Another event, another post-event wind down. I had limited time at the Enterprise 2.0 conference this year so only got a limited view of what was happening. Some general takeaways anyway:
The SharePoint Factor. This was the title of a session I attended – a good one – put on by Amy Vickers, VP, Global Enterprise Solutions at Razorfish. The session abstract asks the big question, “How does the SharePoint competition stand a chance?” She asked at the beginning of the session how many in the audience were either using or planning to use SharePoint. I think I was one of about 5 people who didn’t raise a hand. Obviously a it was a session on SharePoint, but still.
In another session, there was a question about integration standards and whether audience members would like to see social software vendors support the JSR portal standards or OpenSocial or what. Silence. Then one attendee raised his hand to say he didn’t care about the standards but as he walked around the show floor looking at all the independent players, all he wants to see is – how does it integrate with SharePoint? The SharePoint factor indeed.
Are portals back? A related and surprisingly lively and interesting topic, especially for me as I spent years covering the portal market and working as a product manager on an enterprise portal product. I’ve heard repeatedly that portals were “dead.” Not so apparently. It’s been obvious for awhile that social software products are starting to look like portals, with UIs turning into somewhat configurable, personalized dashboards with data coming from different underlying tools (e.g., tag cloud, forum posts, wiki activity etc.). But it seems things are going one step further with products from MindTouch, Telligent and Atlassian all heading more towards portal-like features even if they’re not calling them that (most stick with “platform”). Others, like Bluenog, are pushing the portal idea more explicitly. In any case, this mostly includes the ability to aggregate and/or integrate data or functions from tools / apps outside of the purview of the social software vendor.
There was even a portal session with panelists Larry Bowden from IBM and Vince Casarez of Oracle. Here the point being made was that the raison d’etre of portals hasn’t changed — customers are still looking to aggregate services and info for different audience groups in a way that is secure and roles-based (if not actually personalized). And that this can be a perfect delivery vehicle for newer social features via an environment users are already familiar with. Not sure portals in many cases have had the adoption to make that last statement as true as the portal vendors might like it to be. But there is something to their argument that these newer products don’t necessarily need to reinvent the aggregation, security and delivery mechanisms already found in portals. In any event, interesting to see a breath of new life in the portal market. And let’s not forget there’s a portal component in SharePoint…
Use cases not tools. This was another recurring theme I heard across meetings and sessions. We’re thankfully moving beyond the discussion of blogs, wikis and so on, to discuss customer support, sales team effectiveness, innovation management, brand development and the like. This shows some much needed maturity in the market, but also makes it perhaps even more difficult for vendors to differentiate; anyone can sell (or at least try to sell) a use case. There were still a lot of vendors on the show floor this year, though I’d bet fewer than last year (but I don’t have that data), and lots more discussion of profitability, viability and risk.
What will it look like next year? It seems to me part of the growing maturity is the realization that a lot of this social functionality needs to seep into other apps and business processes (that’s part of the portal discussion certainly). I think that makes it harder for dicussions or events specifically on “E2.0″ as it is really so many different things depending on what exactly you’re trying to do and why. There will undoubtedly be a show next year, but I wonder for how many years after that? We should remember that this used to be called the Collaborative Technologies Conference and still so many of the ideas discussed remind me of knowledge management conferences ten years ago. We’ll keep talking about these things, but I’m not sure how much longer under the “2.0″ umbrella.