Is Web 2.0 creating innovation – or is it happening because of it?


Isn’t it an exciting time to be alive? There has never been such a volume of innovation – or information for that matter. And by the time you finish reading this post, there will be plenty of others you can also dig into.

Right now we are seeing innovation in so many areas – biotech, renewables, medicine, engineering. Technology underpins the capacity to innovate – and Web 2.0 is also a seething hotbed of new ideas with a new commercial bent. But is Web 2.0 the source of innovation, or is it happening because of the innovation around us?

Well, both are true – but the demand for technology tools to help us collaborate continues to grow.

Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 – Collaborations new frontier and its profound impact on information management in your enterprise.

There is a great deal of hype and mystique surrounding Web 2.0 and myriad of 2.0 terms that now exist as a result, such as Work 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, Office 2.0 and so on.

The hype is as loud and as significant as the last dot com boom where 2.0 has replaced “e”.

However, what is different today is that this revolution is focussed squarely at collaborative technologies and information sharing, as opposed to primarily transaction exchange of the dot com era.

Are you in a capacity to provide a leadership role in the emergence of Web 2.0? For it is as certain as night follows day that your staff are using these technologies without you knowing or seeking your consent – all in the name of getting the job done quicker.

Over the next series of posts I will outline the following:

  • Outline the facets of Web 2.0 and compare and contrast to dot com
  • Explain some of the technologies that underpin Web 2.0
  • Show you some great tools you can take advantage of new technologies
  • Explain a myriad of terms used including RSS, Mashups, Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, blogs, wikis and you show you tools such as 37 Folders and tagging approaches
  • Outline how you can start to incorporate these types of tools and approaches into your Information Management Strategies
  • Outline some of the moves the larger vendors are taking to support these types of collaborative technologies

Could this be EDRM nirvana – an opportunity to tap into content – or is the animal out of the cage threatening everything done before it?

I look forward to your feedback…..

Venture Capital – The E2B experience (still smelling like dot com to me)

Back in March 2000, I discussed the idea of setting up a First Tuesday group in Western Australia with Stuart Hope, then CEO of Software Engineering Australia (SEAWA). We also brought in Peter Morris of Telesis, and got ourselves underway.

First step was to review the licencing model for First Tuesday – which read something like – “bear all liability personally, but we can take your assets – database, networks, dealflow and anything else for that matter – without recourse”.

We said, “I don’t think so” and set up our own meeting group called Entrepreneurs2business. The group was established as a dynamic meeting place for entrepreneurs, advisors and investors, with a view to commercialisation of these technology ideas to bring business growth, export revenue and to further grow the technology industry in Western Australia . Nothing particularly new in these types of forums other that the financial fuel of IPO fever.

The group was founded in May 2000 and held its first event on July 4, 2000. The group went on to hold 30 events, meeting monthly using the format of a speaker with commercialisation experience sharing their knowledge with the group. First Tuesday had long since died by the time we closed E2B.

Some interesting observations:

1. In networking events like this, the VC’s lean against the bar waiting to get picked up

2. The advisors all talk to each other and tell each other how well they are doing

3. The entrepreneurs stand nervously in the corner refusing to divulge their IP to anyone

(This is a little exaggerated of course – but seeing this in action the only thing you can do to get interaction is introduce people to each other and make sure they both understand why you are trying to connect them together).

Do you feel the market feels like that again? Fueled this time by trade sale and private equity, booming economies, and escalating salaries and expectations? Smells like it to me, love to get your feedback

What? Is that a dot-com smell in the air? It’s all about eyeballs again….

The interesting change with Web 2.0 has created a sense that the internet is all new again. There are some truly amazing success stories – witness www.utube.com as the largest, most recent couple of guys and an idea turned into millions. And may similar success fall to www.wordpress.com – this is truly a great offering.

But there is something in the air that smells funny…. and it seems we have a new generation of people coming through who have:

  • Never witnessed a recession
  • Never seen businesses lose a f…ing frightening amount of money
  • Never been paid so much for so little experience
  • Starting discussing “eyeballs” as inherently adding value

Am I cynical (or jaded as it didn’t work out last time – I was supposed to be driving a Ferrari to my own private golf course right now!) or does something smell funny?

Today, as it did at the time of the crash, it stills comes down to “show me the money”. At least now, advertising models are well established and easily quantified.

What piqued me to write this was a pic of Malcolm Gladwell on the front of the Australian Financial Review with him saying that business needs to get over itself and recognise the power of snap judgements.

I have read the Tipping Point, and did find it an interesting read. Gladwell may well be onto something – and I share a view that making snap decisions in the heat of business is often very sensible. You are closest to the action, best in the position to make the decision – so you should be able to make it without having to engage in endless email / other approvals – and analysing it may make you change your mind against something that makes sense.

However I also remember vividly hearing similar tones around the time of the dot com crash along the lines of, “if you are looking for a standard business model, you just don’t get it…”. You should be very concerned if anyone wont be specific on:

  1. Who wants it?
  2. How much for?
  3. Who says so?

At the end of the day business is about the exchange of value. Part of value creation is really thinking about things.

For more about thinking, please see my posts Talk to me in numbers and 3 Reasons why smart people in organisations do stupid things

So, what do you think? I look forward to any feedback….

Portal Smortal – Sharepoint, Websphere, Oracle – what are we trying to achieve here?

When someone suggests they want a portal the very first question to ask is, “what does a portal mean to you”.

Portal, like CRM – and many other terms in IT – tend to be all encompassing words designed to solve a complex raft of problems.

“We can’t get to our information easily” “I spent ages trying to find a document that I know is here somewhere and gave up” “We have heaps of copies of the same document” “I want a dashboard or traffic light to let me know when problems have emerged so I can immediate action” “I am sick of signing in to lots of different systems”

There is actually a fair bit of complexity in this – but the answer seems to be Portal (or intranet / new enterprise content management system – take your pick).

Same with CRM:

“I can’t get a single view of our customers” “..no one understands who is doing what with whom” “I was trying to cross sell and they already told us they can’t buy it” “The client told me that they were already dealing with another of our divisions and our company should already have a heap of information on them already”

Again, complex issues – people, process and technology at play again.

So what do we do? Start with the business problems to be solved, then resolve the process issues – and then the technology solution becomes much more simple – and effective.

Service – I’m not getting any – the dangers of implementing CRM software without understanding the need first

I was speaking with a friend today who was feeling pretty frustrated. You see, he had purchased a CRM software product for his business, but it wasn’t doing what he wanted. The vendor had considered that he had done his part – sell the product, install it on site, provide the user documentation, all thumbs up….

What the client actually needed was:

1. Assistance to clearly understand how to implement CRM as a strategy

2. Get the people on the bus committed to the approach

3. Define the new processes, and define these into an agreed requirements document

4. The vendor to configure the application to meet the defined requirements

5. The vendor to train the users and the administrator in exactly how to make CRM technology deliver on the CRM strategy

6. The vendor to come back and check / realign things after staff have been using it for awhile

My recommendation to you – if you have a complex business environment, or quite a number of people using the platform, be very, very wary of buying any software that runs across your business without buying implementation services (not just technical ones, but solid business analysis). See my post on people, process and technology for more on getting software implementation right.

SAAS CRM software products have been changing the landscape. There are plenty to choose from and I’ve looked at quite a number of CRM Software options including Sugar CRM and Salesforce. For my business I use and recommend Capsule CRM and have implemented it for many of my clients. In some cases for smaller companies and consultants, they have used the product for 12 months or longer without hitting a purchase threshold. It is low cost, from $12 per user per month.

What I like about Capsule CRM is that it is lightweight – it has what you need and no more. Integration with Google Apps is a winner as well, allowing me to get more done and churn through email from Gmail.

 

Capsule CRM
Capsule CRM

 

People, process, technology – still the 3 keys to successful application development projects

If you have found yourself in a situation where the process seems to change, accountabilities are uncertain and deadlines are missing, then perhaps you have a people, process and technology problem. Getting all 3 aligned is absolutely essential to ensuring a change process will work.

And they have to be resolved in that order.

1. People – what are the key issues: who owns the process, who is involved, what are their roles, are they committed to improving it and working together and importantly are they prepared to do the work to fix the problem

2. Process – a process can be defined as starting with a trigger event that creates a chain of actions that results in something being prepared for a customer of that process. Starting at high level and identifying the key big steps is important to see the process from end to end. Then moving into more detail to capture the various layers involved and various exceptions. Focussing on the high frequency (Pareto principle) transactions can have significant benefit to standardising the process. But also remember that it can be the non-standard transactions where service is slipping most or the potential for significant failure in the process may exist.

3. Technology – Now that people are aligned, and the process developed and clarified, technology can be applied to ensure consistently in application of the process and to provide the thin guiding rails to keep the process on track – to make it easier to follow the process than not do so.

Of course there is much more to getting a technology project right – but get the above 3 sorted out and you will be a long way down the path to project success.

Got any experiences or tips you’d like to share? I am keen to hear from you, so please add a comment….

 

George Negus, the aging sex symbol, on Information Technology

George Negus, who actually isn’t all that fond of being referred to as an aging sex symbol, gave a presentation in Perth at the wonderful venue of the Royal Perth Yacht Club.

He was discussing many things and was thoroughly entertaining, and at the conclusion of his speech answered some questions. I had my hand in the air to ask a question, and before he got to me, he launched on a tyraid about information technology:

“Ask yourself, what has information technology actually done ever done for anyone? Absolutely nothing..”. George proceeded to let rip and then asked for my question.

“Hi George, my name is Justin Davies from Ross Technology, a technology services company……”

Pause, and some general laughter….

“Well, now you mention it, the internet is pretty useful for research and I actually use it everyday…..”

George wasn’t at all wedded to a view that Information Technology and computers are useless; he just wanted a debate. He wanted to get stuck in and argue a point to get a better understanding. He particularly wanted people to think – he most certainly didn’t want people to just nod their heads. And he was also most generous, and I now have a signed copy of one of his books.

How does that relate to The Smell of Good Business?

In my view, not enough decisions or widely held points of view are actively debated enough. A bloody good heated debate, and judicious use of the F word does wonders in quickly test driving a proposition. But you must ensure it is the best idea and not the most strongest personality that wins.

So, I also invite debate. Let me know what you think….