In the past few weeks I’ve been having a number of interesting conversations about “Enterprise2.0”, what it means for mobility in general and for Nokia in particular. Despite a handful of productive and insightful commentators, it’s rather an anemic oeuvre compared to its Big Brother Web2.0 with very little written on the mobile aspects – as we could probably expect, given its U.S. origins. So, I’ve had some chats with some reliably smart folk such as Marc Orchant and Ajit Jaokar (who has also started musing on the topic), done some exhaustive research (yes, dear reader, minutes not seconds), and am liking what I see. It seems that many of the defining elements of Enterprise2.0 are a natural fit to the mobile space, in particular the possibility to capture and more easily transmit new kinds of data (for example putting location, context and communication history as an integral part of E2.0 services), the modular architecture of web syndication (RSS and user-defined filters work well on mobile) and, not least, the opportunities for the mobile to replace the PC, in particular for small businesses and / or emerging markets.
All is not rosy however. The mobile industry faces major obstacles in being part of this interesting arena, for example i) fragmented mobile operating systems, most of which are not built from the ground up to be web native ii) the default PC-centric approach towards enterprise2.0 applications (big screen, keyboard and sophisticated browser) and iii) despite some signs to the contrary, still slooooow progress by the mobile operators to get out of the way of innovation and introduce transparent pricing and proper flat-rate tariffs.
So I’d propose that the mobile industry should stop scrapping over who gets which share of an ever dwindling consumer pie and instead target the bigger prize – helping companies go 2.0. And that means a new, open and collaborative approach with a much wider range of partners than the mobile industry normally works with, so that we can figure out how to bake mobility into Enteprise 2.0 from the start.
Defining moments – people, not process
Definitions are often tricky, but in the case of Enterprise2.0, it shouldn't be hard - since it is really just Web2.0 goes corporate – from the frat-room to the boardroom. Harvard’s Andrew McAfee, one of those most active in the paternity battle for this new babe, defines it as “the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers”. A more expansive view would also take in the people dimension, such as this summary from a recent Enterprise2.0 conference: "a radical change in the way businesses operate and is as much about the people, the culture and the processes as it is about the technology, tools and platforms.” So either way, this is a story of socializing the enterprise (not a word that comfortably fits in most capitalist dictionaries). But if this approach puts people front and centre in companies, rather than inflexible processs and acronyms, I’m all in favour.
McAfee provides a helpful acronmyn (SLATES) which highlights key 2.0 characteristics that will generally be found in these solutions: search, links, authoring, tags, extensions, signals. More explanations in his original paper. Social software is a key building block for Enterprise2.0, and it is starting to attract IT managers’ attention. Gartner’s July 2007 research paper, “The Emerging Enterprise Social Software Marketplace” predicts a compound annual revenue growth for social software of 41.7% through 2011 (from $120m last year to $700m in 2011). They say it’s now moving beyond the traditional blogs and wikis to include “social software platforms, bookmarking, communities of practice, discussion forums, expertise location and information feeds”.
The timing is right for this discussion, as Enteprise2.0 is rapidly going mainstream. McKinsey found three quarters of executives planning to increase investment on these kind of collaborative tools. A Forrester survey of 119 CIOs found 89% “had adopted at least one of six prominent Web 2.0 tools - blogs, wikis, podcasts, RSS, social networking, and content tagging - and a remarkable 35% said they were already using all six of the tools.”
So, to the mobile angle. Mobile has generally been the ugly duckling of the 2.0 world, but things are changing. Just when we were finally seeing mobile browsers tackle full Ajax-y web pages well and start to convince people thinking that the mobile web and the real web aren’t really that different, along came rich browsing applications that raised the bar still higher for our already fiendishly creative geeks. The Big Browser paradigm is inimical to mobile, and if we try and squeeze it into little screens it will end in tears. One example, while reading a NYTimes piece on how your friends can make you fat, I noticed that you’re able to double-click on any word in the story and pull up a definition of it, without that word being in hypertext. That is a fairly new concept to me, and if it becomes widely adopted, could pose yet another challenge for mobile, as today’s mobile browser user experience do not seem to allow such doubleclicks. However, we all know the world is going mobile. The interesting question is whether the mobile element will be an afterthought, tacked on with limited functionality, or will be a fundamental part of the experience from the beginning. So I looked back at the Web2.0 principles Tim O'Reilly wrote in 2005 that seem to have weathered the discussion well and have now become part of the furniture. Most of them as we can see are relevant to the enterprise space, but what do they mean for mobile?
1. The Web as a platform
On the consumer side, the Web is now clearly the global platform for developers, entrepreneurs and individuals. Consumer-focused startups now need a fraction of the money they used to in order to get up and running, and scale with relative ease. MySpace, Bebo and Facebook have brought social networking to the masses – people who neither know nor care that such a term exists. That this trend is going corporate is one of the tenets of Enterprise2.0. Consumerization of IT is afoot, and consumer-focused tools (IM, VOIP and social networks) are appearing either neat (19,337 Microsofties on Facebook) or diluted to taste (LinkedIn and other less colourful offerings). However, the fuzzy, beta-nature of many of these services mean they’re not suited for business critical functions such as the software that runs our big manufacturing plants. Also, it is still hard for web-based startups to break into the big corporate accounts – you can’t yet code a business lunch or round of golf in Ajax. Supporting this, the Forrester survey found that 71% of companies would prefer “tools to be offered by a major incumbent vendor like Microsoft or IBM [rather than] smaller specialist firms like Socialtext, NewsGator, MindTouch, and others”. So, the web is not yet as advanced for enterprise offerings as for the consumer side.
As for the mobile industry, let’s be honest – we still have a way to go. Fragmented operating systems, screen sizes, resolutions and capabilities frustrate development efforts, few entrepreneurs are making real money out of the mobile internet or seeing large scale service adoption, and few people would chose their operator (or handset maker? let’s see) to provide their social network rather than their fresh-faced, agile web innovator. However, let’s remember that the mobile is much more recent arrival than the PC, and there are uniquely challenging constraints regarding form factor, UI and battery life etc. It is worth mentioning here that Nokia has been focusing like a laser beam on this topic in recent months – it has dominated recent corporate strategy dicussions and is now at the core of our recent reorg and new company structure. Our CEO has made “we’re an internet company” pronouncements whenever he’s been offered a microphone; Symbian is taking great strides in becoming more developer and web-friendly, and our browser is one of the industry’s best kept secrets (and incidentally, shares most of its code with the iPhone). We’re also starting to deliver some rather funky new apps, including a mobile web server, real-world browsing and of course the web tablet and open-source Linux platform (Maemo). Advert over – but worth saying, and no doubt other mobile players are being active here. As an industry however, we’re still playing catchup.
2. Harnessing collective intelligence
Amazon is often held up as the first example of a service provider that lets users benefit from collective intelligence through their collaborative filtering engine. So, why would this not also work in areas other than books? For example, "intelligent" CRM software could scan the salesperson's customer responses, and suggests appropriate product offerings based on large numbers of other interactions, potentially also outside the company. (Actually, maybe it does already, it’s been a while since I worked in the industry). Most sales people are inherently mobile, and providing lightweight usable tools that expose this collective intelligence at the right time and in the right context, could be a very valuable offering to mobile users.
Wikis are great at capturing user-created intelligence and are rapidly becoming mainstream in the enterprise space, but if you’ve ever tried using one of today’s wikis from your mobile, you’ll appreciate the inherent problems here. Socialtext have been making moves in this regard, but here is a standard chicken-and-egg problem – limited demand resulting in limited development time, begetting limited offerings. UI and synchronization are the key issues to solve. As noted above, services requring smart and big browsers face an uphill struggle on the mobile. Today’s wikis often suggest side-by-side version control review, and require a big screen to see the differences. Synchronization is a key conceptual challenge with mobile, since they generally are not always on. Wikis rely on having one version of the truth – two people making changes to the same item when offline then syncing later makes would vex Schrödinger himself.
Today project managers in Nokia that I work with will generally just create an empty wiki space as they start a new project. This example is being played out across the corporate landscape, and could well disrupt collaboration applications that are built on the assumption that the designers – cut off from the action – know what’s right for each project. Here Nokia’s interests are well aligned with the wiki companies and web services companies in general – do away with the need for a PC and keep the smarts in the cloud. Once bottom up “architectures of participation” are in place, powerful learnings can then be harnessed - enterprise-focused social networking tools (Ryze, Tribe, LinkedIn) are able to unearth links, activities and dependencies around the organization which traditional hierarchies and organizational structures miss.
There are plenty of ways that mobiles could be used as both in-the-field data gatherers, providing relelvant context, or being the mobile manager’s tool of choice for viewing and interacting with the wisdom of the crowds who have gone before.
3. Data is the next Intel inside
A key element of anything with a 2.0–suffix is about shift of control and content creation to the edges. In most companies, ours included, there is a lot of valuable data being created by our employees and customers that is currently not captured or utilized. As the locus of value moves from product to service, capturing and understanding these conversations is becoming a key requirement. These customers and employees at the edge now have the tools, techniques and – significantly – expectations about their ability to make change happen. Wikis and blogs are now full-to-bursting with valuable first-person thoughts, reflections and data - some unstructured, others in an array of formats. This data is now the beating heart of today's enterprise, and often a unique repository of insights from the key experts in the company. Few senior managers will fully appreciate this resource because it has arrived via the back door.
Nokia's own efforts at promoting wikis and blogs internally continue and are now reaching mainstream. There is still however plenty more scope for their use in the harder-to-reach, business critical areas of the business, such as the sales teams and factory management. When you’re making 300m+ phones a year, the fuzziness inherent in wikis needs to be selectively applied. Also there is room for more innovation on top of the many tools that are available. TiddlyWiki (recently purchased by BT) integrates IP-communication plug-ins to the wiki framework, thereby allowing in-house IT executives to hack together innovative IP & mobile communication experiences, without needing long requirements lists, lead times, operator involvement or large amounts of money. They used to burn people at the stake for such heresy.
I expect to see companies doing more with wikis and blogs, using them for key product and customer data, with relevant user-level access controls if necessary. At Nokia we are using the open source MediaWiki engine used for a Nokia Infopedia, to make it easy for people to find and then use the key data about our products, solutions, organizational change initiatives, pricing, strategies, marketing initiatives etc. Often overlooked is the change of pace that needs to take place when the early adopter tools move mainstream - today's wikis are still too complicated and hard to use, so a top-down campaign to encourage wiki use will fail without adequate thought and resources being given to training and education, as well as experimenting with new simple UI developments such as drag and drop and other concepts that people are already familiar with. Salesforce.com's AppExchange and Jive Software's clearspace are interesting in this regard. We need to get the balance right between innovation and communication in order to bring all employees along this path.
Customer conversations that happen around our products represent the possibility to collect insanely valuable data, and engage in genuine conversations with the people who buy our stuff. Currently, as a product company, we don’t yet do this on a large scale – just a few pilot initiatives and ad hoc discussions around individuals’ blogs. Contrast this to Google - every second their search engine receives primary user data, about terms that matter to them, and the effect of every change that Google makes to its site can be callibrated immediately, and they can get a sense of the pulse of the world in real time.
Moving from the source of data to the type of data - we are going to be seeing next generation web services start to be built for a three dimensional world, and one in which context is king. This will massively increase the number and type of data-sources available as inputs in the creation of web services. The scope and type of services that can be built using this data are difficult to imagine, because so much of the web today is in two dimensions - when you are reading your email client, the email sevice provider does not know if you are in Sydney or Sidcup.
Data can be defined broadly here - from active, user generated tags (modular, and easy to submit, so perfect for mobiles) to specific data, captured in the background such as usage and communication metadata. How easy is it for users of our devices to access their own data - where they've been, who they've talked to, what applications they've used the most etc? In short, not easy at all, yet.
Nick Carr highlights a critical piece of the puzzle suggesting that Enterprise2.0 may have a better chance than other new fangled technologies – they make life easier not harder. In particular, the system gets smarter as people use it normally. “Knowledge is captured, in other words, as it's created, without requiring any additional work”. The classic consumer examples here are Last.fm’s music recognition and Amazon’s collaborative filtering – both services allow your profile to become smarter and more helpful to you over time, if you give it access to what you do. So the incentive to use it increases. A fascinating question to me is to what extent can relevant data be automatically captured from the mobile device that you carry with you 24hrs a day, and itself be an input to new Enterprise2.0 applications.
It is the different types of data available to creative entrepreneurs that should make the mobile industry sit up and take notice. Location information is one key ingredient that is trapped and lying dormant for want of a ha’penny of innovation. An entrepreneur I spoke to recently said he would have been charged €0.15 for each call that his application made to the operator to get a location fix from their cell ID. What a wasted opportunity to add value. He is obviously now routing round the roadblock and using GPS or consumer-created information database. Location is just one piece of data, but there are many others on the phone – which companies you call the most, who your friends are, who was in Bluetooth range over the past few days. With careful management and consumer-friendly usage, such data could lead to new technicolour applications and services that will make today’s Enterprise and Web2.0 services look black-and-white.
4. Perpetual beta
The mobile industry has unwittingly delivered plenty of betas in the past (WAP, MMS…), but they weren’t marketed as such. Instead of failures, they might have been seen as tentative first steps. But then it’d have been hard to justify charging consumers so much for them. Few in our industry seem to have recognized that the value of rich, direct feedback from users can far outweigh the minimal revenues that are captured by overpriced and underwhelming services. This requires a change in attitude, and a more open conversation with customers. This will in turn require changes in our transparency and "corporate voice". It is not about shipping and forgetting, but about partnering with customers who are trying to maximize the value of their investments. The Web2.0 software company 37signals does this well - a product-focused blog keeps news of almost-daily upgrades flowing and rapid and personal customer support for paying customers results in a high comfort level, and willingness to engage.
The beta mindset is coming to mobile: recent examples include Orange’s coding camp in August for developers in San Francisco (which perhaps included some marketing element to boost the launch of their Bubbletop web/widget service) and Vodafone R&D labs’ Betavine which aims to “encourage collaboration in the area of mobile and internet communications”. At Nokia, we’ve launched Nokia BetaLabs for the public and internally we have a service called AlphaLabs which now has about 75 applications and services for employees to test and provide feedback on. However, I see most of these activities as table stakes – we’re not really raising the bar of innovation beyond what is happening on the web, and in any event, it’s often far more challenging to be a beta tester on mobile – installation is harder (though our PC suite product is now actually pretty usable), user numbers are lower so there’s less feedback, and there’s always a danger that we’ll alienate (and bankrupt) our users who download data intensive applications without a decent data plan. Another challenge here is the current community forum experience on mobiles – it’s fairly poor, and most examples are just web-based forums squeezed to a small screen.
The more interesting issues relate to the topics that today’s beta aspects can’t handle well, and here mobile connectivity makes continuous feedback possible, and smart contextual awareness means that feedback can more easily be provided automatically. As mobile platforms mature and become more integrated with the web, expect to see greater use of the mobile as both a direct channel for feedback on mobile services, and a feedback tool integrated with existing web services (an example could be the integration of music recommendation service Last.fm with the music player on the phone).
5. Lightweight Programming Models
New open web standards are being deployed across the enteprise in particular to enable richer user experiences (e.g. AJAX), mashups (XML) and syndication of content (RSS). These allow individuals to create personalized feeds based on information that is important to them, but may not have a critical mass in terms of numbers of users, to get a tailored solution built for them. Related to this is the concept of "hackability" - how to make sure that the individuals (either employees or the customers-themselves) have enough control over the system to create their "own-label" solutions, and then, ideally share with others and improve for the benefit of the whole ecosystem. The concept of hackability is anathema to the mobile industry, and there are some pretty solid reasons for this: sensitive personal data and the ease of running up large bills being two obvious places to start. So clearly there needs to be some thought given to what is opened up and what is locked down. I’ve heard a number of people say that J2ME is not that interesting as you can’t do very much with it – such as accessing the calling and connectivity features. However, I’m a business guy not a technologist, so I can’t add much here, apart from to say that the mobile industry doesn’t have the luxury to sit on its hands and do nothing in this area, as our customers’ communication needs are increasingly being met by internet players who are embracing hackability.
One obvious example here are the core applications of the phone. How many fabulously interesting consumer and enterprise applications would be developed (within 24hrs) if web developers using lightweight protocols such as XML could easily gain access to the phone book’s contacts book, call log, message archive and calendar?
One test for lightweight programming models will be the extent to which "presence" becomes mainstream in corporate usage. Still the preserve of the young, IM-reared generation, and considered somewhat sceptically by incumbent executives, this is expected to become more mainstream. Alex Saunders has some good thinking around what he calls "new presence" with new value-enhaching applications such as call management, advertising, and enterprise solutions that are enabled by lightweight, interoperable web based standards such as XML. It is unlikely that the pace of innovation in this space will fit within the traditional top-down standards bodies processes; the mobile needs to allow innovators in to access the data and create new applications and services on top.
So, again, lots of potential IF the mobile industry embraces these lightweight models. In addition mobiles would work well with “loosely-coupled” services, such as mashups that tailor and filter data before it reaches you, helping you reduce information overload (one example would be an enterprise proximity social networking app that would display the current status of customers’ accounts that you are about to bump into at a conference). Maps mashup showing houses to rent within 500yards of where you are now). RSS is also well suited to mobile – not only does it deliver modular, packaged stories that work well on the small screen (or headset), but a feed reader or podcast client can load up a full days’ worth of content using free wifi.
6. Software above the level of the device
This issue shares many similarities with the “Web as a platform” principle, and if it is not handled well could represent a great sucking sound of value leaving mobile platforms. There is little point in having just a mobile platform – your services should be available on the mobile, just as they are on your colleague’s computer, or your car on the drive home. The mobile industry can no longer make phones that treat the web as a place to go, but needs to make devices that seamlessly extend the services available on the web, and provide the benefits of physical form.
Tim O'Reilly himself uses the example of the mobile industry’s biggest (unused) asset to date, the contacts book, to demonstrate how this will be affected:
"It's easy to see how Web 2.0 will also remake the address book. A Web 2.0-style address book would treat the local address book on the PC or phone merely as a cache of the contacts you've explicitly asked the system to remember. Meanwhile, a web-based synchronization agent, Gmail-style, would remember every message sent or received, every email address and every phone number used, and build social networking heuristics to decide which ones to offer up as alternatives when an answer wasn't found in the local cache. Lacking an answer there, the system would query the broader social network".
We cannot just decide not to lose control of the contacts book – again, we do not have the luxury of choice. We need to actively ensure that core functions have an internet strategy including but not limited to: have the web as a back up, channel for access and platform for innovation.
The calendar function is similarly powerful, and there seems to be an opportunity here for a really good cross-device core application suite - seamless syncing the user’s core information across multiple devices and platforms, with a core offering that lives in the cloud. Again we can turn to the web for lessons in innovation – Zyb, Soocial, Fidgt, Tabber, Anywr and of course Plaxo are doing fun things with contacts, 30boxes, and SyncMyCal making calendars work better, and RememberTheMilk and TaDa for task lists.
Apparently 93% of cameraphone photos never leave the phone – clearly because the software so far has not been above the level of a single device. This is changing too – companies such as Sharpcast and Shozu, and of course Nokia’s own Twango and Mosh, are intent on making it far easier to move media off the phone and on to the web.
In additon to core applications and one’s media taking to the cloud, the browser is also going agnostic and making the entire PC go virtual. Soonr allows you to access the contents of a remote PC from your mobile browser - something that shifts value away from the PC to the mobile. In the enterprise side, companies such as Zoho, DesktopTwo and ThinkFree are natural partners to mobile companies that seek to commoditize PCs – turning any of them into your own personal machine is true commoditization. So, again while it is still early days, the potential for mobile is strong – here we should aim to be a central part of an ecosystem in which intelligence lives in the cloud and uses the most appropriate device at the right time to allow the customer to intreract with the service.
7. Rich user experiences
Finally, the concept of user experience is key, and has been the driver of much of the shift towards consumer tools in the workplace. Compare the experience of using Skype with using our IBM-supplied IM Sametime-client and you see the point: one is fun, the other is grey. As Nokia we need to move beyond grey and give these tools a human face, this is perfectly consistent with our new tagline of creating “very human technology”.
The emerging "Millenials" generation (teenagers – 30yr olds) are looking to connect on a personal level with others, and more at ease with a meritocracy of ideas than a hierarchy of job titles. Creating visually appealling and accessible solutions (Second Life job interviews, Skyping the boss, AJAX interfaces on corporate websites) is going to be just another part of what it means to be Enterprise2.0.
What does this principle mean for mobile? Well, as processing speeds, screen resolutions and speaker qualities increase there is a natural tendency to make the phone sing, dance and perform to the nth degree. There’s certainly room for that in some consumer experiences, but when it comes to the enterprise space, a rich user experience gives me only what I want at the time I want it, and delivering this is the job of many of the principles above. Del.ico.us is a good example – almost everything on the page is there for a reason, and a click can filter and slice the data in intuitive ways. Efficient functions, no wasted space, no flashing gizmos – perhaps a good starting point for mobile service design?
Above I’ve reviewed O’Reilly’s original principles with my enterprise hat on, and with a mobile in my hand. It’s worth noting that these original principals were extended in a more indepth (commercial) report here, which gave a nod to Web2.0 poster child Chris Long Tail Anderson, and Dave Small Pieces Loosely Joined Weinberger. Dion Hinchcliffe notes that this report doesn’t change the substance of these principles, but does provide more context and affirms the link with Enterprise2.0 by providing more discussion of the enterprise impact.
Looking at it this way, the mobile seems to be an Enterprise2.0 story that is not often told, but one rich in potential. I’ve picked out a few potential implications for Nokia – and the mobile industry – that fall broadly into two categories - internally focused on improving our transparency, collaboration and speed, and externally focused, market orientated solutions, encompassing opportunities for both devices and services / solutions. I think this is a good time for us to take the initiative here - show the Internet incumbents (GYM) that we can match them at innovation, speed and customer-focus, and beat them solidly when it comes to helping companies adopting enterprise2.0 strategies that have mobile as a central element, not an afterthought.
Some related resources:
Introductory slideshow to Enteprise2.0: http://www.slideshare.net/slgavin/meet-charlie-what-is-enterprise20
Andrew McAfee: http://blog.hbs.edu/faculty/amcafee/index.php/faculty_amcafee_v3/the_three_trends_underlying_enterprise_20/
Dion Hinchcliffe: http://blogs.zdnet.com/Hinchcliffe/
Mark Orchant: http://blogs.zdnet.com/Orchant/
Don Tapscott on Enterprise2.0: http://www.enterprise2conf.com/whitepapers/pdf/enterprise2conf-donald_tapscott.pdf
Ajit Jaokar: http://www.opengardensblog.futuretext.com/
Umair Haque: http://www.bubblegeneration.com/
Enterprise2.0 Conference, Boston, 18-21 June 2007 http://www.enterprise2conf.com/
- presentations here: http://www.enterprise2conf.com/2007/presentations/
Office2.0 Conference: 5 Sept 2007 http://o2con.com/index.jspa