Why Web 2.0 in the enterprise makes sense?

Historically, we’ve seen that the applicaions that have been popular/successful in the consumer world have been usually successful in the enterprise space. Instant messaging is a great example. What started out as ICQ, has been so immensly valuable and impactful that it made its obvious entry within the enterprise. Microsoft has products like Live Communication Server and Office Communicator, IBM has SameTime and then we have Jabber. On the other hand, successful enterprise concepts have made their way into the consumer space. Take email for instance.

Besides historic trends, there are several semantics that play a role in determining the success of a software within the enterprise. I have been thinking lately about the value that an enterprise setting adds to the successful deployment and use of a particular software. Jeff Clavier made a valid point about the obvious tension between the legacy IT department, which runs on a command/control structure and the open/participation oriented nature of social software.  I want to focus on the positive side of an enterprise setting.

What does an enterprise setting offer:

1. Authentication and accountability: Since a user  can be traced through Active Directory (good bye annonymous comments and spam!), it can add measurable value to the social aspect of the enterprise. Various aspects of social software can be applied with respect to group policies and Access Control Lists.

2. Accountable uptime. No downtime (see Salesforce.com’s recent experience.)

3. Better integration with existing meaningful application. Enterprises already have a rich set of ERP applications. The social software can add a new layer of UI metaphors that will dramatically increase the value of existing ERP applications.

Some of the thoughts bouncing in my mind include:

How long does it take for a successful consumer application to be adopted within the enterprise? (my guess is two years, from when it became prevalent in the consumer space. Would it be faster/slower with Web 2.0?

Which Web 2.0 concepts make the most sense in the enterprise? (I know Jeff Nolan and Ross Mayfield (SocialText) are very optimistic about Wikis and I totally agree. What is beyond that?) I liked Charlene Li’s report on social computing.

If Jeff (Clavier or Nolan) stumble upon this, I would like to hear your take on this.

Zoli Erdos, has very detailed notes of TiE’s panel discussion on Web 2.0 in the enterprise. I found it extremely useful.

I also enjoyed Rod Boothby’s and Tim Leberecht’s take on it.

Anshu Sharma, has a list of open questions on the topic on his Wise Zen blog.

Loose control!

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web 2.0 in the enterprise

In the technology section of this blog,  I will solely focus on the implications of Web 2.0 in the enterprise. The successful concepts of Web 2.0 (social software, participation, richly simple user interfaces, tagging, RSS, attention.xml) – all have significant potential benefits, if implemented within the enterprise. A whole gamut of potential issues, including authentication and identity can be potentially prevented through tight integration with Active Directory.

I had an opportunity to meet Charlene Li from Forrester and discuss the implications of Web 2.0 concepts within the enterprise. She reviews corporate blogging solutions in a recent post.

TiE Silicon Valley has a panel discussion with celebrity panelists about Web 2.0 in the enterprise, on Thursday – 2.15

Let’s take Web 2.0 to the enterprise!!


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design as a competitive advantage

Design has essentially become one of the key competitive advantages of the killer apps of Web 2.0. Why has design become so important – all of a sudden? Or was it always important? Scott Berkun once said that the best user interface is "no" user interface. The thinking here is that the user should not realize that he/she is working in accordance with some user interface. The user interface should not make its presence felt. This was resonated in an interesting observation made by my architect friend Gianpaolo, while watching the movie – The Usual Suspects. In the movie, Kevin Spacey says, "the greatest trick the devil achieved was to make people believe he didn’t exist." I believe that great UI and application designers make people believe that the user interface is not there.

A majority of people including me, read most blogs through some flavor of a RSS aggregator – reader.Emilychang But there is one blog that I prefer to read on a web site on the browser. EmilyChang’s blog (see OneNote screen clipping on the side)on strategic design is designed in a unbelievably appealing and surprisingly simple style. The choice of colors, the size of fonts, and the placement of items on the blog are visually attractive. The are subtle differences in the structure of the contents of the blog (For example, to expand a post, rather than clicking on the title of the post, you have to click on the actual text of the post, which is not intuitive, but very easily discoverable!!) She conducts interviews with innovative founders of various successful Web 2.0 companies. In a recent post, she has compiled the list of "design philosophies" of each of those companies.

It is apparent from these interviews that the creators of killer Web 2.0 applications consider design as their competitive advantage. While some companies had a quantifiable design philosophy (all functions should be accessible with one click.), several focused on the importance of iterative feedback from the users(release early, release often, listen, learn, incorporate). Interestingly, few designers stressed on "instant gratification." Emily’s list is pretty comprehensive and helps derive the main design trends of Web 2.0, which she depicts as


Can these design trends be applied to enterprise software? Can we make ERP systems, simple, social, minimal(you wish!), and fun?

Let’s create the extra-ordinary!


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speaking of valuation and exit criteria for Web 2.0

Echoing some of the thoughts in my last post – built to last, exit criteria and venture economics ought to change in the new venture economics of Web 2.0. Some of the key factors that determine the value of a company include founding team, cashflow, members/customers in the community, visitors to a web site and the technology. Not many years ago, intellectual property and patents used to be extremely important for determining the valuation of a company. But apparently in the new venture economics, more and more focus is kept on the community.

Naval Ravikant, has done an insightful analysis on valuation of one of the most successful Web 2.0 companies – Craiglist. Naval proves (hypthetically) that Craiglist is worth more than Ebay. I agree.

Let’s change the world!

built to last

Today most of the startups are created with a well-defined exit strategy in mind. Even in university, we were taught to have exit strategies in business plans. Venture capitalists love to see exit strategies in the pitches. Yet, most of the companies that we love are built to last (they’ve been successfully around for decades.) Jim Collins and Jerry Poras have done a monumental work by narrowing down the values that make companies last.

I had summarized the book a long time ago. Exit strategies have become the measure of success for Web 2.0 companies, so sharing this summary to stir up our thinking.

Secret sauce of the book:

Enduring and successful organizations set clear Big Hairy Audacious Goals(BHAG), and they strive to achieve them by sticking to their core values.

Top ten ideas:

10. Be a clock builder, not a time teller

  • Take an architectural approach and concentrate on building the organizational traits.
  • The organization itself is the ultimate creation. Shift from seeing the organization as a vehicle for the products/features to seeing the products/features as a vehicle for the organization.
  • The most important thing needed is a fundamental shift in thinking of very high magnitude, analogous to the shift required to found the United States in 1700s.

9. Have a sense of purpose: a motive for the team

  • A key step in building a visionary organization is to articulate a core ideology.
  • Core Ideology = core values + purpose
  • Core values are the organization’s essential and enduring tenets, not to be compromised for financial gain or short-term expediency.
  • Purpose is the set of fundamental reasons for a company’s existence beyond just making money.

8.Articulate an ideology which is "more than profits"

  • Financial gains should NOT be the only motivation for the organization.
  • There is NO right ideology. Authenticity of the ideology and the extent to which a company attains consistent alignment with the ideology counts more than the content of the ideology.
  • A group’s ideology will naturally be constrained by the company’s ideology, but it can still have its own flavor of ideology, and can certainly articulate a purpose for its own sub-organization.

7.Cult-like cultures

  • The point is NOT to set out to create a cult of personality. But to build an organization that fervently preserves its core ideology in specific, concrete ways.
  • Four common characteristics of cults:
    • Fervently held ideology: All members of the team fanatically believe in the ideology
    • Indoctrination: Effectively introduce and reinforce the culture by management
    • Tightness of fit: All members of the team should believe in the same ideology; those who do not believe should change teams
    • Elitism: Make all members realize the sense of responsibility that comes with membership in an elite organization
  • Example:
  • Question posed during Disney’s new employee orientation
  • Q: McDonald’s makes hamburgers. What does Disney make?
  • A: Disney makes people happy.

6.Home-grown management

  • The visionary institutions are more likely to promote insiders to the chief position as compared to other organizations.
  • Leadership continuity loop:
  • Management development and succession planning > Strong internal candidates > Continuity of leadership excellence from within > Preserve the core and stimulate progress
  • There is absolutely no inconsistency between promoting from within and stimulating significant change

5.Try a lot of stuff and keep what works

  • Let the team members explore. Find out their strengths and let them bloom, while preserving the core ideology. Let the team members evolve through survival of the fittest.
  • Analogy of Darwin’s evolutionary process: The process is like "branching and pruning." Add enough branches to a tree (variation) and intelligently prune the deadwood (selection), then a collection of healthy branches are likely to evolve and the tree is well positioned to prosper in an ever-changing environment.
  • If well understood and consciously harnessed, this process can powerfully stimulate progress. The failure-tolerant environment at 3M, allowed the invention of Post-It Notes.
    • Give it a try and quick
    • Accept that mistakes will be made
    • Take small steps
    • Give people the room they need

4.Good enough never is: force the team members out of their comfort zone

  • Be terribly demanding of yourselves. Comfort is not the objective in a visionary organization. Install powerful mechanisms to create discomfort – to obliterate complacency and thereby stimulate change and improvement before the external world demands it. Cultivate a discipline of self-improvement.
  • Invest earlier and aggressively in technical know-how, new technologies, new management methods, and innovative industry practices. Take a "Reach out for tomorrow"-approach than "penny-pinch conservatism". The leader should translate his/her personal drive for progress into the very fabric of the institution. Invest in future, while doing well today. Build for long-term even during difficult times. There are no shortcuts to life’s greatest achievements.
  • Example from martial arts:
    • What is the true meaning of black belt?
    • The black belt represents the beginning – the start of a never-ending journey of discipline, work, and the pursuit of an ever-higher standard.

3.The end of the beginning: Translate core ideology into the fabric of the organization

  • The essence of a visionary organization is to translate its core ideology and its own unique drive for progress into the very fabric of the organization – into goals, strategies, tactics, policies, processes, cultural practices, behaviors, etc.
  • All elements of an organization’s workings should work in alignment with the core ideology.
  • Example: HP adopted an early management method of "provide a well-defined objective, give the person as much freedom as possible in working toward that objective, and finally, provide motivation by seeing that the contribution of the individual is recognized throughout the organization.
    • Paint the whole picture for clear and effective communication.
    • Sweat the small stuff. Focus on the details, especially when it comes to people.
    • Cluster. Put in place pieces that reinforce each other, clustered together to deliver a powerful combined punch.
    • Swim in your own current, even if you swim against the tide. Don’t ask, "Is this practice good? Instead ask, "Is this practice appropriate for us, does it fit with our ideology and ambitions?"
    • Obliterate misalignments

2.Preserve the core, stimulate progress

  • Shun the tyranny of "OR", embrace the genius of "AND". Believe in Yin and Yang; co-existence of both.
  • Only secret to an enduring organization is the ability to manage both change and continuity
  • Continue:
    • Core values
    • Core purpose
  • Change:
    • Cultural and operating practices
    • Specific goals and strategies
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald said, "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."
  • Have ideological control with operational autonomy.

1. Set Big Hairy Audacious Goals(BHAG)

  • A true BHAG is clear and compelling. It serves as a unifying focal point of effort, often creating immense team spirit. It has a clear finish line, so the organization can know when it has achieved  the goal; people like to shoot for finish lines. It engages people-it reaches out and grabs them in the gut. It is tangible, energizing, highly focused. People "get it" right away, it takes little or no effort.
  • BHAGs are seemingly impossible, unreasonable, but the drive for progress says, "We believe we can do it nonetheless." Have self-confidence bordering on hubris (literally "overbearing pride, confidence, or arrogance")
  • Use BHAGs as a powerful mechanism to stimulate progress
  • A goal cannot be classified as a BHAG without a high level of commitment to the goal. It should be outside the comfort zone. People should have a reason to believe they can pull it off, yet it should require heroic efforts.
  • BHAG can only help until it is achieved.
  • Cultivate the ability to continually set bold new goals for itself long into the future.
  • Preserve the core while pursuing BHAGs.
  • Example of a BHAG: Kennedy’s "Man on the moon" goal during the 60’s.

Let’s change the world!


Is silicon valley the place to be – even for Web2.0?

I’ve always wanted to start a company around Stanford, in the bay area. But through a course of highly exciting and interesting events, I’ve landed up in the pacific northwest. I believe firmly that geography does make a huge impact on the success of a startup. The proximity to potential customers, venture capitalists, and advisors does make a great difference. The most important ingredient of startups – people are also determined by the location of the startup. I’ve heard Mike Moritz of Sequoia Capital once say that he won’t invest in a company that he cannot drive up to on a regular basis (he has invested in companies that don’t fit this description, but that’s just an exception!) The quality of universities have a large impact on determining, the quality of students(potential hires) available and the depth of research/innovation conducted in the area.

After my recent trip to the bay area, a introspective thought struck me – am I missing out on sometInnovationmaphing by not being in the silicon valley? The valley breathes entrepreneurship. But, is it true when it comes to Web 2.0? I’ve discussed it some entrepreneurial folks at Stanford, YouTube and Google. Ryan Williams has geocoded  the Web 2.0 companies to create an "Innovation Map" – that shows the geographical distribution of leading Web 2.0 companies (No, they are not all located in the valley, but a majority of them are.)

Dwipal has a cool link to a poster with logos of leading Web 2.0 companies.

Kosmar has created a neat mindcloud to describe a variety of Web 2.0 companies.

Loose control!

Viral vectors for Web 2.0

Viral marketing is not a new term. Seth Godin and Emanuel Rosen have been talking about word-of-mouth and buzz for years. But, with GMail’s invitation approach has started a new trend of viral marketing, which has almost become a standard for new prodcut launches (Even the latest version of MSN messenger – Live Messenger 8 beta used the approach.) With the popularity of Web 2.0 applications, the viral vectors have started becoming more and more important. Alex Bosworth has done an excellent job in delineating the seven viral vectors:

Hosting for public pages
Communication lock-in
Other viral methods

Not all of them are equally effective, but they do play a crucial role in popularizing particular type of applications.


Segway inside Google. Can Microsoft afford it?

I had heard stories about free lunches and onsite massage centers for Googlers, but I didn’t find those stories appealing. A friend of mine had invited me to visit her at Google, so after finishing up my recruiting duties at the Stanford Computer Forum, I drove down to Mountain View to Google’s headquarters (Googleplex).

I was surprised by the gamut of minor perks that Googlers enjoy. Free valet parking, car wash and car detailing services made the first impression. I literally hate it when I have to keep drGoogleronsegwayiving from one floor of the parking garage to another, just because some people prefer to sleep early and wake up early to get to work early. A valet service would certainly help. The on-site massage center and a hair salon can certainly save time. But I found the concierge service to be the coolest. Googlers can have the concierge "take their dog for a walk", or "buy their spouse flowers", while they are busy making search better (or playing pool!) Another cool perk are the mini-scooters and segways, that Googlers can use to commute from one office to another down the hall (see image). I don’t mind walking/running down the hall, but won’t it be cool to ride around on a Segway!!

Romans ruled on one principle: "Feed and entertain and you’ll conquer." Google gets this one right. Google makes sure that the Googlers are well fed. The cafeteria offers a wide variety of delicacies to Googlers and their guests, throughout the day and into the evenings. The kitchen area offers a variety of hip beverages, including Naked juices, Vitamin water, Tejava, etc. Googlers also enjoy free access to a variety of organic chips, snacks and chocolates to ensure that they are high on sugar all the time (so much for making search better!!)

Although Microsoft offers paid dining services from Eurest and first come first serve – parking amenities, I believe firmly that Microsoft offers employees with an environment to fully unleash their potential. When we compare Microsoft’s almost 60,000 employees to Google’s mere 5,000 + employees, Microsoft offers terrific perks at that scale. But can Google still afford to continue providing these perks as it grows? Every year, Microsoft hires more people than Google’s total population and still manages to offer some of the best perks. Just for a thought, can Microsoft afford to offer Google-like amenities to all its 60,000 employees? Would Google be able to continue providing these perks, as it grows (if it grows to be that large!!) Should it? Are these frivolous expenses justified for a public company?

Considering the competition in attracting the best talent, can a typical startup afford to provide such perks to its employees?

Loose control!

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Lessons learnt from John Chambers and Cisco

On my recent recruiting trip to Stanford, I got an opportunity to listen to and meet with John Chambers (CEO, Cisco). He shared his views on the sustained market leadership position maintained by Cisco in several market segments (networking – routers, switching, voice, etc.) John attributed Cisco’s (almost) consistent market leadership to his team’s ability to catch market transitions, before they become obvious. In 2000, when Cisco was enjoying a solid market position in routers and switches, John had bet on the vision that voice, data and video will be delivered over the same platform and it paid off.

John believes that "networking" affords Moore’s law on steroids, as the speed(bandwidth) doubles every 12 months (as opposed to 18 months for microprocessors), for the same cost. Speaking about the next "big" transition – the concept of "Network as a platform" stands out. He envisions a network, which is aware of the type of applications that run on it – rather than the applications that need to be aware of the network. On a high level, he believes in that the next trends are going to be around "interactions" (information >> transactions >> interactions), and the fact that high bandwidth will be much cheaper in the near future, the scope of applications and their interactions should be impressive. John believes that video will have a big role to play in the next few years.

Speaking of R&D, he believes that corporations have consistently failed in creating breakthrough research contributions in the technology sector (citing Xerox PARC, IBM and Wang labs). In his opinion, the best way to foster research is through lobbying the government to give more research grants to academic institutions.

On a non-tech side, I found John as a prolific "connector". Whether he was giving a public lecture or talking in person, he made the other person feel his "equal". He entered the room in a business suit, but took off his coat, when he found that no one else was formally dressed.

I’ll write about my visit to the Google campus in the next post.

Let’s change the world!


writing “WOW” emails

Emails have become the official means of recorded conversations in corporations. Typically for an entrepreneur, a carefully crafted email to a business prospect or a partner can add significantly to the credibility of his/her venture. Conversely, a poorly crafted email can prove that the entrepreneur is pathologically clueless. Guy Kawasaki has done a great job in delineating the craft of email writing in a recent post.

Let’s change the world!