Enterprise 2.0 San Francisco – ER sums it up

ERLast week, like hundreds of others, I attended the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. In this blog post I provide an overall impression of the conference, that in-turn lends insight into the state of the Enterprise 2.0 market in general.

After attending the Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston last June, I blogged that for me, the show came down to an acronym –  CIT, which stood for Culture, Innovation and Twitter.

This time the conference is summed up in an even shorter acronym – ER.

No I am not referring to the popular use of ER as in Emergency Room, inferring that the show needs resuscitation – FAR FROM IT.  In this case, ER stands for Energy and Reality.


I could not help but feel it; volume levels, packed halls and a sense of excitement that seemed to top that of all previous Enterprise 2.0 conferences.  Overall attendance was basically the same I was told.  Maybe it was just the location on the west coast versus the east coast – but no – right? I mean we all know that west coasters are supposed to be more laid back then us east coast “rat-racers.”  Maybe it was linked to the fact that the conference was held in tandem with the VoiceCon event.  If so, kudos to the  TechWeb team for doing so.  Either way the energy level was noticeable. Some sessions were literally had attendees spilling out into the halls. The questions asked were many and hard-hitting. Attendees were interested in going beyond the basics and theory and into issues of implementation war stories and ROI. That in fact brings me to the second letter of the acronym – R for Reality.


This conference was marked by a far greater level of discussion and presentations by practitioners of Enterprise 2.0 within end-user organizations.  There was far less time spent debating the reality of Enterprise 2.0, and whether it would take hold, if it merited the 2.0 generational label, etc.  That seemed to be behind us.

Indeed, Steve Wylie, the conference chair, noted how the show floor was no longer the exclusive domain of start-ups and pioneers, but now included the likes of OpenText, Microsoft, Google, and Adobe among others. It was really quite a show floor.

Andy McAfee stated he felt the market was at its tipping point, the first time I have ever heard him be so bullish about the movement he labeled a few years back.

In her keynote, Tammy Erickson, President, nGenera stated she believed that 2010 is going to be the year of “A-ha”, referring to the turnaround in senior executives who now “get it” and will move forward. (Not only do I agree, but also it is interesting to recall that in our research from 2 years ago, we found that while most executives believed E2.0 was critical to business success,  most executives also did not know what E2.0 was. The level of awareness and understanding of Enterprise 2.0 is now catching up with the intuitive sense that it matters. That is the Aha.)

But more powerful than any of these facts  was the number of presentations and panels given by end-user practitioners – speaking from the trenches, which I referred to earlier.   These were not sales people, marketers or academician theorists (Yes there were still enough of those to go around). These were folk who had their sleeves rolled up, successful projects behind them and the scars to prove it.  Among the many, my two favorite were the presentation given by Bevin Hernandez who shared her amazing success at Penn State, where she waged a strategy that was more about culture and behavioral change management than technology; and a panel entitled Case Studies in Enterprise Micro-Blogging, in which real-world use of micro-blogging in the enterprise was discussed ala the good, the bad and the ugly – but not the theory. Participants spoke freely of misplaced efforts and failures, as well as what it takes to get real value out of micro-blogging inside the firewall.

Finally, the maturity of the Enterprise 2.0 market was punctuated by the coming out of the 2.0 Adoption Council, many of whose members were speakers at the event as well. As I blogged about months ago, Dan Keldsen and I executed a market study with this council. The results were the focus of our keynote at the event.  The findings are compelling and insightful and I encourage downloading the initial report, but again, it is the sheer existence of the council itself that provided further evidence that E2.0 has come out of the theoretical closet and into the reality of the boardroom. The council is comprised of (at present) 115 individuals representing major global organizations. Each individual is a senior level manager, a full-time job managing Enterprise 2.0 within their respective organization.  Each manages a substantial budget ranging from the 100s of thousands to tens of millions of dollars. They are beyond the pilot stage of deployment, into production, effecting literally thousands of end-users in each organization.  Each is a real-world major case study. Collectively, as “the council” they truly mark the turning point in the Enterprise 2.0 market.  Congratulations to Susan Scrupski for her execution in putting together this council.

Before I wrap this up, let me be clear.  While the acronym de jour is ER, CIT (culture, innovation and Twitter) was certainly still a part of the conference.

Culture was still frequently talked about as a major component to Enterprise 2.0. I gave an entire session on just this issue, using 4 different clients of mine as case studies. As I mentioned earlier, the case study presented by Bevin Hernandez of Penn State focused predominately on culture and change management. In fact, when asked if she could have accomplished all she had, if not for the technology she was using (ThoughtFarmer), she eloquently and politely opined that the technology made a difference and made many parts of the rollout easier, but that at least in her case, it was the strategic change management that really made all the difference.

Innovation came up several times, but perhaps most impressive was the risk that TechWeb took in allowing IAI to provide a ½ day version of its innovation management training as one of the pre-show tutorials. Although not as popular as some of the more mainstream E2.0 topics, the training pulled a fair number of attendees and was well received.  Those that attended understood that if Enterprise 2.0 is about leveraging technology and practices to facilitate and invigorate collaboration, then one likely end game is the facilitation and acceleration of innovation, which is a practice to be managed in its own right.

And as for the big “T”, Twitter, oh it was prevalent all right, but no longer novel. Again testament to how quickly some of these tools are being adopted.

In conclusion, kudos to Steve Wylie and his team at TechWeb for a job well done, and kudos to the Enterprise 2.0 community for a well done performance. We at IAI were very proud to be a part of it and look forward to hopefully seeing most of you at the Boston 2010 Enterprise 2.0 conference.

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