally, I am proud that Enterprise 2.0 has moved the collaboration industry forward, but progress has not nearly been as substantive as many of us had hoped. While the Internet’s most popular activities are now social in nature, the most common technologies facilitating workplace collaboration continue to be email, audio conferencing, and countless network fileshares. Of course, there are many examples of organizations using Enterprise 2.0-style of tools to improve their workplace capabilities. However, their uptake has been frustratingly slow across industry in general.

Innovations Since Enterprise 2.0

Taking a look back at the enterprise collaboration market there has been a number of innovations since the introduction of Enterprise 2.0. These include:

  • Broad adoption of public social networks: Facebook opened its social network to the general public at the end of 2006 and has gone through several transformations since. Little did we know at the time it would become so popular that people who you’d never expect to be active on the Internet (e.g., people who barely kept up with email, let alone wrote their own blog), now post daily or hourly Facebook updates (to your delight or chagrin).
  • Smartphone applications: Apple opened its App Store in 2008. Since then, “Apps” have become almost synonymous with smartphone or tablet use.
  • Business applications integrating with social networks: Salesforce launched Chatter in 2010 and first demonstrated how a social network could provide a front-end to a line-of-business application.
  • Other innovations: Cloud-delivered social networks, social network applications, and standards for federating activity streams.

In short, worker expectations have moved on from blogs and wikis, which described Enterprise 2.0 back in 2006. Facebook’s impact on the enterprise collaboration market is undeniable. It is essentially training people in a method for collaborating and sharing online (similar to what free Internet email did many years ago). While some will argue that Enterprise 2.0 is now equated with corporate renditions of Facebook (or solutions based on a Facebook-like experience), it is clear that the enterprise collaboration landscape is quite different from what it was in 2006.

Social, Yet Meeting My Work Needs

However, I am not proposing a name for this Post-2.0 era. Maybe this is a cop-out, but I have my reasons. “Enterprise 3.0” sounds ridiculous and proposing any name would result in arguments over just the name itself, rather than provoking a dialogue around the opportunities that are now emerging.

Instead, I offer a short description, “The Post-2.0 Era: Social in the Context of My Work,” which emphasizes two points. First, it alludes to social software’s ability to enable a familiar and engaging online collaborative context. Second, it highlights the importance of meeting the needs of the individual worker in order to sustain a collaborative environment.

To further explain this, I am also introducing a model, called the Social Online Workplace, to describe the roles Post-2.0 technologies play within an enterprise IT architecture in order to improve employee effectiveness, accelerate the exchange of ideas, and increase information reuse.

The Social Online Workplace

The technological foundation of the Post-2.0 era is the activity stream (Facebook calls this a news feed), which delivers an individually oriented, yet familiar social experience and enables a worker to maintain awareness of what is happening within their sphere of responsibilities. A challenge for enterprise IT organizations will be to surface this worker-centric stream across appropriate applications and connect the stream with sources of events relevant to the worker.

In other words, how do we limit emerging silos of activity streams and enable a worker-centric view of the information and content that interest them the most? There are architectural challenges in capturing activities, distilling this flood of events into something useful for the worker, and surfacing them within a context where it can complement individualized flows of work.

Subscribers to Gartner for Technical Professionals (GTP) can read more about the Post-2.0 era and the Social Online Workplace in a recently published report available here. If your company is a Gartner customer you may already be able to access this and other GTP reports. To see if you do, contact your company’s Gartner Membership Administrator. If you do not know who that is ask Gartner.

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What the Heck is Cisco Quad?

by Larry Cannell  |  July 12, 2011  |  Comments Off

If you attended, or were following, the Enterprise 2.0 conference a few weeks ago you are probably aware that Cisco is starting to make a big push into the enterprise collaboration market with Quad. Although the product has officially been available for about a year, many IT professionals still don’t know much about Quad. However, they are keenly interested in understanding what Cisco is doing in this space, especially given the company’s already large footprint in most enterprises.

Earlier this year I had an opportunity to take an extensive look into Quad’s architecture and technical building blocks as well as to talk with the people responsible for the product’s future. Our resulting assessment of Quad is a detailed, roll-up-your-sleeves type of report Burton IT1 is known for. If you need to really know what the heck Quad is (beyond the marketitecture), this is the report for you.

Since Quad’s first appearance at the Enterprise 2.0 conference last year, Cisco has been deploying the product at a select number of customers and working on a new release (which was recently announced). At first glance, Quad appears to be an unremarkable and simple enterprise social network product. However, Quad’s role within an enterprise and its potential impact on the collaboration market goes well beyond providing a social network site.

Cisco Quad could become just what the enterprise collaboration market needs: a competitive product from a large vendor with deep pockets and strong ties throughout most IT organizations. Quad 2.5 is a good start, although it should still be considered an early release product (belying its 2.5 version label). Most importantly though, Quad is built upon a different set of assumptions from which large established enterprise vendors started. Think of Quad as an alternative take on what is possible with an enterprise collaboration platform. In many ways, SharePoint’s popularity has distorted the market’s view and Quad is a possible antidote.

This Burton IT1 assessment of Quad discusses:

  • Cisco’s potential as a collaboration platform competitor
  • Quad’s role in an enterprise
  • How Quad compares to SharePoint and other major vendor products
  • Quad’s strengths (it offers a number of innovative features and uses a cutting-edge approach to deployment and management)
  • Quad’s weaknesses (but, there is still plenty of work to be done and it may not be ready for your enterprise)

In addition, the assessment uses IT1 frameworks and reference architecture templates as a basis to cut through Cisco’s marketing to provide a vendor-neutral opinion of the product. “Cisco Quad: Different From SharePoint, But Does That Matter?” is available now to Gartner’s Burton IT1 customers.

If you aren’t an IT1 customer then you may be interested in attending my session covering Quad at the Catalyst Conference taking place in San Diego in two weeks. We can also schedule a 1-1 session while at Catalyst to talk through our findings.

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Social Software at the Gartner Catalyst Conference

by Larry Cannell  |  July 6, 2011  |  Comments Off

There is less than three weeks to go until this year’s Catalyst Conference, taking place July 26-29, in San Diego. Catalyst is a favorite technology conference among many IT professionals because of its detailed and high-quality presentations, opportunities to talk with independent (and opinionated) analysts, and unmatched peer networking opportunities.

We have a number of sessions at Catalyst this year focusing on enterprise social software:

  • Roundtable: What Your Peers Are Doing About Social Networking. I will be leading a group discussion where participants can learn from each other. Attendees are expected to share their opinions of social software and any lessons they may have learned from applying it within their enterprise (e.g., where it has been applied, what worked, and what didn’t).
  • How and Why the Social Software Market Has Changed (Larry Cannell). Facebook is setting the standard for how people expect to socialize online. This massive disruption is an opportunity for new products to enter the market and for existing vendors to change their stripes and target a new audience. In addition, the widespread deployment of Microsoft SharePoint (which comes with social capabilities of its own) adds to this confusing mix of options.
  • The Risks and Rewards of Mobile Social Networking (Darin Stewart). Social networking and mobile computing are experiencing explosive growth. The always-on, always-connected nature of mobile devices makes them a natural complement to the up-to-the-minute status appetites of social media devotees. By understanding the mobile social media landscape, technology leaders can prepare to address the increasingly complex demands of their untethered but still connected user communities.
  • End-User Case Study: Enabling Business Value through Social Networking (Luke Dahl, Jet Propulsion Laboratory). JPL has deployed an internal collaboration and social networking platform to enable users to find people and information to improve efficiencies and create business value.  This session will cover the architecture necessary to support this, lessons learned, and how it aligns with our enterprise strategy.
  • How Cisco Quad is Different from SharePoint and Why You Should Care (Larry Cannell). Cisco is entering the enterprise social software market at an opportune time with the release of Quad. Social networking has become the most popular online activity and collaboration platforms originally rooted in documents are showing their age. Given Cisco’s relationship with nearly every enterprise and the deep resources it can call upon, Quad is a product that IT professionals should understand when the Cisco marketing engine kicks in.
  • End User Case Study: Enterprise-class Social Networking, We’re Not in Farmville Any More (David Sacks, Yammer). An emerging class of products, coming from both established vendors (e.g., Salesforce or Tibco) and relative newcomers (e.g., Socialcast, Socialtext, or Yammer), is enabling the creation of Facebook-like sites that integrate business application information within a familiar flow of collaborative interaction. In this session David Sacks, CEO and founder of Yammer, will discuss the standards and approaches necessary to provide these new "systems of engagement" that can socialize data and events managed by enterprise applications.
  • Are Intranets Relevant Any More? (Craig Roth & Larry Cannell). In this age of sharing information through social networks, many corporate intranets seem like quaint 1990s holdovers. And when publishing on the formal intranet is tightly controlled, other channels such as document workspaces, wikis and discussion groups seem to be more vibrant and up-to-date. Director Larry Cannell and Managing Vice President Craig Roth will each take one side of the argument: Are intranets simply not relevant anymore?

I look forward to seeing you at the Catalyst Conference in San Diego, where the weather is always pleasant and the sessions and conversations are thought-provoking.

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IT’s Frustration with Enterprise 2.0 (Free Gartner Webinar)

by Larry Cannell  |  July 5, 2011  |  Comments Off

Now that the Enterprise 2.0 conference is over, what can you do to move these ideas forward? If you are in IT, this can be a difficult question. For one thing, we have already seen a long line of innovative collaborative technologies over the years. A few have been successful, while many others have looked promising but haven’t been as broadly adopted as originally expected. To make matters worse, the reaction from business management and workers towards using these technologies is often mixed. While some are downright enthusiastic about social software, others are skeptical or just plain too busy to bother. As a result, many IT environments have several collaborative technologies that all started out as good ideas but have fallen short of expectations.Therefore, why should we expect our experience deploying something like an enterprise social network, for example, will be any different?

This week, I would like to share with you ideas for helping IT take social software technologies forward in a free Gartner webinar.

Succeeding with enterprise social software is a tough problem and I don’t claim to have a silver bullet or a magic list for IT to follow (beware of blog posts listing 10 steps to success). However, in Burton IT1 we have a framework, called the Online Workplace Framework (OWF), which enables architects and strategists to break the challenge down into manageable pieces. In short, the OWF helps IT:

  • Describe specific online workplace capabilities an organization needs (in terms that both the business and IT understands)
  • Work with organizations to evolve their workplace capabilities
  • Drive technology decisions based on these business needs (rather than guessing)

Simply put, the OWF is an approach for tailoring a workplace, or social software, technology strategy for a particular organization. So, instead of relying on a vendor to explain the value of social software, develop a strategy based on an organization’s workplace needs. As new technologies come out, you can then rationally assess their potential impact against your existing strategy rather than simply reacting to new marketing messages.

This Gartner webinar is free for anyone and is taking place Thursday, July 7 (9am and Noon ET). You can find details at this link.

Some introductory information about the OWF is already available online. While the the webinar will provide much more detail, the following blog posts contain background on the OWF.

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Thinking About Reusable Social Services

by Larry Cannell  |  February 15, 2011  |  Comments Off

From an architectural perspective, instant messaging provided us a glimpse at some of the essential capabilities that later proved important for social networks. Unfortunately, the sheer momentum of artificially defined market segments can stay around for years and cause us to not see this as an evolution of social engagement and simply continue viewing these features as, well, … just features. However, by taking a broader perspective and learning lessons from these experiences, we can now see how these social services are applicable beyond IM systems as well as social networks.

From Features to Services

What many of us once thought were critical features of instant messaging, turned out to be the building blocks of richer online social interactions (as exemplified by social networks such as Facebook). These social services include:

  • A social graph: IM systems use buddy lists. Social networks have friends or connections. More importantly, social networks also allow us to describe relationships with other entities, such as groups or applications.
  • The changing definition of presence: IM systems describe someone’s presence in terms of online/offline or free/busy. Social networks can describe a richer form of online presence that highlights what is happening within someone’s life at that moment (through their status messages), the groups they are involved in, and can also indicate interest and experience (based on who and what they interact with).
  • Controlling how people can interact with us (also known as relation controls): IM systems can limit who is allowed to send us messages or see our presence. Social networks have privacy controls.

The lesson learned here is architects need to start thinking of features such as a social graph, presence, and relation controls as reusable services that can be leveraged by applications beyond instant messaging and social networks. This includes not only consuming these services, but also enriching them as well.

For example, there are many contexts within a business application (e.g., a customer in a CRM system or a bill of materials in a product release system) that could use or enrich these services. Business applications should:

  • Provide contexts that participate within a social graph (e.g., employees who have worked with a particular customer or products that have used a particular part or component)
  • Provide contexts that have a "presence" (e.g., the changing state of a BoM or comments posted by others in response to an event)
  • Honor or contribute to relation controls (e.g., who has permission to monitor this customer or this BoM?).

Our IT1 Reference Architecture already details a number of aspects to consider with these reusable social services. Look for further revisions to explore these topics more fully throughout the year.

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