Distillations from Day One

First day at Office 2.0 definitely did not disappoint. I was unable to attend the morning sessions, due to a client meeting in the South Bay, but the afternoon panels were excellent. In addition to my usual 3x5 card notes on individual sessions, I was keeping a set of cards for particularly useful bits of wisdom bubbling up from the panels. There is a lot. Here are a few.
  • Ensure that the value proposition can withstand the pressure of easy data import/export.
  • Enable backups of data without requiring all O20 companies to become backup experts; service & data are separate value propositions.
  • This + web 2.0 = O20: Enable end-users to solve workflow problems by assembling applications.
  • "Mashup" is just a euphemism for EI (Enterprise Integration). [panelist on Enabling Mashups panel]
  • Technology should supplement business decisions, not substitute for them (good enough vs automatic '5 9s').
  • Security goes out the window when folks want to get things done.
  • Why do majority of KMS fail? They separate 'documents' from 'interactions with documents'; wiki & collaborative dashboard apps become de-facto KMS when they focus on workflow while allowing categorizing, searching, & tagging. KMS 2.0?
  • Worried that a recruiter will find your blog? Maybe now they think you're weird for blogging, but in a few years they'll think it weird that you don't have a digital trail of blog/etc material. (SRC: shades of usenet!)

It was particularly interesting to hear that vendors are going after the large companies. One panelist said that you see most firms competing for the same 50K companies' business, and ignoring roughly 38 million others-- but then went on to say, getting agreement from fellow panelists, that O20 apps weren't going to be sufficiently mature to tackle the non-enterprise market for quite some time. One symptom of this that I encountered multiple times in the vendor demo area was the structuring of apps into 'free, personal use', 'small group', and 'enterprise' pricing & functionality tiers. This creates a problem for a typical small business, as the features needed most (generally, roles, fine-grained permissions, & delegated authority) are only available at the 'enterprise' pricing level. Talking to several vendors about this, the story I heard again and again was 'in our experience, this is how it works'.

The trouble is, my specialty is dealing with startups and small businesses, and this contradicted my experience. This morning, I realized a possible explanation for the disconnect. Another part of the story I heard had been that the 'small group' services were based on departments or workgroups within larger enterprises. These folks are all on the same team (literally) and really don't need the kind of role and auth structures needed by a business of the same size. Small businesses and startups are all about control and delegation-- even in 2-person startups, there are clear areas of responsibility. For a profitable small business trying to simplify with O20, the price structure will keep them away, because what they need is for the role & auth features of the app to *replace* the personnel costs of having strict department roles, and to echo the hierarchy in their workplace.

If one says, 'yes, but our monthly cost for this is a fraction of personnel cost', the small businessperson will reply, 'yes, but I currently do this by taking some time from each of N employees, I would not be staffing a person to do this fulltime'. The first O20 app to service small businesses in the ways they need will clean up bigtime. Intuit was brought up as an example, in one panel, of consumer apps driving business apps-- Quickbooks for home use drove the creation of Quickbooks for business, and the development of Quickbooks Pro and other higher-return tools for Intuit. Including Web 2.0 apps, which brings us full circle.

Right now the vendor model seems to be that personal/free users will drive adoption by workgroups which will drive adoption by the enterprise. We need an additional model, that will be fundable and sustainable, while addressing the issue of how we get this great functionality out to the folks who need it most, the small business owner. Ideas?


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