Oracle WebCenter Keynote

October 12, 2009 at 7:13 pm | Posted in Enterprise 2.0, Oracle | Leave a comment

Nothing new here since my posting after the Oracle analyst event in June.  There is a new set of product codenames (Sunshine for WebLogic portal, Neo for ALUI, RoadRunner for WebCenter).  Oracle Portal doesn’t seem to have a cute name yet, and they couldn’t talk about Sun.

I like how Oracle continues to address SharePoint – the gorilla in the collaboration room – and how they recognize the need for integration.  As far as I can tell, the integration is still mostly through the WSRP producer though.  They also recognize this isn’t an “open” market – there are a significant number of existing implementations, so “protect and leverage” is what they are aiming at.  Good to hear.

Again, Oracle blurs “Enterprise 2.0 and Portals” (as it subtitled the strategy slides).  Portals can surface information from social software, but “and” is not the right way to approach it.  Social software sites need their own environments that enable them to be easily integrated in context with other applications.  Not that it can’t be used that way, but the messaging is that these two things are one combined entity.


Oracle WebCenter and Fusion Middleware 11g

July 9, 2009 at 7:07 am | Posted in BEA, collaboration, Enterprise 2.0, Microsoft SharePoint, Notes/Domino, Oracle, portals, Web 2.0 | 5 Comments

Oracle’s analyst summit in mid-June provided a good look at their plans for Fusion Middleware 11g and WebCenter (released July 1st for download; see summary of features here).  Now that we’re out of non-disclosure mode (and into “please disclose!” mode) I’d like to share my high-level impressions.  They covered a ton of stuff, but my view is biased towards my coverage area of portals with connections to search, productivity, and collaboration. Other Burton Group analysts were also in attendance from our Identity and Privacy Strategies team and our Application Platform Strategies team (see Anne Thomas Manes’ thoughts here).

First, although Oracle owns 4 portal products, all the portal-related time was spent on WebCenter. Sure, other portals were mentioned in bullets as examples of how they can plug in (or consume WebCenter’s social software), but it was clear WebCenter is the leading actor here (and supporting actor in the stories of the SOA, identity, and enterprise application teams). This confirms what I (and Oracle) has been saying: that WebCenter is the primary portal and that the other 3 (Oracle Portal, WebLogic Portal, and WebCenter Interaction née Plumtree) will be supported and have their die-hard fans but will not be best for new portal projects.

It was helpful to hear Oracle frame its collaboration/portal/search/productivity/social software ambitions in relation to Microsoft SharePoint.  For all its plusses and minuses, SharePoint provides a common point of reference against which to measure.  They described how they line up with SharePoint as an alternative, can coexist with it, and where they surpass it.  This is what IBM should have done with Quickr+Connections at Lotusphere.

As with SharePoint, WebCenter provides an impressive set of functions in one box. There is often better integration between WebCenter and other Oracle assets (like their applications and development tools) than Microsoft where other groups can sometimes get away with ignoring what the SharePoint and Office group does.

There are numerous SharePoint analogies in WebCenter.  From conversations with the execs there I found that some are intentional and in other cases they say SharePoint copied them (well, copied AquaLogic User Interaction)!

  • Business Dictionary as a role based catalog of information assets. Seems like SharePoint’s Business Data Catalog.  This should be an interesting battle since SharePoint’s BDC is clearly a version 1.0 work-in-progress and Oracle has a lot of expertise to bring here being a database company at heart.
  • Federated search. ‘Nuff said.
  • Office integration. Clients I speak with expect Microsoft will always have the best Office integration, but there are cases where Microsoft’s internal silos or some good ideas can expose openings.  Oracle showed a nice Word sidebar for document management that had people, versions, etc.
  • Slide sorter. This was a neat feature that SharePoint offered, but Oracle’s version seems to leapfrog it. They demoed picking all the slides for a sales deck. Oracle calls this a “folio” or compound document. Oracle acquired a neat little company called “Outside In” that has sophisticated filters for productivity files.  Blending this into Web Center can provide for some good Office integration.

Oracle did a fine job of acknowledging the need to work with SharePoint and others.  But the meat boils down to their WSRP producer running on .NET, selective metadata consumption, and Ensemble (a reverse proxy solution).  Hopefully this gets beefed up with more programmatic integration, discovery tools, and guidance so it requires less reliance on WSRP.

Of all the competitors, WebCenter is the newest architecture from the ground up.  Being the youngest has its advantages.  Since WebCenter is newly architected it feels like it more seamlessly integrates new concepts like tagging, linking, social connections, and REST services than IBM and MSFT where it’s more bolted on. So they’re better at utilizing these features across the suite that Microsoft and a little bit better than IBM.

But will Oracle – the whole company – give WebCenter the resources it needs to win the marketplace(not just the resources required to be a good and useful product)?  In the Q&A session, Oracle President Charles Phillips said there are “No plans to have middleware broken out in reporting. We have lots of product lines, we’re getting more with Sun… ” This hits at the perennial knock on Oracle’s efforts around knowledge infrastructure – lack of push and commitment.  Oracle did talk about how much revenue Fusion pulled in, the growth rate, penetration, etc.  That would indicate the company would have to care.  But still, Microsoft manages to report on four breakouts (Client, Server and Tools, Online Services Business, Microsoft Business Division, Entertainment and Devices Division).  Oracle sticks to two (Applications, Database and Middleware).  Sun will add at least one more (servers and hardware).  If Oracle is dedicated to the enormous space between enterprise apps and the database, breaking out middleware from the database would be a great way to track and prove this commitment.

Note: This is a cross-posting from the Collaboration and Content Strategies blog

Complimentary Burton Group Public Seminar: The Present and Future of Content Creation

February 11, 2009 at 1:17 pm | Posted in Content Management, Enterprise 2.0, Information Work, Microsoft, Office, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment

For those of you in the Chicago area I wanted to point out a free seminar I’ll be doing in March.  I hope to see you there.

Complimentary Burton Group Public Seminar
Hosted by: Baxter Credit Union

The Present and Future of Content Creation

Wednesday, March 11, 2008 from 9:00 AM until 11:30 AM
Baxter Credit Union
340 North Milwaukee Avenue
Vernon Hills, IL 60061
Click here for map

Seminar Attendees Receive Complimentary Report
Productivity Suite Proliferation: Is It Time to Ditch Microsoft Office?
by Guy Creese

Content Authoring in the Enterprise 2.0 Age
By Craig Roth

Featuring Presentations by Burton Group Analyst: Craig Roth

Craig Roth, Service Director for Collaboration and Content Strategies, will describe how new content authoring, collaboration, aggregating, publishing, and searching technologies are impacting the writing process, and the challenges on the horizon for content authoring in the Enterprise 2.0 age.

Productivity Suite Proliferation: Is it Time to Ditch Microsoft Office?
Microsoft Office has long dominated the productivity suite market. While it still “owns” the market, enterprises looking for a product for creating documents, spreadsheets, and presentations now have many alternatives to pick from. This overview will look at software (e.g., WordPerfect,, and Lotus Symphony) and SaaS alternatives (e.g., Google Apps, Think Free, and Zoho) and discuss whether now is the time to replace Microsoft Office and put something else in its place.

Will the Traditional Productivity Suite Still Matter in 2010
Content authoring technology, such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, was originally just a tool that enabled the authoring process. However, with functional enhancements in the basic productivity suite, increased interest in brainstorming and mind-mapping tools, and the emergence of Web 2.0 authoring tools, it is now apparent that technology is changing how we write and what we write, even though information workers may not always be conscious of its effect.

Please RSVP by March 9, 2009 to: Curtis Carter at 801-304-8111 or

"Two Executives Trampled, One Gored Due to Craig Roth Article: Film at 11"

February 6, 2009 at 10:08 am | Posted in business case, Enterprise 2.0, Fun, social software, Web 2.0 | Leave a comment

Social Computing Magazine has published my article The Elephant in the Social Software Room, which I posted in this blog last week.  The theme of the article is that there is a business issue that is unspoken but impacts decisions about adoption of social software: to what degree do organizational structure and gatekeeper processes serve a positive purpose?  The truth is that many suspect they know the answer, but no one really does.  Assumptions that there is value to the structure drives the amount of risk that executives worry about when technology helps employees circumvent these structures and processes.  Perception that the structure doesn’t always have value is what drives employees to look for mechanisms to get around the artificial walls and bureaucratic processes.

The part I really like is that Social Computing picked up on the analogy and inserted a picture of an elephant in a boardroom to illustrate the concept.  I sincerely hope that no executives were trampled during this photo shoot, however worthwhile the issue at stake is.


The Elephant in the Social Software Room

January 29, 2009 at 2:18 pm | Posted in business case, Enterprise 2.0, social software, Web 2.0 | Leave a comment

As we found in our social networking field study that Mike Gotta ran, organizations often fret about potential negative impacts of breaking down organizational and, to some extent, social barriers.  Some stakeholders wonder whether execs really want borderless discussions among their staffs, whether engineers really want sales people to be able to contact them directly, whether employees will spread poor practices without gatekeepers, etc. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that there is an elephant in the middle of the social software room.  The unspoken question that is in the minds of execs is “Does our institutional structure and its information flows and bureaucracy serve a real purpose? ” Because if the answer is “yes” to any extent, that forces one to examine what the useful purposes are and how technology (and the culture embedded within it) may thwart those purposes. Social software acts as a blunt instrument for short circuiting institutional structure and bureaucracy since it cannot be selectively applied to its parts that are not beneficial while sparing those that are serve a purpose.

One way to think about this in a more concrete way is to determine what proportion of the lines connecting boxes on the org chart are meaningful.  Do they serve a useful purpose to the organization?  If you were starting from scratch, would you redraw the same line?  Certainly there are many lines that only exist because of outdated needs, useless political infighting, or patterns that emerged over time for reasons that don’t apply anymore.  I’m just as certain there are lines that make sense. The probability that any line on an org chart or to a gatekeeper on a process flow diagram is meaningful is certainly not a perfect 100%, but it’s not a Dilbertian 0% either.

Too bad, because if the answer were indeed that 100% of the lines were useful or 0% of them were useful, then the correct decision on whether to adopt social technology that can circumvent the organizational structure or chains of command for information/process flows would be easy.  The problem is that in practically all cases, it lies somewhere inbetween.  That is when a blunt instrument introduces risk since it doesn’t know the meaningful lines from the meaningless ones.

If there are ways in which the current hurdles to fully open social communication positively act as a reward system, influence trust, or affect information quality, how will the social software know and respect those boundaries?

Organizations have not had to question the value of their structure, information flows, and bureaucracy very often in the past because there were few ways to circumvent it.  But social software provides the most effective way to date for employees to get around the barriers and pathways that have been established formally and through practice. It’s time for those concerned about potential negative impacts of social software to step back and examine the real question: what is the real value of the organization and bureaucracy as it stands today?  Getting the answer to that question on the table is essential before jumping into technology.

Note: This is a cross-posting from the Collaboration and Content Strategies blog.

Tyranny of the Executive

December 26, 2008 at 12:25 pm | Posted in Enterprise 2.0, Fun, social software, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment

While listening to an IBM presentation and flipping through the printed slides, I noticed an unintended message in a typical web 2.0 slide that shows the old-fashioned org chart turned upside down to emphasize the peer-to-peer nature of social computing.  Until I saw their version of an org chart in 3D, I never realized how much the executive part of the org chart looks like a giant, evil robot crushing the masses of peons beneath his feet and hands.  With a little doodling, the image became more clear (don’t ask why my robot has horns and fangs – it just does).

Likewise, I never realized how turning the org chart around looked like the executive is struggling hard against the weight of the masses now crushing him and his authority. 

With the addition of a few of my doodle marks, I think the message becomes more clear – or at least more fun.  Enjoy!

Tyranny of the masses

Social Software Helps Rebuilding Efforts in New Orleans

June 27, 2008 at 12:16 pm | Posted in Blogs, BurtonGroupCatalyst08, Enterprise 2.0, social software, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments

I’m here at our Catalyst Conference in San Diego and just saw a great presentation from Alan Gutierrez of Think New Orleans.  Alan is a community organizer and, through a stunning set of photos from his city, showed the challenges that New Orleans faced after Hurricane Katrina and how social software in every possible form helped to provide informal, emergent connectivity between people when the formal, centralized organizations had failed.  One particularly poignant photo showed a road sign that had read “deaf child area” defaced to read “deaf government area”.

When necessary, open publishing of information enabled the shaming of local politicians and developers into often doing the right thing.  Information sharing was essential for putting together the individual pieces that formed a larger pattern.  For example, Alan described some shifty deals where a string of perfectly good homes along a street that developers probably wanted to freshen wound up being declared a health threat . Alan: “It’s hard to get local press, but we can get national press and then we get local press and then something gets done.”

Alan described how the idea of community that feeds much of Web 2.0 is a natural fit for New Orleans.  As Alan said, “This is a city that is familiar with community … Mardis Gras isn’t created by the chamber of commerce – it’s created by krewes that pool together to create a float.”

Much of Alan’s work has been around trying to ensure that the rebuilding of New Orleans doesn’t form an excuse for gentrification that replaces the communities in the city with generic, upscale suburbia that displaces existing residence.  Alan: “Life takes place outside in New Orleans … this is a 19th century city and we want to know the city we’re rebuilding is the city we lost; that we’re not building over it.”

Social software – including groups, wikis, blogs, and extensive use of Flickr – provided a way for disenfranchised residents to exchange information, note patterns, and organize to address them when required.  For example, in one case social software was used to pull together a rally of 5,000 citizens to protest a rash of violence . But, as Alan said, the use of these technologies was not just useful but necessary: “If you’re used to meeting people in your community in the coffee shop and if your coffee shop is now gone, you use these technologies because you’re compelled to”.  Today, “In New Orleans, being a citizen means being a knowledge worker”.

Back Home and Blogging Again

June 17, 2008 at 4:02 pm | Posted in Enterprise 2.0, portals, social software, virtual worlds | Leave a comment

It’s been a while since my last blog post as I’ve been kept running all over Europe lately doing speaking and visiting current and potential clients in Munich, Copenhagen, Vienna, and London.  My presentation on social computing for the Domino Notes Users Group in Bremen went fine except for my PC getting possessed and flipping slides around on me while presenting.


Now that I’m home I’m decompressing and reflecting on what I was hearing from the corporate and government organizations I talked to about collaboration and portals. 

  • I found a great deal of interest in social software, but the dozen or so organizations I spoke with seemed a bit further behind the U.S. in terms of awareness and piloting.
  • There was quite a bit of SharePoint work going on, but generally in a more controlled fashion than I’ve seen in the U.S.  SharePoint was being stripped down to fit into the rest of the environment, being used as just a web file store in one case and as a low-end content management system in another.  I prefer this approach to the whole-hog implementation that steps on the toes of other installed infrastructure that I see too often.
  • Portals were a hot topic, with most organizations I visited using them, sometimes many of them.  In fact, portal consolidation and governance is as big an issue as it was in my last few visits to Europe.
  • Enterprise virtual worlds came up twice, without much prompting from me.  One governmental agency was very interested in its use for rehearsal and disaster preparedness.

Now I’m off to work on the Mother of All Expense Reports.  

Munich Neues Rathaus

Social Networking Occurs Before and After Collaboration

June 2, 2008 at 1:43 pm | Posted in collaboration, Enterprise 2.0, social software | 9 Comments

I’m just putting the final touches on my presentation on social software at the Domino Notes Users Group conference “Social Collaboration for the Enterprise” in Bremen, Germany and ran across a great posting from Gia Lyons (until recently of IBM Lotus, now at Jive Software).  Her description of what Connections does is a good description of the role of social networking in an enterprise environment in general.  An excerpt (full posting here):

Lotus Connections helps you:

  • Find the ‘good’ people with whom to collaborate, whether they’ve filled out their profile or not.
  • Find information that your trusted colleagues think is good, without relying on unsatisfactory search solutions.
  • Find the knowledge “crowds” that are locked up and hidden away in your company, so that you can lurk-n-learn, or connect-n-collaborate.

This posting got me thinking about how social networking fits with collaboration.  The conclusion I came to was that it can be useful before or after collaboration:

  • As a prelude to collaboration: After finding and tracking people with whom you share interests, like, or respect, a situation may naturally arise where you wish to connect to achieve a shared goal.  This may take place this afternoon or in ten years, but once the process of growing connections becomes second nature, the harvesting does too.
  • To maintain social links after collaboration: Sometimes collaboration triggers a desire to network rather than the other way around.  In this instance, collaborating on a project with someone lets you get to know them and their skills.  Adding those you have learned to respect to your network leaves the door open to mutually beneficial collaboration or sharing of additional network ties in the future.

If you’re going to be in Bremen, be sure to see my keynote address on “Sharing, Collaborating, and Networking in the Social Enterprise” on Friday and stop by afterwards to say hello.

Is There Anything New to Say about Enterprise 2.0?

May 21, 2008 at 4:34 pm | Posted in Blogs, Enterprise 2.0, social software, Web 2.0 | Leave a comment

I’m waiting for the “Enterprise 2.0 presentation” v2.0.  I’ve already heard enough times about how web 2.0 is important and can be applied to the enterprise, how Wikipedia is a new paradigm, how information flow is important, the importance of social networks, a walk-through each technology (blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, …), relevant surveys and studies, etc.  The first few times were fine since even the converted sometimes need to hear a better way to evangelize others and have materials (presentations) to show their bosses to prove it’s not just them saying it’s important.  And there are still lots of people who are hearing this for the first time.  But the number of first-timers decreases each month thanks to evangelism from all sides (vendors, press, industry analysts, conferences, academia, books) and it’s about time to think about what kind of presentation one can give to an audience who already knows how participatory interactions and networks are important, buys into the value, and knows their technologies and terms.

At BEA Participate there were a few Enterprise 2.0 (E2.0) presentations from BEA folks, although the best was from Andrew McAfee.  It was really the archetypical Enterprise 2.0 presentation.  That’s fine – he created the archetype and suffice it to say that if you haven’t heard him speak before, he’s a great speaker and is very good at conveying what he means by Enterprise 2.0 and possesses a wide variety of surveys, academic references, case studies, and anecdotes to support his case.  He’s the Lexus of next-generation information worker speakers.  Having heard this type of information literally dozens of times before from many sources (and I’ll be doing this same type of presentation myself at DNUG in June), I’d like to hear the next version.  Since Mr. McAfee is a professor, I’d say that by now I was expecting the “201” presentation in college terms, or maybe “501” for grad school.

Note: I’m not asking for an enterprise 3.0 presentation.  I’m not saying “OK, enterprise 2.0 – I got it. What’s the next big thing?”  I’m not looking for a whole new set of technologies beyond the E2.0 ones.  I buy into the E2.0 set and want to continue following their evolution and absorption into the enterprise.

Some thoughts off the top of my head on what goes into “The Next Enterprise 2.0 Presentation”:

  • Tracking statistics:  E2.0 presentations all tend to use snapshots of stats demonstrating pain points or E2.0 adoption.  By now we should be starting to get tracking stats that show how they are increasing or decreasing over time.  Note: I’m a stickler for proper survey technique, so you can’t just compare separate surveys that happen to be a year apart to deduce trends.  It would have to be the same surveyors who would then word the questions the same and weight the respondents according to the same demographics (industry, geography, company size) for the results to mean anything
  • Top 5 observed blocking factors: Unless you’re ready to hold up a “mission accomplished” banner on E2.0 in the enterprise, you should know by now what’s holding E2.0 back in many cases.  Not just what one could assume (cultural barriers, incentive barriers, control issues, immature directory infrastructure, etc.), but from actual observations
  • Models: We should have seen enough uses of these technologies by now that certain patterns start to emerge.  My colleague Mike Gotta has been doing a good job of teasing out patterns in areas like blogging
  • Architecture: Again, with more actual implementation experience there should now be guidance emerging on conceptual and physical architectures.  Showing how identity management systems integrate with E2.0 systems, how to include extranet partners in the E2.0 topology, and how centralized and decentralized (with syncing) models can be architected would be of particular interest
  • Deflating the bubble: There has been a lot – perhaps too much – excitement and too high of expectations on E2.0 (to say nothing of some revolutionary rhetoric).  OK, you got people’s attention and made points by being a bit extreme – now you can bring it back down to Earth a bit.  Now is the inevitable time to step back and admit where old technologies have proved resilient, where the new technologies aren’t all they are cracked up to be, and build a bridge between the two worlds on how they can blend together
  • Roadmap: You may not be ready to hold up the “mission accomplished” sign yet, but can you now see where we’re headed?  Where are we today, where are we trying to get to (maybe a choice of multiple points depending on the enterprise), and what are some milestones to look for on the road there?  I think an obvious input into this roadmap is standards, so which standards will be needed to get to the destination and what is their status?

Of course there can also be updates to information in the 101 presentation, such as new case studies, new surveys, new products or websites, clarifications of terms (there are constant battles about terminology being fought by the digerati that result in slight changes to definitions), and more depth (like more detail on how wikis work).  But I’m really holding out for the next E2.0 presentation that moves the concept forward, not just goes deeper or jumps on to a new set of technologies.

I know I’m just dreaming here – all this is just a wish list.  But I think it’s one that’s within reach for the next iteration of E2.0 presentations.

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