Enterprise 2.0 is much more real to me than Web 2.0. There’s just something more tangible about it, something very different.
Prior to Web 2.0, there were plenty of web sites doing interesting things with DHTML, XMLHTTPRequest, and lots of technologies that tried to bring this more mainstream like IE’s XML Data Islands. One could argue that Web 2.0 was the recognition of information sharing on the open internet, but that seems a bit out of date since the 1996 version of that story looks very similar. Some would argue that Web 2.0 is simply a realization of the ability to leverage XML to easily consume data from disparate sources, but again that is a notion that is about 8 years late in recognition. No, we just can’t seem to put a finger on what is Web 2.0, but we seem to know it when we recognize it.
Contrast this inability to really put a finger on things to the notion of Enterprise 2.0. There is a very real and marked difference between the Enterprise apps of today and in 2000. Back then, Dilbert cartoons about caveman companies like Union Carbide were popular, poking fun at the prehistoric administrative policies that locked down computers from accessing information on the internet. Today, the internet becomes an integral part of most of our daily lives, using tools like Live Messenger from work to communicate and collaborate about business related activities with colleagues on the outside. As recently as 2000, most of my mom’s work at Union Carbide as an administrative assistant was done on an electric typewriter, filling out reports with bizarre chemical names in them. The work was error prone even for those possessing chemistry degrees, but there was little incentive to change. Companies like Sears operated their call centers from green screen terminals with archaic programs that required an entire book to determine how to properly fill out a sum total of 5 screens. In 2002, I worked on an engagement for a home builder to take one of those green screen applications and put a web UI on it… all the while maintaining the same keystrokes and commands that the old green screen terminals used, complete with square blinking cursor to signify input entry opportunities.
Go into those major enterprise customers today, and you are going to see SharePoint everywhere. Documents are checked in, approval workflows initiated, signatures collected, and processes that used to require weeks completed in a matter of minutes. The huge enterprises finally see the value of IT and finally are embracing new ways to provide their employees to work smarter and get more done. As that trend continues to evolve, there will be a “coming to Jesus”, as my mother used to say when we were little, between the operations groups who manage firewalls as maximum security prisons and the inmates who expect to roam the cellblocks freely as if on vacation in Jamaica. The Millenials are coming, and dragging Enterprise 2.0 with them.
One of my friends recently was assigned to work at a major telco provider (if you are in the US, you probably have either their service or their competitor’s). I tried to reach him on IM and could not. Odd, he’s almost always on IM. I sent him email, and couldn’t reach him. It wasn’t until much later in the day that he replied, “OMG, this sux. I can’t use IM, mail, and most internet sites are locked down.” Huh? This is a major network carrier, surely they would see the value of using network services?!? Nope… a couple of buddies replied the same, you can’t even get to msdn.microsoft.com to do research, that’s locked down as well. Reading blogs is out of the question, there’s no way for the ops guys to scan all of the blogs ahead of time to know if they are “safe” or not.
Another friend recently left Microsoft and went to a huge M&E customer (you have seen their movies and TV shows, surely). I knew the culture shock would be large, I just underestimated how large it would be. Not only are many websites locked down and ports for applications like Live Messenger locked down, but he can’t even install anything on his own machine. He’s an architect in the IT department, but he can’t even install Visual Studio or SQL Server or BizTalk for research or development. Getting those types of applications requires divine ops intervention. Twitter? Ha… good luck, that’s locked down, as is every other social networking site where all of his tech buddies are happily chatting away, who could answer his tough programming question really quick if only he could get back online.
Which brings me to my point… Enterprise 2.0 will bring a whole new dimension of the productivity vs. managed enterprise debate. Introducing concepts like Live Mesh which provide synchronization services to multiple machines that are not necessarily on the same domain, or even Live FolderShare, which lets you store files in the cloud, will cause tremendous headaches for the old guard who oversee the firewall. Sure, it’s easier to keep all the ports off… but how much are you slowing productivity by doing so?
We’ll start to read epic tales of battles between developers and operations… how the MCSDs lead a massive revolt against the oppressive MCSEs. We’ll read empassioned, Braveheart-esque battle cries.
In the very near future, we will see services similar to the God-I-hope-it-gets-renamed-soon BizTalk Services and the I-can’t-wait-for-everyone-to-see-the-potential SQL Server Data Services become mainstream offerings. Amazon S2, Virtual Earth, the whole Live platform, all of it will continue finding its way into more and more daily activities and applications. And that’s where the arguments start. The ops guys find it easier just to shut all the firewall ports off, and the Millenials expect all the ports to be on. At PDC this year, I fully expect to hear huge announcements around Microsoft’s cloud services strategy and platform enhancements to support it.
Enterprise 2.0 is much more about leveraging the data on the outside to enhance the data on the inside than the operations guys of today are willing to admit.