The Enterprise 2.0 Conference in mid-June in Boston is the premier conference each year for discussing, debating, exploring, and showcasing the latest work in applying Enterprise 2.0 technologies and approaches within organizations. The conference started as the Collaborative Technologies Conference in New York in 2005, but shifted to Boston the following year and changed its name to the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in 2007. In its 8th year, it is now a well-established annual conference, and attracts sponsorship from the major software vendors including Microsoft and IBM, and case studies from some of the world’s largest organizations – with FedEx and Wells Fargo among the keynote speakers on the mainstage this year. The conference this year was heavily focused on the “social” angle, and given the wider rise of social business concepts in recent years, going forward the conference will be renamed for the third time, to E2 Social. I haven’t been able to attend the conference for a few years (I was there in 2005 and 2007, and helped organize 2006), but here’s what I gleaned about the main themes this year.
Jared Spataro from Microsoft and Jeff Schick from IBM each gave a short keynote about how their respective organizations are playing in the enterprise 2.0, E2, or social business spaces. Jared highlighted two main ideas: the value of using a collection of connected and integrated technologies instead of discrete components, and the use of enterprise 2.0 technologies for getting work done. His first point plays clearly to the integrated innovation approach that Microsoft spends most of its time on, and his second point speaks to increasing maturity of the tools, thinking, and approaches in this area. Jeff spoke about the big trends that IBM sees (and is pushing forward) – social networks, business processes, big data, and analytics – as well as the opportunity for taking the user interface concepts of “social” and applying it to business processes. In other words, how can the systems that people use to get work done be simplified by applying social user interface and experience ideas – such as the activity stream?
A number of customer organizations were represented in the keynote sessions too – including Colliers International talking about its use of SharePoint, LeasePlan on its approach to introducing IBM Connections, Wells Fargo on developing a social business strategy and approach, and FedEx on gamification as a means of increasing adoption. For Colliers International, a commercial real estate firm, a big focus has been on “knowing what Colliers knows,” through the use of profiles to link people based on expertise and geography. LeasePlan, a vehicle leasing firm, has a similar focus on making it easier to find and connect with the right people across the 30 countries in which LeasePlan operates. Vim from LeasePlan spoke about their approach to adoption, culture change, and making the new system a part of daily work. Wells Fargo, a financial services firm, has been exploring where and how to apply social business ideas internally, and Nathan from Wells Fargo spoke about the journey to date. Finally, Bryan from FedEx spoke about the use of gamification – the use of gaming and reward mechanics inside software – to drive adoption, engagement, and viral growth of its internal social business platform.
Professor Andrew McAfee, who originated the “Enterprise 2.0″ moniker in a Sloan Management Review article in 2006, spoke about the interplay between computers and people, noting that computers are getting smarter than humans in a wide range of domains. He gave examples of how computers are being used to generate well-written prose, see patterns in medical data that highly trained pathologists can’t see, and assess the quality and value of wine. In a startling statistic, a review of 136 academic studies found that computers were better at a human equivalent in all but 8 instances, and those 8 may have been flawed. His general conclusion was that changes of this nature are going to cause disruptions in the lives of humans as the interplay between computers and people is re-balanced, but that we should embrace this re-balancing and explore where and how humans have a role to play.
Clearly there was much more to learn and experience at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston this year, but the above gives a sense of the main themes in the various keynote speeches. The conference will be back in June 2013, sporting a new name – E2 Social. Perhaps you and I should plan to be there?