Information on Demand Conference 2007 -- Day 5: Wired's Chris Anderson Leads The Roundtable: Innovation From The Outside In
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Thursday, October 18, 2007, 9:40 AM PST
Information On Demand 2007 is wrapping up pour moi. I'll be on the plane and on my way out of Vegas this afternoon.
: ( Sad smiley face, I know.
But before I flee back to Austin, I had one last opportunity to tune in to some key themes emerging from the conference at this morning's panel discussion led by Wired magazine editor-in-chief, Chris Anderson.
The official conference mantra this week has been "Act. Right. Now."
No doubt, it compels a certain sense of urgency, and Anderson kicked off this morning's roundtable session with some opening comments about a related meme.
Or impending sense of lack thereof as perceived by large enterprise IT organizations.
Anderson began with a clever analogy, one the irony of which did not escape my notice.
The editor-in-chief of arguably the paramount digital media magazine in the world uses two Ethernet cables at his office, one black and one white.
The black cable is the official connection at work, the one that keeps Wired's network safe from the bad guys. It also filters out leading edge Web technologies like Skype, Bit Torrent, Second Life, etc.
The white cable is an off-the-reservation DSL connection that serves as his umbilical world to what's really going on in the World. You know, where all the consumers are and where so much innovation is currently taking place?
Though this was Anderson's self-proclaimed "act of rebellion," it bespeaks a larger tension boiling up in the Enterprise 2.0 v. Web 2.0 showdown.
From the outset of his opening remarks, Anderson acknowledged that there is an extraordinary transfer of power from institutions and corporations to "you and I" -- to the great unwashed, to the uncredentialed, if you will.
We now have a seat at the table, and in many instances, are leading the conversation
This force, these new technologies and approaches, are unleashing substantial new talents, abilities and enthusiasm.
And now, big companies are taking notice and asking the key question: How can we get me some of that?
How can we take those new social patterns, those new ways of interacting and collaborating, and bring it back inside our enterprises?
How can we, in short, bring innovation from the outside in?
IBM panelist Anant Jhingram attempted to answer the question by quoting from Pink Floyd (yes, an IBM executive quoted Pink Floyd...stop the presses):
"How can you have any pudding if you don't clean your feet?"
Of course, it's yet another irony not lost on me that he would quote from "The Wall" (i.e., the wall between IT and everybody else), but Jhingram's point was that enterprises can unleash creativity and adapt new forms of collaboration and information sharing, while still keeping "light" control.
IBM engineer Hamid Pirahesh wondered whether or not we should think enterprise first, or make it from outside in. That is to say, ought those of us in the enterprise assimilate ourselves to 2.0?
IBM development executive Carl Kessler extended the Pink Floyd analogy (rock on, Carl), explaining that line of business users want more and who increasingly don't need permission to eat their pudding (think Facebook, Skype, LinkedIn, and all the other Web-based tools professionals use without express permission from their IT departments).
There's a tug of war going on, Kessler explained, but this time IT won't win.
Why? Because business customers have had a taste of mashups and flexible and dynamic business data, and there's no going back.
The Web 2.0 barbarians are at the gate. Could somebody please adjust the Twitter feed?
However, we must increasingly balance the need for the formal management of information (compliance, etc.) with the driving business need of being able to do something with and act on information if we're to retain any semblance of order.
IBM engineer Carol Jones then turned around to observe one of the key attributes of Web 2.0, the selfish drivers from which communities also benefit.
Delicious (new spelling) helped you organize your bookmarks, which then allowed others to benefit from your opening those up to the world.
Increasingly, Jones explained, data is becoming more and more easy to share and send out (via RSS, mashups, etc.) but it must be liberated before it can be shared.
And the never boring Jeff Jonas (chief scientist with our entity analytics team) began his comments, appropriately enough, with a casino analogy.
This in the form of a video, in which a blackjack dealer was shown to be taking a new deck of cards from a player wearing a white hat...quite surreptitiously, I might add.
Wait a minute, was that...was that George Clooney??
Surprise, surprise, it turns out the dealer and the player in the white hat both had the same home address, but the casino had no clue because they hadn't run any analytics to do pattern matches and the like.
The score: Blackjack for the player and dealer -- they took the casino for $250,000! in 15 minutes -- and a major demotion for that particular pit boss.
Jonas referred to this as "enterprise amnesia." With enterprise amnesia, companies do silly things like hire people that they've already arrested.
Jonas explained this was embarrassing to companies, and they ought not do it if tools could be employed to prevent it, and they can.
Ultimately, there seemed to be general agreement that the genie couldn't be put back in the bottle, that you can't go back to the old siloes and one trick application ponies.
Information integration -- including all that data in the ever-accumulating Internet cloud -- is here to stay.
Those who embrace, and who actively seek out innovative new ways of combining enterprise data with the emerging data from the cloud, will be in a position to win over their traditional-IT fatigued, Web 2.0-enervated customers and continue to co-exist on the same island.
Those who don't -- well, sorry, but they just won't be getting any pudding because they ain't cleaned their feet.