I have decided to go into magazine publishing, I am excited to announce the inaugural issue of Wiki People. I am also excited to announce this is a joint venture with the popular People magazine. Here’s a pre-release copy of the fantastic first issue cover, destined to become a collector’s edition.
I love it when someone does a useful, instructive job explaining terms we take for granted here in technology. Lee Lefever nailed “Wikis in Plain English” with his video. Scott Gavin explains the potentially trendy term Enterprise 2.0 simply. Although Andrew McAfee is without doubt the authoritative author on the subject of Enterprise 2.0, Scott hit the basics.
Scott even said it was “social software within the firewall” which was refreshing to see with all the blather that everything must be hosted. The fact is most enterprises want something as vital as the content on a wiki behind the firewall. Not all surely, but the lion’s share.
What still leaves me wanting about everyone’s definition of Enterprise 2.0 is that it misses an important point: Enterprise 2.0 is just another natural evolution towards lighter weight software. Doesn’t matter if it hosted, behind the firewall, social or not. Companies embraced the open source movement and software-as-a-service because they were fed up with traditional enterprise software. Lightweight software is just another movement serving this same frustration and need.
Lightweight software serves a gap in the enterprise which Jonathan Nolen articulated in an interview:
“We think there’s a huge middle ground between open source and enterprise software that hasn’t been addressed—lightweight software,” Nolen said.
This movement to lighter weight software is broader than the typical definitions of Enterprise 2.0 software. It’s about customers wanting easy to use, practical, easy to install (or hosted) software that is far less expensive and that does not entail an arduous, painful purchasing process. It’s should be simple, straightforward and easy to buy. In fact, it’s not about sales in our opinion at Atlassian.
This is why some of us believe that Enterprise 2.0 is not just about social software. It’s about a fundamental shift in the complexity and cost of software.
Enterprise 2.0 ROI? Wrong question. I am hearing ROI debated here at Enterprise 2.0, and it’s not particularly useful. Shouldn’t all software be subjected to this rigor? Well, no actually.
At dinner last night with the Enterprise Irregulars, Andrew McAfee said he asked fellow Harvard professor Robert Kaplan, an innovative researcher on linking cost and performance, and recently elected to the Accounting Hall of Fame [yes, there is one!], can we measure ROI with these new social tools. Kaplan said it cannot be done.
The productivity and improvements are micro-tasks. It’s akin to doing operations research studies with a stop watch on the benefits to using email. Did anyone get fired because Microsoft Office was released? I highly doubt it. Wikis shift work from email and documents to wiki pages and a more facile method of collaboration. Measure it? Spend your time in more fruitful endeavors.
Management consultants who are actually trained to do these types of studies generally avoid micro operations improvements because they walk in the Land of Serious Business Cases. They have to; their fees are so high. They know that if you cannot measure productivity with a yard stick, then forget it.
If you’re spending $4,000 on a wiki, how much time should you spend on an intense ROI analysis? You are much better served experimenting with these tools, finding out how others are making them work, giving them to the pioneers in your organization, and learning.
- When software companies give you ROI analyses, leave the room. As fast as you can. This is true for any type of software. The fixation on ROI during the economic downturn — which was because salesforces were shrinking and they desperately needed something to justify themselves — was largely patent BS. I have not seen an Enterprise 2.0 ROI study, but I will be as excited to see one as to stick needles in my eyes. Beware.
Of course we want to derive benefits and understand them. ROI studies are not the way.
If you want an excellent description of what is entailed in making Mediawiki into an enterprise wiki, David Strom reports useful, practical information for anyone evaluating enterprise wikis. Harvard Business School professor Andrew McAfee’s orignial blog on Avenue A/Razorfish’s wiki was an interesting case study, but it didn’t reveal these important points that Dave Strom surfaced:
- Razorfish has one full-time intern and two part-time developers that maintain their code.
- Razorfish put in place some code that pulls information from their Active Directory servers (that) enables single sign-on.
- Security matters a lot.
- Part of the custom code they wrote was to enable search across all wiki and blog content.
It strikes me that if Razorfish invested all this effort and money, then the question needs to be asked: Is Mediawiki an enterprise wiki? Certainly not out of the box.
One full-time intern and two part-time developers is at least $50-100K for one year! Probably the latter number. Mediawiki in this instance became an enterprise wiki but only after considerable work.
Although this case study exemplifies how companies can fulfill the promise of open source, this is not fulfilling the promise of Enterprise 2.0 software which should be: lightweight software suitable for enterprises for dramatically less money.
This case study points out about as well as I can imagine the difference between the open source option for wikis and the commercially sold enterprise wiki such as Socialtext, Brainkeeper, or our Atlassian Confluence.