Archive for January 2006

Hallmark of the New Enterprise: Knowledge Markets

January 30th, 2006 — 9:15pm

Using the auto­mo­tive indus­try and an anal­o­gous vari­ety of soft­ware mega-packages with three-letter acronyms as exam­ples, we’ve been dis­cussing the death of the tra­di­tional enter­prise for a few weeks. We’ve observed that enter­prise efforts rely­ing on mas­sive top-down approaches become inef­fi­cient and waste­ful, if not counter-productive. They also either fail to sup­port the health of the indi­vid­u­als or groups involved — cus­tomers, users, sell­ers, employ­ers — or in fact directly reduce the rel­a­tive health of these par­ties. With Conway’s Law as a guide, we dis­cov­ered that the struc­ture or form of an orga­ni­za­tion influ­ences or deter­mines the nature and qual­ity of the things the orga­ni­za­tion cre­ates.
This all con­cerns the past: so now it’s time to look ahead, at the new enter­prise. Of course, scry­ing the future inevitably relies on a mix­ture of hand wav­ing, vague pro­nounce­ments, and the occa­sional “it’s not pos­si­ble yet to do what this implies” to point the way for­ward. What’s often lack­ing is a present-tense exam­ple to serve as clear har­bin­ger of the future to come. I came across an exam­ple today, drawn from the debate sur­round­ing the propo­si­tion that the U.S. Army is close to a break­ing point. In an episode of On Point titled Are US Forces Stretched Too Thin?, sev­eral pan­elists (names not avail­able from the pro­gram web­site yet) made three telling points about the Army that show it as an orga­ni­za­tion in tran­si­tion from the old model enter­prise into a new form, albeit one whose out­lines remain fuzzy. I’ll para­phrase these points:

  1. The Army’s guid­ing vision and doc­trines (the ideas that shape think­ing at the high­est lev­els of the ser­vice) do not align with the real­ity of it’s status.
  2. The peo­ple for­mu­lat­ing Army vision and doc­trines are not will­ing or able to change per­spec­tive quickly enough to allow the Army to accom­plish it’s mis­sion while main­tain­ing itself in good health. Wit­ness recent recruit­ing fail­ures and pro­mo­tion trends, and their per­haps dire impli­ca­tions for the Army’s long-term health.
  3. In response, indi­vid­ual field com­man­ders in the Army are inno­vat­ing new doc­trines from the bot­tom up, at the com­pany level.

To sup­port this prac­tice, com­pany com­man­ders cre­ated a forum for shar­ing inno­va­tions amongst them­selves, called CO Team: Com­pa­ny­Command. The descrip­tion reads, “ is com­pany commanders-present, future, and past. We are in an ongo­ing pro­fes­sional con­ver­sa­tion about lead­ing sol­diers and build­ing combat-ready units. The con­ver­sa­tion is tak­ing place on front porches, around HMMWV hoods, in CPs, mess halls, and FOBs around the world. By engag­ing in this ongo­ing con­ver­sa­tion cen­tered around lead­ing sol­diers, we are becom­ing more effec­tive lead­ers, and we are grow­ing units that are more effec­tive. Amaz­ing things hap­pen when com­mit­ted lead­ers in a pro­fes­sion con­nect, share what they are learn­ing, and spur each other on to become bet­ter and bet­ter.“
It’s the third point that gives us a clue about the nature of the new enter­prise. is an exam­ple of a ‘knowl­edge mar­ket­place’ cre­ated and main­tained by an infor­mal net­work within an orga­ni­za­tion. Knowl­edge mar­ket­places are one of the com­po­nents of what McK­in­sey calls The 21st Cen­tury Orga­ni­za­tion. Knowl­edge mar­ket­places allow knowl­edge buy­ers “to gain access to con­tent that is more insight­ful and rel­e­vant, as well as eas­ier to find and assim­i­late, than alter­na­tive sources are.“
McK­in­sey believes that these mar­kets — as well as com­pan­ion forms for exchang­ing valu­able human assets called tal­ent mar­kets — require care­ful invest­ment to begin func­tion­ing.
”…work­ing mar­kets need objects of value for trad­ing, to say noth­ing of prices, exchange mech­a­nisms, and com­pe­ti­tion among sup­pli­ers. In addi­tion, stan­dards, pro­to­cols, reg­u­la­tions, and mar­ket facil­i­ta­tors often help mar­kets to work bet­ter. These con­di­tions don’t exist nat­u­rally — a knowl­edge mar­ket­place is an arti­fi­cial, man­aged one — so com­pa­nies must put them in place.“
On this, I dis­agree. Com­pa­ny­Command is an exam­ple of a proto-form knowl­edge mar­ket­place that appears to be self-organized and reg­u­lated.
Mov­ing on, another com­po­nent of the new enter­prise iden­ti­fed by McK­in­sey is the for­mal net­work. A for­mal net­work “…enables peo­ple who share com­mon inter­ests to col­lab­o­rate with rel­a­tively lit­tle ambi­gu­ity about decision-making author­ity — ambi­gu­ity that gen­er­ates inter­nal orga­ni­za­tional com­pli­ca­tions and ten­sion in matrixed struc­tures.“
In McKinsey’s analy­sis, for­mal net­works con­trast with infor­mal social net­works in sev­eral ways. For­mal net­works require des­ig­nated own­ers respon­si­ble for build­ing com­mon capa­bil­i­ties and deter­min­ing invest­ment lev­els, incen­tives for mem­ber­ship, defined bound­aries or ter­ri­to­ries, estab­lished stan­dards and pro­to­cols, and shared infra­struc­ture or tech­nol­ogy plat­forms.
My guess is that Com­pa­ny­Command again meets all these for­mal net­work cri­te­ria to a par­tial extent, which is why it is a good har­bin­ger of the forms com­mon to the new enter­prise, and a sign of an orga­ni­za­tion in tran­si­tion.
Can you think of other exam­ples of new enter­prise forms, or orga­ni­za­tions in tran­si­tion?
In the next post in this series, we’ll move on from the struc­ture of the new enter­prise to talk about the new enter­prise expe­ri­ence, try­ing to track a num­ber of trends to under­stand their impli­ca­tions for the user expe­ri­ence of the new enter­prise environment.

Comment » | Ideas

Iraq Reconstruction, Enterprise Style

January 25th, 2006 — 7:21pm

I first men­tioned the ail­ing for­tunes of the major U.S. auto mak­ers as an exam­ple of the same pat­tern of decline com­mon to old-style indus­trial orga­ni­za­tions that’s start­ing in the enter­prise soft­ware space. I chose Amer­i­can auto mak­ers as an exam­ple of fail­ing sys­temic health that offers insight because they are a vis­i­ble cul­tural ref­er­ence point, and not because I thought their demise was immi­nent.
But recent news from Ford and Daimler-Chrysler announc­ing dra­matic job cuts and plant clo­sures seems to point at exactly this in an eerie way. The arti­cle on Ford’s announce­ment even includes this quote from Gary N. Chai­son, a pro­fes­sor of indus­trial rela­tions at Clark Uni­ver­sity in Worces­ter, Mass, “This may not be the end, but it is cer­tainly the begin­ning of the end of the auto­mo­bile indus­try as we knew it”.
It seems the Iraq recon­struc­tion effort is turn­ing out to be another exam­ple of an enter­prise infra­struc­ture effort gone awry, in the real world. In the NY Times arti­cle Iraq Rebuild­ing Badly Hob­bled, U.S. Report Finds James Glanz writes “…gross under­staffing, a lack of tech­ni­cal exper­tise, bureau­cratic infight­ing, secrecy and con­stantly increas­ing secu­rity costs” con­tributed to the inef­fec­tive­ness of the recon­struc­tion effort.
That sounds like a clas­sic enter­prise soft­ware deploy­ment to me :)
Glanz con­tin­ues, “After years of shift­ing author­ity, agen­cies that have come into and out of exis­tence and that expe­ri­enced con­stant staff turnover, the rebuild­ing went through another per­mu­ta­tion last month with almost no pub­lic notice.“
To close the cir­cle and return to the realm of enter­prise soft­ware, let’s com­pare the NY Times assess­ment of the recon­struc­tion plan­ning — “Mr. Bush said the early focus of the rebuild­ing pro­gram on huge pub­lic works projects — largely over­seen by the office, the Project and Con­tract­ing Office — had been flawed.” — with James Roberts sim­ple but very rel­e­vant ques­tion in Grand enter­prise projects: why are we wast­ing our time?: “Instead of try­ing to eat the ele­phant whole, per­haps the bet­ter way is to take one bite at a time?“
Some­one should have asked the same ques­tion in the early stages of plan­ning the Iraq recon­struc­tion effort, when the basic approach — bureau­cratic, top-down, poorly struc­tured — crys­tal­lized and was put into action.

Comment » | Ideas

Of Madeleines And Metadata

January 23rd, 2006 — 2:08pm

A few months ago, I put up a posted called Tag­ging Comes To Star­bucks, in which I attempted to make the point that it’s bizarre when a product’s meta­data *over­whelms the expe­ri­ence of the prod­uct itself in it’s cus­tom­ary real world set­ting*.
My exam­ple was the meta­data encrusted pack­ag­ing of madeleines — “petite french cakes…” — at Star­bucks. Like the famous tooth­pick instruc­tions Dou­glas Adams immor­tal­ized in So Long and Thanks For All The Fish, this is a strong dis­con­ti­nu­ity of expe­ri­ence (though not nec­es­sar­ily one indi­cat­ing things gone awry at the core of civ­i­liza­tion) that implies new cog­ni­tive / per­cep­tual phe­nom­e­non.
New expe­ri­ences and frames of ref­er­ence usu­ally lack descrip­tive vocab­u­lary, which explains why I can’t pin this down neatly in words. But this is surely some­thing we can expect to encounter more in a future pop­u­lated with find­able things called spimes.
The bal­ance hasn’t shifted so far that we’re liv­ing inside Baudrillard’s ‘desert of the real’, but we are get­ting closer with each addi­tional layer of sim­u­la­tion, abstrac­tion, and meta­data applied to real sit­u­a­tions and objects.
After all it is impos­si­ble to inter­act (smell, touch, taste…) directly with these very ordi­nary pas­tries with­out expe­ri­enc­ing the inter­ven­ing lay­ers of meta­data pack­ag­ing.
Madeleines in situ:
The label­ing:
From SLATFATF: “It seemed to me that any civ­i­liza­tion that had so far lost its head as to need to include a set of detailed instruc­tions for use in a pack­age of tooth­picks, was no longer a civ­i­liza­tion I could live in and stay sane.” ~ Wonko the Sane

4 comments » | User Experience (UX)

Don Norman, Bruce Sterling, The Attention Economy

January 17th, 2006 — 10:03pm

Over at Don Nor­man clar­i­fied some of his ideas regard­ing Activ­ity Cen­tered Design orig­i­nally pub­lished in the sum­mer of 2005.
I’d like to be com­fort­able say­ing that I’m with Don in spirit while dis­agree­ing on some of the par­tic­u­lars, but I’ve read both the orig­i­nal essay and the clar­i­fi­ca­tions twice, and the ideas and the mes­sages are still too raw to sup­port proper reac­tions or to fully digest. Maybe Don’s work­ing on a new book, and this is interim think­ing?
That might explain why the con­trast between Norman’s two recent pieces and Bruce Sterling’s Shap­ing Things — which also is a sort of design phi­los­o­phy / man­i­festo — is so dra­matic. Halfway throught Shap­ing Things, I’m left — as I usu­ally am when read­ing Sterling’s work — feel­ing envi­ous that I wasn’t gifted the same way.
Ster­ling is speak­ing at ETech, which this year focuses on The Atten­tion Econ­omy. No sur­prises with this matchup, given that Sterling’s devoted a whole book — Dis­trac­tion — to some of the same ideas pro­po­nents of the Atten­tion Econ­omy advo­cate we use as ref­er­ences when design­ing the future.

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New Amazon Features: Translating the Bookstore Experience On-line

January 12th, 2006 — 4:08pm

Ama­zon is offer­ing new Text Stats on “Read­abil­ity” and “Com­plex­ity”, and a Con­cor­dance fea­ture, both part of their com­pre­hen­sive effort to trans­late the phys­i­cal book[store] expe­ri­ence into the online medium. The new fea­tures build on exist­ing capa­bil­i­ties such as Look Inside, Wish­lists, Rec­om­men­da­tions, Edi­to­r­ial and Cus­tomer Reviews, Cita­tions, and Bet­ter Together to cre­ate a com­pre­hen­sive book buy­ing expe­ri­ence. In the same way that book­stores include kiosks to allow cus­tomers access meta­data and other infor­ma­tion on the books for sale in the imme­di­ate envi­ron­ment, Ama­zon is offer­ing on-line capa­bil­i­ties that sim­u­late many of the activ­i­ties of book buy­ers in a book­store, such as check­ing the table of con­tents and indexes, flip­ping through a book to read pas­sages, or look at select pages.
The new fea­tures appear on prod­uct pages for books, as well as other kinds of works. [Try this intro to FRBR for a look at the con­cep­tual hier­ar­chy dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing works from items, and it’s impli­ca­tions for com­mon user tasks like find­ing, iden­ti­fy­ing, select­ing, and obtain­ing items.]
Text Stats may be exper­i­men­tal, but it’s hard to feel com­fort­able with their def­i­n­i­tion of com­plex­ity, which is: “A word is con­sid­ered “com­plex” if it has three or more syl­la­bles.” To point out the obvi­ous, Eng­lish includes plenty of sim­ple three syl­la­ble words — like “banana” — and some very com­plex one syl­la­ble words — “time” “thought” and “self” for exam­ple.
The Text Stats on Read­abil­ity seem a bit bet­ter thought through. That’s nat­ural, given their ground­ing in research done out­side Amazon’s walls. But with clear evi­dence that US edu­ca­tion stan­dards vary con­sid­er­ably across states and even indi­vid­ual dis­tricts, and also evi­dence that those stan­dards change over time, I have to ques­tion the value of Read­abil­ity stats long term. I sup­pose that isn’t point…
The Con­cor­dance fea­ture is eas­ier to appre­ci­ate; per­haps it doesn’t attempt to inter­peret or pro­vide mean­ing. It sim­ply presents the raw sta­tis­ti­cal data on word fre­quen­cies, and allows you to do the inter­pre­ta­tion. Ama­zon links each word in the con­cor­dance to a search results page list­ing the indi­vid­ual occur­ances of the word in the text, which is use­ful, and then fur­ther links the indi­vid­ual occru­ance list­ings to the loca­tion within the text.
With this strong and grow­ing mix of fea­tures, Ama­zon both trans­lates the book­store expe­ri­ence on-line, and also aug­ments that expe­ri­ence with capa­bil­i­ties avail­able only in an infor­ma­tion envi­ron­ment. The ques­tion is whether Ama­zon will con­tinue to expand the capa­bil­i­ties it offers for book buy­ing under the basic men­tal model of “being in a book­store”, or if a new direc­tion is ahead?
Here’s a screen­shot of the Text Stats for DJ Spooky’s Rhythm Sci­ence.
Text Stats:

Here’s a screen shot of the Con­cor­dance fea­ture.

Comment » | Modeling, User Experience (UX)

The Aargh Page: Visualizing Pirate Argot

January 10th, 2006 — 1:13pm

What hap­pens when this clas­sic ver­nac­u­lar inter­jec­tion meets lin­guis­tics, data visu­al­iza­tion, and the Web?
The Aargh page, of course. (It should really be The Aargh! Page, but this is so fan­tas­tic that I can’t com­plain…)
Here’s a screen­shot of the graph that shows fre­quency of vari­ant spellings for aargh in Google, along two axes:
Note the snazzy mouseover effect, which I’ll zoom here:
Look­ing into the ori­gins aargh inevitably brings up Robert New­ton, the actor who played Long John Sil­ver in sev­eral Dis­ney pro­duc­tions based on the writ­ings of Robert Louis Steven­son. I remem­ber see­ing the movies as a child, with­out know­ing that they were the first live action Dis­ney movies broad­cast on tele­vi­sion. So do plenty of other peo­ple who’ve cre­ated trib­ute pages</>.
Aargh may have many spelling vari­a­tions, but at least three of them bear a stamp of legit­i­macy, as the edi­to­r­ial review of
The Offi­cial Scrab­ble Play­ers Dic­tio­nary (Paper­back) at explains, “If you’re using the 1991 edi­tion or the 1978 orig­i­nal, you’re woe­fully behind the Scrabble-playing times. With more than 100,000 2– to 8-letter words, there are some inter­est­ing addi­tions (“aargh,” “aar­rgh,” and “aar­rghh” are all legit­i­mate now), while words they con­sider offen­sive are no longer kosher. “
There’s even Inter­na­tional Talk Like A Pirate Day, cel­e­brated on Sep­tem­ber 19th every year. The orga­niz­ers’ site offers a nifty English-to-Pirate-Translator.
Most ran­dom per­haps is the Wikipedia link for Aargh the videogame, from the 80’s, with­out pirates.

Comment » | The Media Environment The Medium Massages You

January 10th, 2006 — 10:48am

ego­surf: vi.
“To search the net for your name or links to your web pages. Per­haps con­nected to long-established SF-fan slang egoscan, to search for one’s name in a fanzine.“
Now a con­sum­able ser­vice at:
From the about page:
“ego­Surf helps mas­sage the web pub­lish­ers ego, and thereby main­tain the cool equi­lib­rium of the net itself.”

Comment » | The Media Environment

The Continuing Death of Enterprise Software

January 6th, 2006 — 4:30pm

Over at 37Signals, just before the new year started, David made the pre­dic­tion that by the end of 2006, “Enter­prise will fol­low legacy to become a com­mon insult among soft­ware cre­ators and users.“
I think this is already the case, unless the peo­ple you’re talk­ing to earn their bread and but­ter by doing some­thing related to enter­prise soft­ware — but there’s inter­est­ing ground here that I’d like to explore for a bit. On the 37signals site there were some good com­ments to Dave’s post­ing — from devel­op­ers, entre­pre­neurs, and quite a few other per­spec­tives — but no one made the con­nec­tion to <a href=“” onclick=“javascript:_gaq.push([’_trackEvent’,‘outbound-article’,‘’]);“s_Law”>Conway’s Law, from Melvin Conway’s “How Do Com­mit­tees Invent?”, which I’ll quote here:
”…orga­ni­za­tions which design sys­tems… are con­strained to pro­duce designs which are copies of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion struc­tures of these orga­ni­za­tions.“
A good exam­ple of Conway’s Law in action is Pow­er­Point. As Edward Tufte says in Metaphors For Pre­sen­ta­tions: Conway’s Law Meets Pow­er­Point,“The metaphor of Pow­er­Point is the soft­ware cor­po­ra­tion itself.” [Aside: As a hard-working con­sul­tant who spends *waaaayyy* too much time cre­at­ing pre­sen­ta­tions to use as dis­cus­sion vehi­cles when instead a direct con­ver­sa­tion between rel­e­vant par­ties is by far the best use of everyone’s time and money, I can’t say enough good things about Tufte’s cam­paign to remind the busi­ness world how to com­mu­ni­cate clearly, by avoid­ing Pow­er­Point unless it’s appro­pri­ate…]
It’s no sur­prise then that ‘enter­prise soft­ware’ as it is installed and con­fig­ured in many large cor­po­ra­tions is gen­er­ally mas­sive, anony­mous, byzan­tine in struc­ture and work­ings, indif­fer­ent or hos­tile to indi­vid­ual needs, offen­sively neu­tured in all aspects of it’s user expe­ri­ence, and often changed arbi­trar­ily to align with a power cal­cu­lus deter­mined by a select few who oper­ate at great remove from the major­ity of the peo­ple who use the envi­ron­ment on a daily basis. After all, that is the nature of com­mu­ni­ca­tion in many large (and quite a few small and medium sized) cor­po­ra­tions.
That enter­prise soft­ware is bad — excru­ci­at­ingly bad, if you’ve tried to enter expenses using a generic instal­la­tion of Peo­ple­Soft or Siebel — is hardly news. But it is inter­est­ing that David from 37Signals, Peter Mer­holz of Adap­tive Path, Jared Spool of UIE, and many oth­ers who are less vis­i­ble but still impor­tant in direct­ing the evo­lu­tion of the Inter­net, would all say in one form or another that they see enter­prise soft­ware as on the outs.
It’s inter­est­ing because I think it high­lights a shift in the realm in which the Web com­mu­nity sees itself as rel­e­vant. If there were ever a poten­tial enter­prise plat­form, it is the Web — the new Web, Web 2.0, what­ever you want to call the emerg­ing inform­na­tion envi­ron­ment that is global, ubiq­ui­tous, seman­ti­cally inte­grated, socially informed and / or col­lab­o­ra­tive, archi­tected to pro­vide read­ily con­sum­able ser­vices, etc. But aside from occa­sional bouts of mega­lo­ma­nia, and poten­tial suc­cess sto­ries like, the enter­prise realm has been pro-forma out­side the bound­aries of the pos­si­ble — until now…
Will enter­prise soft­ware die? Not right away, and not totally. Remem­ber, there’s A LOT of big iron hap­pily hum­ming away like WOPR in data cen­ters all over the world that will run the enter­prise apps we all know and detest for many years to come. More impor­tant, let’s keep in mind that enter­prise soft­ware is really just one part (the instal­lable and con­fig­urable soft­ware part) of what is eas­i­est to describe as a way of doing things. It’s a reflec­tion of a com­mand and con­trol, hier­ar­chi­cal view­point on how to achieve busi­ness goals through stan­dard­iza­tion. That way of doing things comes from a way of think­ing. Which comes from a type of orga­ni­za­tion that will (of neces­sity?) be with us for a long time.
But the new stuff, the things that new school CIOs and CTOs will com­mit to, will likely be very dif­fer­ent in ori­gin, man­ner of work­ing, user expe­ri­ence, fun­da­men­tal assump­tions, and capa­bil­ity. It will come from dif­fer­ent kinds of orga­ni­za­tions; leaner and more agile multi-disciplinary sys­tems and envi­ron­ment design con­sor­tiums or aggre­gates, per­haps. This matches well with some of Jared Spool’s obser­va­tions on the nature of orga­ni­za­tions that cre­ate good designs, from his keynote address at UI 10 last fall.
Clos­ing the cirlce, Con­way con­firms what these cre­ators will look like; “Pri­mar­ily, we have found a cri­te­rion for the struc­tur­ing of design orga­ni­za­tions: a design effort should be orga­nized accord­ing to the need for communication.”

1 comment » | Ideas

Enterprise Software is Dead! Long Live... Thingamy?

January 5th, 2006 — 3:04pm

Peter Mer­holz observes that enter­prise soft­ware is being eaten away from below, by appli­ca­tions such as Move­able Type, and inno­va­tors such as Social­Text.
“These smaller point solu­tions, sys­tems that actu­ally address the chal­lenges that peo­ple face (instead of sim­ply cre­at­ing more prob­lems of their own, prob­lems that require hir­ing ser­vice staff from the soft­ware devel­op­ers), these solu­tions are going to spread through­out orga­ni­za­tions and sup­plant enter­prise soft­ware the same way that PCs sup­planted main­frames.
I sure wouldn’t want to be work­ing in enter­prise soft­ware right now. Sure, it’s a mas­sive indus­try, and it will take a long time to die, but the pro­gres­sion is clear, and, frankly, inevitable.“
Indeed it is. Though there’s con­sid­er­able ana­lyst hoopla about ris­ing enter­prise con­tent man­age­ment or ECM spend­ing and IT invest­ment (see also In Focus: Con­tent Man­age­ment Heats Up, Imag­ing Shifts Toward SMBs), we’re in the midst of a larger and longer term cycle of evo­lu­tion in which cheaper, faster, more agile com­peti­tors to estab­lished mar­ket lead­ers are fol­low­ing the clas­sic mar­ket entry strat­egy of attack­ing the bot­tom of the pyra­mid. (The pyra­mid is a hier­ar­chi­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a given mar­ket or set of prod­ucts; at the top of the pyra­mid sit the more expen­sive and mature prod­ucts which offer more fea­tures, capa­bil­i­ties, qual­ity, or com­plex­ity; the lower lev­els of the pyra­mid include lower cost prod­ucts which offer fewer fea­tures.)
What’s most inter­est­ing about the way this pat­tern is play­ing out in the arena of enter­prise con­tent man­age­ment solu­tions is that the new com­peti­tors were not at first attack­ing from the bot­tom as a delib­er­ate strat­egy, think of Move­able­Type, but they have quite quickly moved to this approach as with the recent release of Alfresco. The dif­fer­ent ori­gins of Sixa­part and Alfresco may have some bear­ing on their dif­fer­ent mar­ket entry approaches: Sixa­part was a per­sonal pub­lish­ing plat­form that’s grown into a con­tent man­age­ment tool, whereas Alfresco’s intented audi­ence was enter­prise cus­tomers from day one. I’d wager the founders of Alfresco looked to Red­Hat as an exam­ple of a busi­ness model built on Open­Source soft­ware, and saw oppor­tu­nity in the enter­prise con­tent man­age­ment space, espe­cially con­cern­ing user expe­ri­ence annd usabil­ity weak­nesses in ECM plat­forms.
There’s an easy (if gen­eral) par­al­lel in the auto­mo­tive indus­try: from Amer­i­can dom­i­nance of the domes­tic U.S. mar­ket for auto­mo­biles in the post-WWII decades, suc­ces­sive waves of com­peti­tors moved into the U.S. auto­mo­bile mar­ket from the bot­tom of the pyra­mid, offer­ing less expen­sive or higher qual­ity auto­mo­biles with the same or sim­i­lar fea­tures. The major Japan­ese firms such as Honda, Toy­ota, and Nis­san were first, fol­lowed by Korean firms such as Hyundai and Dae­woo. It’s plain that some of the older com­pa­nies sit­ting at the top of the pyra­mid are in fact dying, both lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively: GM is finan­cially crip­pled and faces oner­ous finan­cial bur­dens — to the point of bank­ruptcy — as it attempts to pay for the health­care of it’s own aging (dying) work­force.
So what’s in the future?
For auto mak­ers it’s pos­si­ble that Chi­nese or South Amer­i­can man­u­fac­tur­ers will be next to enter the domes­tic U.S. mar­ket, using sim­i­lar attacks at the bot­tom of the pyra­mid.
For enter­prise soft­ware, I think orga­ni­za­tions will turn away from mono­lithic and expen­sive sys­tems with ter­ri­ble user expe­ri­ences — and cor­re­spond­ingly low lev­els of sat­is­fac­tion, qual­ity, and effi­cacy — as the best means of meet­ing busi­ness needs, and shift to a mixed palette of seman­ti­cally inte­grated capa­bil­i­ties or ser­vices deliv­ered via the Inter­net. These capa­bil­i­ties will orig­i­nate from diverse ven­dors or providers, and expose cus­tomized sets of func­tion­al­ity and infor­ma­tion spe­cific to the indi­vid­ual enter­prise. Staff will access and encounter these capa­bil­i­ties via a mul­ti­plic­ity of chan­nels and user expe­ri­ences; dash­board or por­tal style aggre­ga­tors, RIA rich inter­net appli­ca­tions, mobile devices, inter­faces for RSS and other micro-content for­mats.
David Wein­berger thinks it will be small pieces loosely joined together. A group of entre­pre­neurs thinks it might look some­thing like what Thingamy claims to be.
Regard­less, it’s surely no coin­ci­dence that I find a blog post on mar­ket pyra­mids and entry strate­gies put up by some­one work­ing at an enter­prise soft­ware startup…

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