Archive for May, 2007

Memorial Day

May 28th, 2007

On this Memorial Day of 2007 when we remember the men and women who sacrificed in the service of their country there is one group particularly memorable for me. They are the Women Airforce Service Pilots – WASP’s (see a brief video about them here).

During World War II when there was a severe shortage of male pilots a plan was hatched. Led by Jacqueline Cochran, Nancy Harkness Love and General Henry “Hap” Arnold the WASP’s were created in 1942. There were over 25,000 applicants of which only 1,830 were accepted for training. They were put through the same training as the male Army pilots including ground school and instrument flying. They lived in barracks at Avenger Field, Sweetwater Texas and were expected to perform all of the tests male officers were subjected to. Only 1,074 women graduated and earned their wings. My mother, Doris Duren, was one of them.

The WASP’s were disbanded in December 1944. They received no military honors or benefits (38 of the WASP’s were killed in service). They had flown over 60 million air miles. They delivered 12,650 aircraft of 78 different types from factories to ports for shipment over seas, ferried men and equipment, and towed gunnery targets. Of the combat aircraft ferried within the United States during WW II , over 50% were done by the WASP’s. The WASP’s flew aircraft and missions some of the male pilots had refused. When they were disbanded the WASP’s were offered jobs with the emerging commercial airlines . . . . as flight attendants. In 1977 the WASP’s were finally granted military veteran status though a bill sponsored by Senator Barry Goldwater. They have been included in the Women In Military Service For America Memorial, dedicated in 1997 at the Ceremonial Entrance to Arlington National Cemetery.

One of the WASP’s, Jean Hixson, went on to become one of the first team of female astronauts, the Mercury 13 (another Mercury 13 member Irene Leverton tried to join the WASP’s by lying about her age but didn’t make it). These courageous and talented ladies were treated no better than their predecessors this time suffering indignities directly from President Johnson.

Today I am the father of three young girls and I still see subtle (and sometimes overt) ways in which society treats them as second-class citizens. Given by background in technology I am particularly sensitive to the way girls are not encouraged to be interested in math and science (not to mention the poor treatment in our schools of math and science in general). There are some indications things are changing, however slowly. ZifDavis CIO magazine recently named their top 100 CIOS and the number one slot went to Patricia Hewlett , VP ExxonMobil. When you look at the other 99 you see only19% are women. It seems we still have a way to go.


Déjà vu All Over Again

May 20th, 2007

Stick a fork in it, it’s done. Web 2.0 is “over and out” according to Peter Rip at EarlyStageVC. While he took some criticism over the data he used, those arguments have been refuted by Life is an Venture. Tim Berners-Lee was spot on in this podcast when he said “Web 1.0 was all about connecting people. It was an interactive space, and I think Web 2.0 is of course a piece of jargon, nobody even knows what it means. If Web 2.0 for you is blogs and wikis, then that is

people to people. But that was what the Web was supposed to be all along.”. If Web 2.0 is not the next step in the evolution of the internet, then what is? To answer that question we must be clear about what Web 2.0 is and more importantly what it is not.

Clearly Web 2.0 resonated with people and generated much useful discussion. That can be attributed to many factors other than just core value. Much of the excitement was from those who profited from the discussion regardless of any substantive value. A lot of press, forums and symposiums were funded, bored developers had a new toy to play with and entrepreneurs had something new to sell to venture funds bulging with un-invested cash.

In 2005 Tim O’Reilly originally defined Web 2.0 as having the core competencies of:

  • Services, not packaged software
  • Architecture of Participation
  • Cost-effective scalability
  • Re-mixable data source and data transformations
  • Software above the level of a single device
  • Harnessing collective intelligence

To deliver these competencies requires the following qualities:

  1. The Web as Platform
  2. Harnessing Collective Intelligence
  3. Data is the Next Intel Inside
  4. End of the Software Release Cycle
  5. Lightweight Programming Models
  6. Software Above the Level of a Single Device
  7. Rich User Experiences

And the following test for Web 2.0 companies:

  • Services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability
  • Control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them
  • Trusting users as co-developers
  • Harnessing collective intelligence
  • Leveraging the long tail through customer self-service
  • Software above the level of a single device
  • Lightweight user interfaces, development models, AND business models

All that is missing is the part in the fine print that says the only way to be profitable is to be acquired by Google. To defer the embarrassing discussions of revenue the concept of Enterprise 2.0 was coined in hopes of selling the Web 2.0 snake oil to the enterprise for real money. Enterprises were slow on the uptake however and to-date while companies are exploring the ideas of Web 2.0, little has been done beyond pilot trials. It certainly hasn’t been the revolutionary innovation the hyperbole promised. That hasn’t stopped the parade though as the up-coming Enterprise 2.0 conference information promises:

“Enterprise 2.0 makes accessible the collective intelligence of many, translating to a huge competitive advantage in the form of increased innovation, productivity and agility.”

They position a combination of the best of Web 2.0 and the several of popular buzzwords from the last couple years of Business Process Re-engineering (BPR) and Business Process Management (BPM).

Enterprise 1.0 Enterprise 2.O
IT-driven technology/ Lack of user control
Top down
Teams are in one building/ one time zone
Silos and boundaries
Need to know
Information systems are structured and dictated
Overly complex
Closed/ proprietary standards
Long time-to-market cycles
Flat Organization
Ease of Organization Flow
User-driven technology
Bottom up
Teams are global
Fuzzy boundaries, open borders
Information systems are emergent
On Demand
Short time-to-market cycles

Gartner’s 2006 Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle identified the Web 2.0 features they felt had potential for transformational impact to the enterprise.

  • Social Network Analysis
  • Ajax
  • Collective intelligence
  • Mashup

The concepts behind Social Computing and Collective Intelligence have been central to the efforts involved in Knowledge Management for many years. Forrester’s Mathew Brown has published a paper Social Computing Upends Past Knowledge Management Archetypes which shows how some of the ideas from Web 2.0 are impacting some of the core KM issues. ” Social Computing is becoming the new KM, moving it from an often too academic exercise into the real world of people sharing knowledge and expertise with each other naturally, without even thinking about it.”. The application of the lessons learned from Web 2.0’s version of social computing is essential to fully realizing the promise of Knowledge Management. The question is what technology is appropriate to engage the individual and facilitate their interactions with others within the enterprise to meet the lofty goals of Knowledge Management. I will explore this topic further later.

The view that the enterprise will not be transformed by Enterprise 2.0 is shared by Tom Davenport in his blog “Why Enterprise 2.0 Won’t Transform Organizations“. He says “Most of the barriers that prevent knowledge from flowing freely in organizations – power differentials, lack of trust, missing incentives, unsupportive cultures, and the general busyness of employees today – won’t be addressed or substantially changed by technology alone.” and he is right. However, as you will see my greatest argument against Web/Enterprise 2.0 isn’t about the culture of resistance but about the fact it doesn’t really help people do their jobs any better or easier!

In Dion Hinchcliffe’s blog on Product Development 2.0 he observes “Its important to note that it’s a fundamental shift for a business to turn over a large part of its product development to its users, becoming more of a mediator and facilitator than a product creator or owner. This is the shift of control from institutions to individuals that the apparently relentlessly democratizing force of the Web has begun exerting on the business models of organizations of every description around the world.” He is right that what the enterprise needs is institutions to individuals as a critical transformational initiative but Web 2.0 is not the best way to approach it.

Chris Fine of Goldman Sachs in his recent presentation at VON (Voice on the Net) Spring 2007 identified a new customer market at the intersection of the consumer and the enterprise (we’ll call this new customer Employee 2.0 just to be annoying). He points out that “pervasive consumer technology is blurring the lines between ‘home’ and ‘workplace’”. The ‘workplace’ is becoming a more and more abstract environment. Mobile devices, remote access and telecommuting have created an environment where “the world is my workplace”. Fine identifies some of the attributes of the new workplace as:

  • providing Productivity Based Collaboration,
  • providing Pervasive Security and
  • leveraging/accessing Global Resources and Services.

The new Employee 2.0 wants their collaborative applications to be delivered “their way” to maximize their productivity. They do not want to have to adapt the work methods and business process the meet the needs of the application, but the other way around. This requires an application environment that is:

  • Ubiquitous
  • Portable
  • Highly Configurable and customizable (sophisticated and tech-savvy user base)
  • Secure (from the enterprise perspective – centrally configured, locally administered)
  • Compatible - Integrates deeply with existing enterprise services

These are the requirements for the next generation of productivity-based social computing applications . . . .. Net 2.0.

So what is the distinction between Web 2.0 and Net 2.0? Well, let’s look at some of the areas where Web 2.0 doesn’t deliver real value to the emerging Employee 2.0.

  1. The web can’t work off-line – while the lofty ambition of Fixed/Mobile Convergence is to provide uninterrupted connectivity, we are several years away from achieving it. There needs to be a convergence of devices, platforms, networks and communication protocols across dozens of vendors before this is practically feasible. Given the protective attitudes of most of these vendors toward their markets and technologies, this objective will be achieved at glacial speeds. Until then, people will need to be able to work off-line and they will need all of the requisite resources at their fingertips including applications and data.
  2. Web applications are centrally deployed and managed – prior to the client/server approach to application architecture, systems were ensconced within the IT towers. The IT power brokers dispensed access and functionality as they saw fit. The client/server revolution (and it was a revolution) allowed business units within the enterprise to choose the applications that were most appropriate to their business needs and not the administrative expedience of the IT group. Client/Server proved the wide applicability of many emerging technologies including Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMS), Object Oriented Design and Development and n-tiered architectures. The problems with Client/Server were the difficulty in maintaining the applications on each workstation within the enterprise, potential conflicts between apps running on the same workstation and the “anarchy” of application/technology choices being made without IT over-sight (and IT’s ultimate responsibility for having to support them). Web technology solved this problem by moving everything but the browser back within IT’s control. The fact that the browser is a lame development environment for enterprise applications and that the enterprise had to invest in whole new technologies to deploy web technology was a small price to pay to end the revolt (only because management wouldn’t allow the guillotine).
  3. Web 2.0 is not a shift in technology – yes, AJAX is a recent movement and does help make the browser-based application less onerous to the sophisticated user but it doesn’t represent a paradigm shift in technology. Web 2.0 is a shift in the kinds of applications that are being developed but they represent more a gradual evolution than a disruptive revolution and are as much a reflection of the attitudes of the new generation of users than of the developers of the applications. The expansion of interactive functionality is just a re-delivery of functionality that was there when the web first emerged from CERN.
  4. Web 2.0 doesn’t address the real “long tail” of user needs – the Employee 2.0 market speaks to the needs of the people who are trying to do their job. The things they do are directly and specifically related to the nature of their jobs within the enterprise they work for, and one size, most assuredly, does not fit all. The Employee 2.0 isn’t interested in taking on the task of creating ‘mash-ups’ to customize their work environment. What they what is the ability to easily select features and functionality and assemble them in a way that meets their specific needs and to get them working with the minimal effort. The Open Source and Freeware communities provide excellent models for how this can work. Developers routinely create applications that address small vertical needs and more often than not these are stand anyone applications users can easily download and install. Trying to accomplish the same result with web-based applications is problematic from both the infrastructure and installation perspectives.
  5. Group intelligence is not appropriate for most enterprise efforts – if you have ever worked for a company where every decision was consensus driven you know what a nightmare it is. Such companies move slowly, are ineffective and ultimately get their lunch handed to them by a more agile competitor. Companies today more and more understand how effective it is to function in small agile teams who are able to make decisions quickly using their domain expertise. Further, as Chris Fine points out in his presentation enterprises routinely create information “archipelagos” for perfectly valid reasons and what is needed are small secure bridges between those archipelagos and not one big island. While there are areas where group intelligence is appropriate, such as focus groups, market research and advertising, it is very inappropriate for most contexts within the enterprise workforce (particularly at the senior management level).

Where Web 2.0 falls flat, Net 2.0 meets the needs of Employees 2.0 by delivering the following:

  • Working Anywhere – Online, offline, in the office, at home or on the road. Net 2.0 is completely portable and mobile.
  • Distributed Data and Applications – to support the mobility of the Employee 2.0, Net 2.0 distributes data to all endpoints in the network, and in many cases the applications reside there as well.
  • Complete Customization – Employees can configure the Net 2.0 applications to meet their specific needs based on their role within the network and the people they collaborate with.
  • Pervasive Security - This means the needs of the enterprise as well as the needs of the end user (both their personal and work concerns) are met without undue effort on their part.

So what does the technology look like that will make possible the applications of Net 2.0? Well, it will draw upon the best of the ideas from both Web 2.0 and Client/Server to provide the flexibility and control the Employee 2.0 market demands. Here (in no particular order) are some of the qualities of Net 2.0.

  • The new applications will understand how people connect in small groups to do their work.
  • The information/resources they use will be secure and available whenever and wherever it is needed whether they are on-line or off-line. The Employee 2.0 workforce, because of the blurred lines between work and personal time, will also need to be able to segment the information used by the applications between company data and personal data.
  • The collaborative aspect of Net 2.0 will allow people to interact as they choose including what features/tools they jointly use and what data can be shared (and under what circumstances). The enterprise will need to be able to define the limits of permissible collaboration to protect themselves and their assets, but within those limits the user has full control.
  • The applications will be built upon a lightweight and portable technology stack capable of running on virtually any device.
  • The fixed/mobile convergence will consolidate the portable platforms and there are only 3 platforms left as workstations (Microsoft, Apple and Linux).
  • The user will need to be able to easily install/add new features and capabilities that meet their personal needs. The new technology stack will need to provide a means for simple and automatic updates. Further, the technology will need to support multiple versions of application code so that any feature/function can be deployed without any regard for what code dependencies exist for other features.
  • The technology stack must provide developers with a consistent and simple model for maintaining a shared context for collaborative applications.
  • The new applications will be driven by the Open Source model for software development. This is a requirement not just for the pricing model but for the trust (transparency), security and vertical integration needs as well (all speaking to the ‘long tail’). This is accomplished by basing the application architecture upon an open standard.
  • The Employee 2.0 applications will facilitate the simple and easy integration with the enterprise application environments. This means that the resources/services the enterprise makes available for broad integration can be interfaced with by the Net 2.0 technology.

In the subsequent posts I will expand upon these topics in greater detail. I will provide a deeper view into the proposed architecture of Net 2.0 and what the likely technology will be to realize the goals. I will also explore the ways the Employee 2.0 market will make use of Net 2.0 technology to increase their productivity.