Boston is probably the most interesting place in the world for me this past week. Not only are the Celtics and Lakers slugging it out at the NBA Finals, but the other interesting thing happening in Boston this week is the Enterprise 2.0 conference.
The conference kicked-off with a bang, and the first session on Monday was the long-awaited social computing bake-off between IBM and Microsoft, pitching Lotus Connections and SharePoint against each other for enterprise social computing superiority.
The two IT heavyweights did their song and dance, and unsurprisingly (to me at least), Lotus Connections more or less emerged as the consensus victor. I won’t bother to offer my own analysis of what happened, since the session has already been dissected to death by both the blogosphere and press alike:
- Ed Brill: Enterprise 2.0: Round 1 to IBM Lotus Connections
- Luis Benitez: IBM wins round 1 against Microsoft!
- Scott Gavin: Reactions to SharePoint session at the Enterprise 2.0 Conference
- Susan Scrupski: “By comparison, the SharePoint presentation was, well, uninspired”
- David Hobbie: “Lotus has really built out a fully mature social networking and collaboration system”
- Stephen Collins: “No wonder people complain about SharePoint”
- CIO.com: Microsoft Lags Behind IBM in Social Software
- CMS Watch: “IBM came off looking better for various reasons”
- 451 Group: “Microsoft was showed up by IBM…thoroughly”
- Lawrence Liu (the guy from Microsoft who did the demo) conceding defeat
What I do want to comment on however, is this opinion offered by Rob James:
I had a quick look at the IBM & MS SharePoint presentations this morning, and I can’t help but wonder if these guys get it. E2.0 and W2.0 is all about being lightweight – for me, that is one of the foundational points. If it takes more than a few minutes to get a platform up and running, you don’t get it.
So to IBM and MS. Their products are heavy weight and take a lot of heavy lifting to get running. It will take more than a day to get running and, adding IT and Governance in there, and you suddenly have a 6 month project. Doesn’t sound like Web 2.0 to me????
Well, I certainly can understand where Rob is coming from, but I would suggest that:
- Being heavyweight or having a large install or complicated architecture is entirely subjective. Where do you draw the line to say whether a piece of software is heavyweight or lightweight?
- What’s more important in Web 2.0 is the lightweight perception of the application from the user’s perspective. If my social computing tool leverages all the AJAX bells and whistles and gives me an intuitive, responsive, functional, and easy-to-use user experience, do I really care how the technology is actually set up to make all this work?
- The moment one starts to deploy social computing tools in a real enterprise setting and have to figure out how to extract the company’s HR information from two Active Directory forests, an Oracle database, and a legacy HR system written 15 years ago, and figuring out how to make the whole shebang scale for 100 offices across 15 countries including poorly-connected Indonesia – that is when one will start appreciating the heavyweight nature of these tools.
The inescapable fact is that large enterprises have complicated enterprise problems that need complicated tools to resolve. Horizontal scalability, data integration, bandwidth utilization, long-term data archival, IT governance and security – these are all issues which one don’t encounter when deploying tools to small departments or companies.
You can bet an established enterprise IT vendor like IBM has aimed high and designed their software to tackle these enterprise challenges since Day 1. And if this means that you need slightly more complexity in the supporting technology and infrastructure to handle these challenges, so be it.
After all, we are talking about Enterprise 2.0, and not Department 2.0, or SMB 2.0, right?