Monday, 27 October 2008

Yes, I am a broken record at times: Is this really revolutionary?

OK. I'm curious - is using a wiki this way, *really* any different from the virtual teaming and collaboration leading practices we were promoting nearly a decade ago with Lotus Notes? (see my case study from 2004)

At Ernst & Young Australia we even supported account teams with a structured process to deploy project databases (called Engagement Team Databases and Pursuit Team Databases, they could be deployed on demand using an automated process) where users could edit each others pages or simply add comments. We encouraged users to store information in these project databases and email links to each other, rather than using attachments etc. The databases also sent digest emails to each team member with links to the documents that had changed and we also showed people how to scan new and edited documents across all the databases on their workspace.

We even experienced the same sort of end user behaviour described in the wiki example, which later informed our whole end-user training and communication approaches to encourage greater participation. Lately I’ve been recommending the same approach in the document management system deployments I’ve been involved with too.

So, is this E2.0 or KM? What do you think?

BTW I want to make a few points about the current generation of Web-based social apps:

  • Yes, the usability of the current generation of Web-based applications is better than the old Lotus Notes client interface, although for that was often a reflection of the effort put into the UI more than anything else; and
  • Open Source and the availability of other cheap Web-based solutions (hosted or otherwise) have also made these tools more widely available – so some of these examples might appear to be revolutionary because some people simply haven’t had access to this kind of technology capability before!

Please note, I’m not trying to pick on anyone here. But I am getting tired of enterprise social computing and other collaboration examples that simply don’t surprise me.

So, come on Enterprise 2.0, I knows it there but show me something really revolutionary!


  1. I agree with you, James, we shouldn't exaggerate the differences between old and new, between e2.0 and old KM. But looking back (and I'm not that old, so I'm careful here...) the old tools were cranky, with high adoption barrier and not too social. Furthermore I also think things were less integrated (integrating different communication channels). So I think, to extend your list, the current tools support the old KM theory in a better way by: be more usable, easier to adopt, more social, offer more communication channels.

  2. Collaboration is not new. There is nothing new under the sun.

    Sure, it has enjoyed a surge and has been reincarnated as Web/Enterprise 2.0....but you are leaving out some key issues:

    1. Collaboration is STILL A PROBLEM! If Lotus Notes had solved the problem - then there wouldn't be a need for so many vendors. The truth is that there is a huge problem that no one has successfully and scalably solved.

    2. Sure....the new stuff is like Lotus Notes in functionality - but the scale is totally different (not to mention the delivery!).

    Ed Brill is the only person I've ever known who would stand behind an argument that Lotus enjoys a large SMB audience. (yeah, I know, hilarious) The reality is that "in the old days" only large companies could *afford* to deploy collaboration software.

    Now, even us commoners can enjoy the value of collaboration software; thanks to Web 2.0 (and wide availability of high-speed bandwidth).

    So, no, the precepts and concepts of today's collaboration are very similar (if not identical) to Lotus Notes of old - but the scale and entry points are revolutionary.

    And, to date, in the four years that we've been selling SMB-centric collaboration solutions (web 2.0 kinda stuff) we've *never* spoken to a customer that said, "We are trying to make a decision between Central Desktop and Lotus Notes.."

  3. @Isaac Garcia
    Thanks for taking the time to comment :-)
    I don’t think better technology alone is the answer solving the collaboration problem. However, I do think your point that, 'The reality is that "in the old days" only large companies could *afford* to deploy collaboration software' is a very important differentiator between the original groupware tools, like Lotus Notes and Web-based applications we have available now. But you know, I’m still wondering if this is really less about Web 2.0 and more about the success of the open source movement in making Web-based application so accessible and freely available?

  4. "I’m still wondering if this is really less about Web 2.0 and more about the success of the open source movement in making Web-based application so accessible and freely available?"

    Yes - I strongly agree with this statement.

    Web apps have succeed largely because of infrastructure:

    1) Wide availability of high-speed bandwidth.

    2) Browser technology advancement.

    4) Wide availability and maturation of open-source code. We leveraged open-source code heavily (and still do) that have accelerated our business significantly. Hell, the low-cost entry point for startups (no license fees) was a major driver for us choosing the modified LAMP stack over Windows (we were a MSFT/Windows shop in prior start-ups) and continues to be a cornerstone of our success.


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