Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Tech industry spews Web companies, doohickeys so fast we can't keep up

USAToday
Ten years from now, when someone wants to identify a moment that epitomizes the nuttiness about this Web 2.0 stuff, I vote we designate an entry in popular tech blog GigaOm this week:

"A couple days ago, we pointed to Mooglets widgets, the creation of Rome-based Mad4milk.net. Today, we are shocked to learn that Mad4milk has been acquired by Freewebs. The Web host says it will repackage Mad4milk's JavaScript effects library, offering developer community site Freewebs Farms, and soon a widget library."

What in the name of Moses is going on? Not even educated tech veterans can keep track anymore. Mooglets? Widget libraries? Mad4milk? Is this a scene from Harry Potter and the Stoned Venture Capitalists?

The tech industry is frothing. It is spewing companies and Web doohickeys and blog amalgamizers and Internet contraptions like video social-networking wiki cooking sites.

KEEP TRACK OF IT ALL:Comment on this story on Kevin Maney's blog

They have names such as Kiko, Tribe, Imeem, StumbleUpon, Meebo, Eyespot and Twitter. Sounds like the cast of Pee Wee's Playhouse: The Next Generation.

There is so much coming so fast from so many corners that nobody can possibly keep track, much less ever, ever try using it all.

Money is flying into ventures that most people east of Palo Alto, Calif., would find incomprehensible. Dash Navigation got $17 million from high-profile venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Dash bills itself as a "social network of traffic data" — allegedly getting cars to wirelessly talk to each other about where they are and reporting to the network if they're wheezing through bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Hard to say if it will work, but if you add "social network" to anything right now, you can get $17 million. Walk into a venture firm's office and say, "I've got a social network for hermits." Boom. Seventeen million dollars.

Which is crazy, because no one needs millions of dollars to build a consumer Web business anymore. In fact, that's why there are so many new sites. Creating a complex site is way easier and probably 10 or 15 times cheaper compared with six years ago, tech entrepreneurs say.

At the same time, ad dollars are rushing to the Web. David Court of consulting firm McKinsey says, "In the next 24 months, we will see demand for online advertising actually outstrip the supply." That's why we're getting so many consumer websites: They're easy to build and a booming market for ads.

Pretty soon, neighborhood kids will stop setting up lemonade stands and instead build Ajax-driven photo-tagging recommendation engines, or some other confluence of buzzwords.

You can tell that some insiders sense a bubble-ishness in the air.

Like, I met with Gordon Gould, a successful, surfer-dude serial entrepreneur who just launched ThisNext. It is social networking crossed with shopping — or, to use his freshly minted buzzword, "shopcasting."

Throughout his presentation, he kept tossing around one overheated catchphrase after another — the wisdom of crowds, the long tail, product discovery — and then, to his credit, apologizing for it. "We'll take ThisNext to the blogosphere — which is a terrible term," Gould said at one point, seemingly tired of his own industry's rhetoric.

Then I met with Tony Conrad, co-founder of the new blog search site Sphere. Bloggers that day were jabbering about a redesign of del.icio.us — a social networking tagging community something-or-other site. And we got talking about the gaggle of sites popping up and how a lot of them seem just too geeky for words.

In this spirited conversation, I made the admission: "And I still don't know what the hell del.icio.us is good for!" Expecting Tony to lecture me on the momentous development that is del.icio.us, he instead grinned, threw up his hand and high-fived me.

Which was refreshing because the Web faithful are often certain that many of these latest sites are going to upend the established universe. If you remember, that sounds a lot like tech people circa 1997.

Earlier this month, tech bloggers ecstatically wrote that newcomer Digg is going to replace The New York Times as a venerable news source. Digg is basically a band of a few thousand loyal Digg fans rating stories they like from all around the Web, so the stories rise to the top of the site. Here's the profound, worldly headline the Diggettes voted best on Monday: "What are the top 100 viewed Wikipedia pages?"

USAToday

To be fair, at the top of the Times' site just then was "Shiite militia clashes with Iraqi troops." Which is the news equivalent of eating a bowl of flaxseed. Maybe there's a happy medium.

Of course, you can't win if you tell techies sites like Digg or Dash or ThisNext are just interesting tweaks to the landscape, not a reordering of the cosmos. It's like arguing against someone who fervently believes the world will end in 2012. The only way to prove your point is to wait until 2013.

Guess we'll see. Web 2.0 is a broad term for a new generation of websites that are more interactive and multilayered than the 1990s batch of websites. And right now, Web 2.0 is like a water balloon being filled by a fire hydrant. Industry jokesters call it Bubble 2.0.

A lot of the new sites are fun. I'm glad people are creating them. But it's hard to imagine how the world can absorb everything being pumped out there.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Web 2.0 on a shoestring: What bubble?

ZDNET

Web 2.0 is not a heady financial bubble ready to burst, it is a hot air hype balloon ready to deflate.

The cost-free ease by which 20-something weekend software developers hatch colorful, lightweight, cool apps ready-made for the colorful, lightweight, cool TechCrunch spotlight yields a dizzying parade of often indistinguishable Web 2.0 “feature sets.”

In “Web 2.0 financial success: Easy as 'two weeks and $700 bucks'?” I present Kevin Rose’s description of his $700 bargain basement start-up of Digg:

I was sitting around thinking about how this would play out. My background in school is in computer science. I wrote a scoping document to a friend, who is a developer. The friend said it would take two or three weeks to create and cost 700 bucks, so I said, 'Let's go for it.’

In “Rocketboom: Web 2.0 'success' on $20 a day?” I present The New York Times’ look at the early days of Rocketboom, “TV Stardom on $20 a Day”:

It’s not just cool, though, it’s prescient…In case you’re wondering, it has occurred to Mr. Baron and Ms. Congdon that they just might be sitting on a gold mine. At a cost of about $20 an epiosode, they reach an audience that some days is roughly comparable in size to that of, say, CNN’s late, unlamented ‘Crossfire’ political debate show.

In “Graham on Google: Web 2.0 foe” I quote Paul Graham, financial backer of recently folded online calendar site Kiko via his Y Combinator, on his “no money down” Web 2.0 start-up funding philosophy:

There's another encouraging point here for the new generation of web startups. Failure is not a disaster when you're very light. The total amount raised by Kiko in its existence would be about six months' salary for a first-rate developer. There's a good chance they'll recover most of it by selling their code. They only had one employee besides themselves. So this is not an expensive, acrimonious flameout like used to happen during the Bubble.

How can there be a financial bubble if the Web 2.0 community boasts about the near cost-free and risk-free nature of “starting-up”? As little time or money is invested in the typical try at Web 2.0 glory, however, there is also little emotional investment, or sweat equity created.

The Kiko demise headline is not "Google kills Web 2.0," it is "Web 2.0 gets bored."

In “Eight sure ways to get in TechCrunch Deadpool” I cite the Kiko team on their lack of dedication and commitment to putting in the time and effort necessary to grow a viable business for the long-term:

As you might have noticed, we haven't been actively working on the site for a few weeks…We are selling Kiko because we want to have time to work on other projects as a development team. We had a project in mind we just didn't want to wait on :)

we thought that the release of Google Calendar might be good because it would push one of the other big players into acquiring a calendar application to compete. 30boxes had stated that they didn't want to be bought out so, as the #3 player, things were looking hopeful. Things didn't pan out, but that's okay. None of us were ever had a Lexus on hold

A handful of deep pocketed corporate players willing to overpay their way into the Social Web does not equal a heady financial bubble.

Legions of under invested and under motivated amateur entrepreneurs does equal a hot air hype balloon.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

REA-lly cool; check it out

Posted by susanitsa on 25th August 2006

On my pestering list on the hunt for “proof cases” has also been JackBe. By now, I’m sure Mike Wagner wishes he never commented on my blog. This little firm here on the East Coast, however, has some rock’in blue chip, international customers. I’ve been doggin’ Wagner for case studies, and he’s been patiently telling me they were about to launch a new web site with “new Enterprise 2.0 positioning.” If you want a good explanation for why IT and non-IT folks should be interested in Enterprise tools, read this white paper on Ajax from JackBe.

The new site launched yesterday. What I really liked was the initiative the company took to coin a new acronym, “REA.” It stands for Rich Enterprise Applications. Read for yourself what it’s all about.

I’m trying to wrap my head around this, but it appears JackBe has the secret sauce to unite SOA with Ajax. Read this excellent article written by Deepak Alur JackBe’s VP of Engineering published this week for a better explanation. All I know for sure is JackBe “already counts among its satisfied clients more than 30 industry leaders worldwide supporting more than 4 million end users. Customers include Forbes, Citigroup, McKesson, Tupperware, Sears and Banamex. The company’s deployments and deep expertise span the financial services, government, e-commerce and telecommunications sectors” according to its bio line, and that’s pretty impressive to me for a company exclusively focused on the Enterprise 2.0 sector.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Embryonic Stem Cells without Harming Embryo

Advanced Cell to Host Investor Conference Call to Discuss Breakthrough Technique to Generate Embryonic Stem Cells without Harming Embryo
Wednesday August 23, 4:43 pm ET


Proprietary Method May Remove Ethical and Political Obstacles to Stem Cell Research and Federal Funding

ALAMEDA, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 23, 2006--Advanced Cell Technology, Inc. (OTCBB:ACTC - News), developers of groundbreaking human embryonic stem cell technologies to create next-generation medical therapies, will hold an investor conference call on Friday, August 25, 2006, at 12 noon Eastern, to discuss its novel technique to generate human embryonic stem cell lines from embryos while fully preserving the embryo's potential for life and development.

LONDON, England (Reuters) -- Cows have regional accents, a group of British farmers claims, and phonetics experts say.

Enterprise 2.0 and TCO?

http://susanitsa.wordpress.com/
Posted by susanitsa on August 24th, 2006

I’ve decided to start tracking what I consider to be “Enterprise 2.0″ companies. In pursuit of that, I was perusing JackBe’s blogs and this post by Mike Wagner got my attention about Enterprise Mashups and TCO. The Enterprise 2.0 movement with its disintermediating affect is poised to seriously impact all discussions surrounding TCO, yes?

I’m getting together with Dan Gisolfi from IBM’s Emerging Internet Technology group in the next 10 days. Gisolfi ’s group, led by Rod Smith, is fully engaged in the business of mashup-making. They’re pulling together data from intranets and local data for clients using their IBM mashup maker technology. He gave me an example using Home Depot’s finance department and provisioning the finance department with widgets, dashboards and mashboards… By his own admission, he sees a lot of what’s going on as new and that his group is a little ahead of the curve– they’re still having conversations internally with IBM, let alone getting to all IBM’s installed base. I’m looking forward to this meeting. I’m going to ask him about the TCO question too.

Interesting web 2.0/enterprise 2.0 trivia tidbit: Did you know Sam Ruby– one of the innovators of ATOM– is part of IBM’s emerging technology group? Not many people think of IBM as a leader in the new new Internet, but maybe they should?

Check out Dan’s blog. And these articles by Heather DalleTezze, Cal Evans, and Martin LaMonica are excellent resources explaining IBM’s Mashup Maker technology announcement last month.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Rich Enterprise Applications (REA)

Move over RIA, there's a new acronym that be is stressing on their new revised JackBe site and its foundation is built upon the Web, SOA and AJAX. Like Web 2.0 is an evolution of the Web1.0, REA is the evolution of rich Internet applications which are fine for consumer facing sites, but not really ready for real enterprise, mission critical applications.

From Wikipedia:

"Rich Enterprise Applications (REA) creates a new class of enterprise Web 2.0 applications. REA solutions leverage the usability and increased functionality of RIA applications and extends their reach beyond the browser and into the organization’s Service Orientated Architecture(SOA) assets.

REAs leverage an organization’s investment in SOA with enterprise Web 2.0 technologies that enable new business and application models such as Software as a Service (SaaS), enterprise mashups, next-generation portals, and browser-based deployment of enterprise applications – all with robust scalability, security, and desktop-like interactivity on the client side utilizing AJAX."

It continues and notes that just because an enterprise has AJAX and SOA, doesn't neccessarilly mean they have an REA. For the enterprise, there are three additional components RIA does not require but REA does.

1. User-driven Integration
2. Service Governance - "I think this is the real differenciater between RIA and REA."
3. Enterprise Grade Communication Channel




JackBe Joins AJAXWorld Today As "Platinum Sponsor"

SYS-CON Events (www.events.sys-con.com) announced today that AJAX company JackBe has joined the charter sponsors of the First International AJAXWorld Conference & Expo (www.ajaxworldexpo.com) as "Platinum Sponsor." The conference will take place October 2-4, 2006, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.

(Are those his real teeth?)

With JackBe joining the event as a Platinum Sponsor, the lineup of charter sponsors and exhibitors of the conference now comprises some of the leading AJAX technology providers in the world, including Adobe, IBM, TIBCO, Backbase, JackBe, ComponentArt, Helmi Technologies, Laszlo Systems, Nexaweb, telerik, Google, Parasoft, ILOG, Apress, and Zapatek.

OASIS is sponsoring AJAXWorld 2006 as Association Sponsor, while the Media Sponsors include some of the most well-known and respected magazines and websites; SYS-CON.TV and AJAXWorld Magazine are the two Platinum Media Sponsors. Other Media Sponsors include: AJAX Matters, BZ Media, DevTown Station, Eclipse Developer's Journal, Eclipse Review, Enterprise Open Source Magazine, Integration Developer News, ITtoolbox, Java Developer's Journal, Methods & Tools, Enterprise Open Source Magazine, Open Enterprise Trends, Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Journal, SD Times, Software Test & Performance, SOA Web Services Journal, Web 2.0 Journal, and Web Developer's & Designer's Journal.


View John Crupi's "Real-World AJAX" presentation on SYS-CON.TV

JackBe CTO John Crupi will also deliver a special session at AJAXWorld. Crupi, until recently, was a Sun Distinguished Engineer and Chief Technology Officer of Sun's Enterprise Web Services Global Practice. He is coauthor of the book, Core J2EE Patterns (Prentice Hall/Sun Press, 2001). As CTO he is entrusted with understanding market forces and business drivers to formulate JackBe's technical strategy and roadmap. Crupi has written many articles for various magazines and is a well-known speaker around the globe. He is a frequent blogger and was just selected to the International Advisory Board for AJAXWorld Magazine.


View Luis Derechin's Real-World AJAX presentation on SYS-CON.TV

AJAXWorld Conference will also present a session by Luis Derechin, the CEO and co-founder of JackBe Corporation. Derechin is the executive leader of JackBe for daily operations, partnership development, and long term strategy. As an entrepreneur at heart, Luis has a reputation of founding and guiding companies that become both leaders in their categories and recognized successes which sold for large profits. JackBe is Mr. Derechin's third start-up with the previous two having been D'Hogar, a retail company that earned the loyalty of more than 500,000 customers and AviMed, an online software provider. microid: 6c37960567171918c8d2b8330a61dfb23125e352

JackBe Speeds Intelligence Sharing for U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency


Monday August 21, 9:00 am ET


Ajax Solution Drives Efficiencies in Production and Delivery of Intelligence Briefings

JackBe and DIA to Demonstrate New Intelligence Accelerator at Intelink Conference

CHEVY CHASE, Md. & DENVER--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Aug. 21, 2006--JackBe, the leading provider of enterprise solutions that integrate SOA and Ajax to deliver the next generation of rich Internet applications, today announced Phase I delivery of a Web-based intelligence briefing solution for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Powered by JackBe's NQ Suite Ajax software platform, the application will be showcased at the DNI's "Information Sharing Conference & Technology Exposition, Intelink and Beyond: Dare to Share" at Table #906.

The initial implementation, called "Overwatch," consists of a personalizable, desktop-like intelligence asset dashboard or 'webtop' developed using JackBe's NQ Suite Ajax development platform, and a middle tier that discovers and displays intelligence data sources without any additional front-end or back-end development required. The entire solution is accessible through a standard Web browser, with no proprietary downloads or plug-ins required.

"JackBe's selection by the DIA was based on our ability to deliver a complete solution that included licenses for our Ajax framework, training, and expert consulting services, and we're proud that the combined team met the aggressive schedule for Overwatch," said Luis Derechin, CEO and co-founder of JackBe. "JackBe's new Webtop Framework can now provide a jump-start for other government agencies or commercial organizations that want to deliver similar applications with desktop-like interactivity and flexibility, but without the ongoing support overhead of traditional desktop software."

The speed and effectiveness of preparing and delivering intelligence briefings within intelligence agencies is an important element in identifying opportunities and vulnerabilities for decision-makers. Overwatch brings a new dimension of timeliness and interactivity to this important mission and is the first example of the rapid development and interactive user experience capabilities that the JackBe Webtop Framework can provide to the DIA and other organizations.

"The use of Ajax for such a complex and critical application within the DIA demonstrates how a progressive government organization is really pushing this technology to new heights," said Ron Schmelzer, senior analyst and founder of ZapThink. "This customer implementation is a big win for JackBe and a strong endorsement of Ajax in general. It proves the enterprise-grade capabilities of both JackBe's tools and consulting capabilities as the company works to deliver similar rich, interactive front-ends to the data assets of other intelligence agencies."

Additional enhancements to Overwatch now being considered include incorporation of more SOA-based back-end data sources and expanded end user functionality such as mapping/geospatial capabilities.

About the JackBe Webtop Framework

Created with JackBe's NQ Suite Ajax technology, the JackBe Webtop Framework (JWF) is designed to strengthen analytical expertise across the intelligence community workforce, as well as other government agencies and commercial organizations. It uses open standards such as J2EE, JavaScript, CSS, Document Object Model, and XML for easier development and ongoing maintenance that leverages existing software development skills.

About JackBe Corporation

JackBe provides products and services that leverage Ajax and SOA to deliver real business benefits, including competitive differentiation, increased online revenue and sales conversions, higher customer satisfaction and retention, lower support costs, and re-use of data assets. JackBe enables businesses to increase revenue and profits by improving the usability of their Web applications while leveraging their investments in SOA architectures.

Headquartered in Chevy Chase, Maryland, JackBe's satisfied clients already include more than 30 industry leaders worldwide supporting more than 4 million end users. Customers include Forbes, Citigroup, McKesson, Tupperware, Sears, Banamex, and the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. The company's deployments and deep expertise span the financial services, government, e-commerce and telecommunications sectors.

Enterprise 2.0 = Next Generation IT

This is one of the best pieces about the unique charecteristics of Enterprise 2.0 I've read yet.


Posted by Dan Farber @ 1:09 pm

After Wikipedia deleted the "Enterprise 2.0" entry, the Enterprise Irregulars swarmed, responding to the critique of the term by a Wikipedian editor as a "neologism of dubious utility" and taking a crack at defining it. Jason Wood questions the logic of excising the term for the peoples' encyclopedia:

Truthfully, if Wikipedia is REALLY about being the ultimate reference source for every human being on the Earth, it shouldn't matter if ONE or ONE BILLION people care about the term "Enterprise 2.0." But when you realize that it's a term at the epicenter of a lot of creative thought and debate, I'm incensed that someone so UNFOCUSED on the business world would simply delete the entry. How is Wikipedia better for the deletion?

On his ZDNet blog, Dion Hinchcliffe provides his definition of Enterprise 2.0 and diagram (below) as heavily and logically influenced by Web 2.0:

Enterprise 2.0 in general describes the liberation of often previously inaccessible corporate information to be opened up to general discoverability, consumption, and reuse using a Web-based model.

ent20dion.jpg
Dion also points to Jerry Bowles' post, Top 10 Management Fears About Enterprise Web 2.0:

Technological Barriers
1. How can I be certain that the information that is gathered and shared behind the firewall stays behind the firewall?
2. How do I control who has access to particular levels of information and databases?
3. How do I protect the integrity of the information from malicious tampering by disgrunted employees or managers?
4. How can I be sure that information is being “tagged” properly for efficient retrieval later?
5. What kind of training do employees need before they can effectively use the technology?
Cultural Barriers
6. How can I monitor the system to make certain that what individuals are saying and sharing reflects company policy?
7. What are the legal dangers in saving and sharing so much loosely supervised input?
8. How do I distinguish “productive” use of the technology from horsing around?
9. How do I “manage” the gathering and disseminating of so much unstructured information?
10. How do I know if I’m getting my money’s worth out of the investment in technology?

Harvard professor Andrew McAfee wrote about Enterprise 2.0 in a Sloan Management Review article ($), citing simple, free platforms for self expression; emergent structures, rather than imposed ones; and bringing order from chaos. He also views Web 2.0 technologies–such as RSS, blogs, tags and wikis–as core to Enterprise 2.0.

…the important question for business leaders is how to import these three trends from the Internet to the Intranet – how to harness Web 2.0 to create Enterprise 2.0.

Leapfrog Ventures' Peter Rip suggests that Enterprise 2.0 will be user-driven:

…Enterprise 2.0 as a platform shift is mostly about the enabling technologies. Web 2.0 rode the back of Open Source and Moore's Law to crack the economic barrier in building web based services. What followed were technologies for making applications richer (AJAX), easier to build (Ruby on Rails), and easier to integrate (REST and RSS).

But only a tiny community of developers have built Web 2.0 apps using AJAX, ROR, or LAMP. It is really just a few thousand people — and very few work in large enterprises or ever will, again. So how will the Enterprise 2.0 apps get built? I doubt it is from a startup like Jotspot who has no business process expertise nor business data management expertise. I doubt it is Oracle or SAP who pride themselves on selling Sherman Tanks as radiation-hardened compact cars. The users will build Enterprise 2.0 apps, not the vendors.

Peter is right to some extent, in that users will build Enterprise 2.0 applications and services, but companies like Oracle and SAP have to provide the infrastructure and tools for the build out or they will become relics of the past.

SAP's Jeff Nolan takes are more generalized view of Enterprise 2.0, cautioning not to get hung up on the Web 2.0 moniker. He lists SaaS and on demand computing; SOA (underpinning Web 2.0); open source in the stack; less vendor-oriented packaged applications and more user-centric; roll your own IT, either as a combination of the above or from a user point of view the ability to assemble purpose-specific applications that are highly personalized yet are within the confines of traditional enterprise context; and convergence of the consumer Internet with the traditional enterprise.

Jeff's description of the incipient trends in the enterprise captures more of the shift from client/server (1.0) to the next generation of technologies (2.0), which is empowered by Web 2.0 (blogs, wikis, RSS, AJAX, browser-based, tags, mashups, DIY, etc.).

Like Jeff, Vinnie Mirchandani views Enterprise 2.0 as more than mashing up with Web 2.0. He lists 11 elements in his post (a-k) for starters:

a) supports choice of customer deployment of functionality as a service, and in installed mode
b) is architected and priced/sold as a series of services
c) sells maintenance broken in to support and upgrade charges and allows an ecosystem of partners, not just the publisher, to alternatively provide support.
d) largely automates bug fixes/upgrades which require little customer (or service partner) intervention
e) provides process management, configuration, conversion, integration, testing, systems management, end user training tools to minimize implementation and support labor
f) provides customers with a wide range of service partners which are audited, graded and certified each year based on product training completion, customer feedback,
g) commits to transparency to customers around product quality, customer service ticket resolution, outages (where provided in SaaS mode) etc.
h) provides a mechanism for certification of integration of third-party software products, and re-certification as releases change
i) actively encourages a on-line developer/integrator community and pushes for an "open source" licensing of community intellectual property
j) Commits to sharing with each customer a "sticker" showing standard list of various components/services and various discounts and taxes
k) shares with customer base on a regular basis summary results of various implementation and support metrics from its service partner ecosystem

As the various inputs and opinions suggest, defining Enterprise 2.0 is a bit of a Rubiks Cube, which is why having an evolving Wikipedia entry could help to bring some clarity to the subject. It's about using new technologies and new business, governance, process-centric and interaction models…and it's in a state of flux. At least we know what it isn't, and for the most part, see the benefit of making the Enterprise 2.0 or 3.0 journey, despite the fact that we can't precisely define it. Whatever you call it, we are in the midst of transitioning to the next-generation, germinated by the maturation of SOA, virtualization, the Web and other foundation pieces. Perhaps we won't have a more precise definition until we look back on this era, when it qualifies as a legacy architecture. Given we are only about halfway through this transition, let's not get hung up on the definition. As Wittgenstein said, "the meaning of a word is its use in the language."

Monday, August 21, 2006

SaaS Exit

By Chris Hoffmann, TripleTree, LLC

It’s no longer controversial to assert that software-as-a-service (SaaS) is real, relevant, robust and transformational. The market forces driving SaaS adoption, innovation and consolidation will continue for several quarters.

Missing from much of the recent analysis of the sector, however, are two important realities:

  • Unique domains and verticals are deploying SaaS in very deliberate ways
  • Historical valuation metrics for traditional ISVs have changed and don’t apply to SaaS firms

A year ago, SaaS vendors began to experience a quiet, unexpected shift in their strategic importance to global technology and business services firms. Consider the September 2005 acquisition of Siebel by Oracle followed days later by the announcement of Salesforce.com’s AppExchange. Within weeks, both SAP and Microsoft hastily launched marketing campaigns trumpeting newfound legitimacy as SaaS visionaries and just as quickly spurred their engineering teams toward making it a reality.

After many years working with SaaS clients, my investment bank, Triple Tree, has conducted a thorough analysis of the factors to be considered when leading a SaaS vendor to M&A, IPO or another exit event. Our findings are encapsulated in a new industry report which includes information on where specific vertical domains are leveraging the scalability of SaaS.

Tibco Buyout Bet

1. Tibco trades at 4.4x sales and 16.2x EV/EBITDA.

2. Citigroup says there is a "middleware" gap; that's what Tibco is.

I believe it will get bought out by one of these players: Oracle, HPQ, SAP

Friday, August 18, 2006

Google, slayer of Web 2.0 start-ups

It's an ignominious step for any company: Listing your business for sale on eBay. Yet that is exactly what Web calendering site Kiko has done, in what appears to be an abrupt end to its high-flying ambitions of only a few months ago.

Kiko had been one of the small companies cited often in fueling the Web 2.0 boom among small businesses with promising technologies. Its precipitous fall has many wondering what happened and whether Kiko is a harbinger for other start-ups.

It's too soon, of course, to say whether the second dot-com bust is already beginning. Nevertheless, as Dharmesh Shah writes on OnStartups.com, it's well worth reviewing Kiko's experience to help others from suffering a similar fate.

Kiko obviously isn't the first Web 2.0 company to stumble and most certainly won't be the last. But as Shah notes, its credentials were particularly noteworthy as a case study: "It was one of the prototypical Web 2.0 companies (a free online calendar with AJAX, written in Ruby On Rails and funded by Y Combinator). It doesn?t get much more Web 2.0 than that."

Shah's post-mortem observations are all relevant, but one axiom stands out: "Google Is The New Microsoft."

When we were covering the browser battles of the mid-'90s, people would say only half-kiddingly that avoiding competition with Microsoft was part of their business plan. The same can be said for Google today, but that defensive strategy is even more difficult because Google itself hasn't always made clear that it knows where it is headed.

That makes it the ultimate loose cannon. And there may be no effective defense against that.

Paid Usage of MobilePro's WazTempe Citywide Wi-Fi Network Continues to Increase

Gross Month-to-Date Revenue Shows Double-Digit Percentage Growth for Sixth Consecutive Month BETHESDA, Md., Aug. 16 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- MobilePro Corp. (OTC Bulletin Board: MOBL - News), a leading broadband wireless services company, announced today that paid usage of its WazTempe network continues to increase with another double-digit percentage increase for August month-to-date gross revenue versus July.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Meme-check - Enterprise & Web 2.0

EarlyStageVC
Aug. 14th

Gartner has now officially anointed Web 2.0 a bona fide IT trend. BFD. Of course, they straddled the meme, by putting it at the peak of their 'hype cycle' graph. That is the consultant's version of plausible deniability. If it turns out to be real, they called it. If it is not, they still called it. This idea has picked up a lot of steam since I first noticed it ten months ago. Dion Hinchcliffe and Andrew McAfee are the real thought leaders, emphasizing the technologies and social/managerial impacts respectively. Dion Hinchcliffe does his usual masterful job of deconstructing some of the elements of this Gartner-validated wave.

Before we all jump on this bandwagon, let's exercise some intellectual restraint and rigor, and in the process perhaps abandon the use of 2.0 as a synonym for "new". The original moniker of Web 2.0 has been used to imply/describe/justify/motivate a collection of concepts that range from standards (like RSS) to technical methodologies (like AJAX) to social phenomena (like personal publishing, rating, and sharing). Web 2.0 has been as much about sociology as technology. But Enterprises are not just big "collections of consumers" and so let's not graft the same concepts and expect a thousand enterprise flowers to bloom.

First, dispense with the sociology. Enterprises have two core attributes that do not exist as widely in the public web -- purpose and accountability. So 'empowerment' and 'collective intelligence' are not end points. Nor are 'discovery,' 'networking,' nor 'sharing.' These are embedded in processes and are methods for creating context to purposeful transactions. A sales forecast is 'collective intelligence.' Mining customer comments is a form of 'discovery.' A internal blog post is more likely to be linked to a product release status than photos of my vacation. Viewed in this context, a lot of what passes for (aspiring) businesses in Web 2.0 are simply features of larger processes in the Enterprise.

So Enterprise 2.0 as a platform shift is mostly about the enabling technologies. Web 2.0 rode the back of Open Source and Moore's Law to crack the economic barrier in building web based services. What followed were technologies for making applications richer (AJAX), easier to build (Ruby on Rails), and easier to integrate (REST and RSS).

But only a tiny community of developers have built Web 2.0 apps using AJAX, ROR, or LAMP. It is really just a few thousand people -- and very few work in large enterprises or ever will, again. So how will the Enterprise 2.0 apps get built? I doubt it is from a startup like Jotspot who has no business process expertise nor business data management expertise. I doubt it is Oracle or SAP who pride themselves on selling Sherman Tanks as radiation-hardened compact cars. The users will build Enterprise 2.0 apps, not the vendors.

The question is who will "get it" first?

  • Will the enterprise application guys (the IT dinosaurs) "get it" about embedding communication and social context in long-running transactions, or
  • Will the web 2.0 guys (the IT plankton) "get it" about business processes being the purpose of enterprise community and communication?

Tough call.

Maybe there's a third choice. Maybe the users will be able to imbue business processes with social computing features.

The growing consensus is that web-oriented architectures in the form of "mashups" will be the first wave of Web 2.0 in the enterprise. Maybe, but I think these are going to be niche tools, not mainstream. Why? Because today's mashups are data mashups and once you have the data, you rarely need it again. As a test, think about how often you got back to a cool mashup you've seen to re-use it over again.

This is the promise of process mashups - user-driven, maybe even user-authored, collaborative applications that support core business processes. Data mashups are the New EII. Process mashups are the new EAI. (To be meme-compliant you may want to call them EII 2.0 and EAI 2.0. I don't.)

We are ripe for an breakthrough as big as Visicalc. The spreadsheet exposed the power of the microprocessor to millions of PC users. It was and remains the only significant programming tool used by millions of people who know nothing of linting, compiling, scripting, or even looping. It provides a simple method of assembling data sources to create a custom "application". The application is really part of a business process, most often a financial process. A spreadsheet for business processes would be a powerful way to unlock collaboration and process knowledge in Enterprise 2.0.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Life

My sister called me to tell me about a terrible accident. A friend of the family was changing a tire on the side of a highway. His 16 yr old sat on the grass waiting and watching his dad while his mother waited in the car. I don't know what all were thinking about. Maybe they had a small fight like many families do over something little and really not that important. I hope though that they were all thinking good thoughts thou. Why? Because a 16-wheeler clipped the car killing the dad and putting the mother in critical. The 16 yr old watched it all while on the grass. He is OK and staying with family. My, and friends and families hearts go out to them all.

Life is short. Try not to let the little things get in the way of what is ultimately a short time here. Unfortunately it sometimes takes these tragedies to remember this.

Only Guy Who Puts Paper In Copier Considers Himself A Hero

TheOnion


BOSTON—You may not know him by name, but Eric Greeley is one of a new breed of Americans making a difference. While most employees at John Hancock Security and Financial Services just use the photocopier and walk away, Greeley considers it his duty to do the right thing: to make sure the machine is stocked and ready to go at a moment’s notice.

Enlarge ImageOnly Guy R

Greeley doesn’t ask for recognition, and he doesn’t get it.

Though he’d never say it himself, that’s just what a hero does.

"I like to think that anyone in my position would do the same thing," said Greeley. "In the end, it’s such a small sacrifice for a far greater good. All you have to do is go get the paper, pop out the input tray, fill it to exactly the right level, and slide the tray carefully back in. I’m doing my part to make the world a little better, one ream at a time."

Greeley’s philosophy is that a good deed is its own reward, and it seems to be paying off for the whole office: His refilling actions have single-handedly increased his department’s productivity by an estimated 2.6 minutes a week.

"Is it glamorous?" Greeley asked. "No. But doing the right thing never is."

Greeley began his career inauspiciously enough in customer service in 2002, and eventually worked his way up to sales assistant in the Term Life Insurance department last year. His attention to detail was cited in his promotion, but conspicuously absent was any mention of his work with the copy machine. This omission did not seem to bother him in the least. Greeley’s not in it for the glory.

"Sometimes I’ll stock it up even if it’s not empty," Greeley said. "Let’s say it’s half full. Well, nine or 10 decent-sized jobs can knock that right out, so I really have to stay on my toes, be prepared for anything. You can’t wait for trouble to come to you."

Greeley doesn’t ask to be thanked, saying that "the sight of a coworker receiving his or her copies smoothly and efficiently is thanks enough."

While most would stop at merely filling the copy machine, he goes above and beyond. On the frequent occasion that a coworker leaves an original document on the copier, Greeley will track down the owner. While some people might take the opportunity to deliver a lecture about being more responsible with potentially sensitive company documents, Greeley simply leaves it on the owner’s desk with a Post-It note saying, "You forgot this."

"I don’t have to be told what needs to be done," Greeley noted. "It’s like a fireman—or a Medal Of Honor winner. They just do it. They don’t ask for recognition, and neither do I."

Thankfully, Greeley is not alone. Across the country, unsung office heroes march through each workday without recognition or fanfare. Alice Gamin, an accounts executive in Utica, N.Y., has been silently changing the toner cartridge in the laser printer for three years without once receiving a thank-you. George Carlyle, a New Orleans advertising rep, consistently hangs notes on toilets that are out of order, never signing his own name.

"I have some vacation time coming up soon, but I’m thinking I might not take it," Greeley said. "I wouldn’t want anyone else in the office to have to do what I do. I can’t expect that from them."

Despite the tremendous sacrifice, Greeley’s efforts are not discussed widely among his coworkers.

"So Eric is the one that refills the copier?" asked receptionist Frieda Bailey. "Is Eric the cleaning guy?"

It’s attitudes like this that make Greeley’s efforts an uphill battle. But don’t call them quixotic. Greeley eventually hopes that through his tireless efforts putting single-bond paper in the copy machine, a ripple effect might occur, so that he, like the guy who always makes the fresh pot of coffee, will someday find themselves in good company.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and yes, you can count Eric Greeley among them.

WebProNews - Pay Attention to Gartner’s Hype Cycle

WebProNews

IT industry analysts Gartner published their 2006 hype cycle for emerging technologies this week - their predictions on what they think will be hot technologies in the near future, and what won't be.


These predictions form part of the hype cycles Gartner uses to characterize the over-enthusiasm or "hype" and subsequent disappointment that typically happens with the introduction of new technologies. Hype cycles also show how and when technologies move beyond the hype, offer practical benefits and so become widely accepted.

Looking at the chart, of particular note is what's at the peak of inflated expectations and about to hit the download ski slope into the trough of disillusionment - mashup, Web 2.0 and folksonomies.



These three are perfect examples of unrealistic expectations produced by a lack of clear understanding (or, perhaps, lack of effective communication) about what such technologies can actually help you achieve from a business perspective, and when.

Already near the trough are Ajax, wikis and corporate blogging. That is potentially a good sign - depending, though, on how soon/quickly they move into the slope of enlightenment.

Note what's already well into that slope - smartphone - and what has already reached the plateau of productivity - internal web services and VoIP.

Ones to watch, from a communicator's perspective, as they rise up the technology trigger slope towards the peak of inflated expectations include collective intelligence, RSS enterprise and corporate semantic web. More significantly, perhaps, is how long they stay at that peak before the downward run into the trough and then out towards enlightment.

If you're an IT pro, the detail in Gartner's report will be especially of interest. If you're a communicator, there is plenty here that you ought to be

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Badgers


The badger is well-protected from predators. Its muscular neck and thick, loose fur protect it when it is captured by a predator. This gives the badger time to turn on the predator and bite and claw it. When a badger is attacked, it also uses vocalizations. It hisses, growls, squeals and snarls. It also releases an unpleasant musk that may drive a predator away.

The badger does not usually seek to attack, but, when driven to bay, its great muscular power and tough hide render it a formidable antagonist. Consequently the animals were used in the psuedo-sport of badger-baiting. Weighing up to thirty-five pounds when fully grown, badgers have an extraordinarily dangerous bite, which they are willing to use recklessly when threatened.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Poor Comcast customer service

You would think after all the recorded horrible customer service interactions between customers and large companies they would be taking action to correct or weed out the loosey reps. Comcast must not have been listening. It took a week and a half for them to simply get a technition out to my house with the correct HDTV box. This is the short story of course but includes at least 8 calls to the worste, most incompetent and rude reps from Comcast like a women named Deseray who not only yelled at me but when I asked to speak with a supervisor said there wasn't one initially and then transferred me to an entriely differant dept. I would advice anyone with the option of another provider to seriously consider it.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

SOA: Bridging the Divide Within IT

Document ID: ZAPFLASH-200689 | Document Type: ZapFlash
By Ronald Schmelzer

We often refer to information technology (IT) as if it were one cohesive department within the enterprise. However, for most businesses, IT really consists of at least three separate organizations each with their own technologies, best practices, approaches, and terminology: the systems and network people, the application development and integration team, and the data storage and information management group. It should come as no surprise that this siloed approach to organizing IT leads to inflexibility, and limits IT’s ability to meet the changing needs of business.

For people who construe Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) narrowly as applied directly to the application development and integration arena, SOA would be of little help in addressing these broader issues of siloed IT organizations. However, to be most compelling to the organization, SOA should apply to all groups within the IT department. It is important, therefore, to explore how to apply the principles of Service Orientation to the various groups within IT using the language specific to each.

SOA and the IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL)
The mantle for well-conceived and executed architectural practices might actually go to the operations part of the IT organization. The most widely accepted source for IT Service Management (ITSM) best practices is the IT Infrastructure Library, known as ITIL®. Developed by the United Kingdom's Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency (CCTA) in the late 1980’s, ITIL has rapidly become the de facto standard for managing the most important services that IT provides the rest of the organization. ITIL has become a godsend to companies looking to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of their IT operations by providing well-documented processes, procedures, and approaches for dealing with the most common business needs of IT. Now managed by the UK Office of Government Commerce (OGC), ITIL consists of a set of documents and a customizable framework of best practices for ITSM.

The ITSM context for “services” that ITIL applies to are processes and functions that provide IT service support (including configuration management, change and release management, incident and problem management, and service desk), facilitate IT service delivery (including management of service levels, capacity, financials, availability, and overall IT continuity), and provides other operational guidance (security management, application and software asset management, infrastructure, and general business imperatives). What has made ITIL popular is that the specifications meet the needs of a very broad constituency. Enterprises utilize ITIL to organize their large, heterogeneous, and often chaotic IT systems, while small organizations use ITIL as a way of instilling best practices without having to reinvent the wheel or make mistakes too early in their company’s development. Another key to ITIL’s success is that it is adaptable to the particularities and differences among ent erprises and doesn’t attempt to establish a single mechanism for any of the services it attempts to standardize.

As ZapThink explored in our Subtleties of Service Convergence ZapFlash, the ITSM context for “service” is converging with the SOA context for “Service.” As ITIL-focused services become composable, loosely-coupled Services as part of a SOA implementation, ITIL should instill best practices for managing each of these IT service support and delivery functions. In other words, SOA can learn a lot from ITIL, and vice-versa. After all, ITIL espouses that an organization should move from a technical focus to a service focus. As companies implement SOA, services developed under ITIL should be able to be represented in a Service-oriented manner, leveraging the abstraction, loose-coupling, and composability capabilities of SOA for meeting ITIL needs. In fact, if it’s not possible to apply SOA to ITIL, then we face an impasse – the fact that SOA will be relegated to solving only some of the needs of business.

Furthermore, architects looking to implement SOA can also learn from ITIL. ITIL defines a set of artifacts, processes, and documents that help to describe, define, and detail various IT processes, but in an abstract way. In other words, ITIL doesn’t provide the specifics for how to implement those processes. After all, ITIL is not a methodology, but rather a framework for specifying process details. It should be possible to borrow some of the artifacts and documents created for ITIL and repurpose them to meet SOA-specific needs for specifying a range of business processes in an implementation-independent manner.

In particular, one of the elements of ITIL’s success is its use of common vocabulary, consisting of a glossary of well-defined and widely agreed upon terms. Another key element is the idea of the Continuous Service Improvement Programme (CISP), which takes an iterative approach to meeting changing business requirements and IT capabilities. Proponents of SOA would be well-advised to take under consideration these same ideas in order to strengthen the overall value and depth of their SOA implementations. In addition, any linkages in vocabulary or process to the way in which ITIL proponents see the world can only serve to improve the overall state of enterprise architecture in the company by unifying the disparate and complementary views of how IT should meet the needs of business.

SOA and the Masters of Data
To the people who manage databases, support data warehouses, integrate information, and perform semantic modeling, the business is the data, and the various systems and networks that operate on data are simply tools for manipulating business information. Dealing with data heterogeneity and meaning is just as challenging, if not moreso, than dealing with the integration of heterogeneous systems and networks. In order for any composite application to be a reality, the interacting systems must be able to understand the data that underlie critical business information. In this regard, what is most important to the data specialists are the data and information models that identify how information propagates through the enterprise and how systems can extract meaning from data.

To solve these data-specific issues, the data masters in the IT organization craft their own approaches, methodologies, and vocabularies. The data warehousing field spawned many of these efforts, as did various efforts to reach the nirvana of semantic integration in which disparate systems with no a priori knowledge of each other could still understand data passed between them. A number of major data-focused IT initiatives have evolved over the years to deal with disparate data in the enterprise ranging from the Common Information Model to efforts around the Semantic Web and The Open Group's ISO 11179/UDEF (Universal Data Element Framework).

Just as it makes little sense to consider ITIL as covering aspects of business and IT outside the scope of SOA, it also makes little sense to consider data and information outside the bounds of Service Orientation either. After all, SOA is enterprise architecture, and as such, provides a broad umbrella that includes approaches to addressing semantic issues. As a result, semantic integration is where the conversation begins with the data-centric IT folks. Rather than isolating them as a separate group, Service contract design and composite application development must happen as a collaborative effort with both the application development as well as the data/information team. Stronger inclusion of semantic and data awareness would considerably strengthen SOA efforts, and vice-versa. Furthermore, the use of and exposure to Services in the enterprise would significantly improve data integration efforts.

The ZapThink Take
In a Service-oriented enterprise, there’s no reason to keep the different disciplines of IT separate any longer. IT service, network, and systems management can be involved in the SOA conversation every much as the application developers and data masters. Indeed, SOA actually enables the business to bring together these domains with a single cohesive approach for the first time. A true enterprise SOA will have an IT resource and data perspective on Services, and a Service perspective on IT resources and data. For this vision of convergence to be successful, however, each side will need to work with the other – and working with people in different groups is one of the greatest challenges of SOA today.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The quest for enterprise mashup tools

Enterprise Web 2.0
The recent round of discussion of enterprise mashups has been a good one, lead primarily by a stellar write-up recently by Galen Gruman, and highlights a phenomenon that is nigh upon us. As part of tracking this, I've been spending the better part of the last couple of months searching high and low for good quality tools that let anyone build enterprise-quality mashups, and I can safely report here that there are only a few.

But why are enterprise mashups important?

I've had discussions a number of enterprise architects currently working in the industry about this and I do see a common theme in many of the IT requests they get these days. There seems to be considerable pent-up demand for smaller, custom applications in large numbers. The solution space around large enterprise apps is increasingly well-bounded; almost all enterprises today already have their mainline IT systems well developed and evolved. The remaining IT projects are often the ones in which the investment for traditional tools and processes would not justify the return. And based on these anecdotal discussions, there seems to be a sort of Long Tail of IT software demand, something both Rod Boothby and myself have been discussing this year. If true, it is just possible that there is a vast amount of untapped value left in IT yet. We just need tools to access it.


The main attraction of mashups is that they have the potential for self-service in that end-users can theoretically create them. They also perform integration in the browser. This provides a sort of safe "sandbox" where users can experiment safely with powerful tools without affecting the traditional IT development, deployment, and support processes. And presumably, enterprise mashups tools would provide automatic versioning, security, and other needed enterprise software qualities.

All of this potentially drops the cost of development enormously because an end-user — or two or three — could just get together and create, test, and share an enterprise mashup in a few hours, instead of the laborious and time-consuming cost of spec'ing, budgeting, architecting, designing, project managing, testing, and maintaining the software using the elite and expensive skills of the IT department.

Tasks difficult to automate with general solutions: Complex, collaborative problem-solving

Another major attraction of enterprise mashups is known as the automation dilemma. In today's knowledge worker intensive businesses, rote processes are not the norm and are increasingly automated through various mechanisms today. I've cited here how the repsected McKinsey & Company identifies something called 'tacit interactions' as the last automation resistant bastion of daily business work that remains to be well-solved. I would counter that most workers today use self-service tools today, such as spreadsheets, Access databases, and e-mail to collaborate and share information. Of course, these tools today offer very limited power, flexibility, or deep social and collaborative possibilities. If only there were tools that truly enabled the kind of bustling collaboration and sharing that we see out on the Web everyday, such as the blogosphere and social networking sites like Facebook.

Readers of this blog are already familiar with many of these arguments and I won't belabor them too much. At this point, however, we need tools that actually enable this way of working; end-user guided creation of software, IT policies that encourage the exposure of corporate information in RSS and XML feeds, and good mashup development tools that literally require no training to use. Also, the Global SOA is becoming larger each and every day, providing all of us, consumers and businesses both, with an powerful inventory of unique services and data to weave into our mashups, if only we had a suitable "loom".

Fortunately, again, we can use the Web as a model for best practices in this regard. One is the rise of widgets and the use of blogs and wikis as freeform end-user application development environments. People all over the world by the millions are adding Javascript snippets, badges, feeds, Ajax and Flash widgets, and much more to customize their corner of the Web and make it do what they want. Centralize to this phenomenon, Hooman Radfar recently offered up the Web Widget for definition and it's worth citing here:

A Web Widget is a portable software application, or module, that can be installed and executed within one, or more separate browser-based application platforms by an End User without requiring additional compilation.

Where are all the good enterprise mashup tools? Here's one…

In my search for great enterprise mashup tools, I've so far had limited success. There are many excellent products that come very close in many ways to the ideal. But usually they fall short by not being open enough, requiring an installed PC software application to build applications, being too complex for end-users, not being Web-based, and so on. However, I've recently come across one product that clearly shows almost the full potential of enterprise mashups in a single package, despite a few rough edges.

Datamashups.com

I recently came across Applibase's impressive DataMashups.com site, and more than any other product I've seen so far, it clearly demonstrates the possibilities and potential of enterprise mashups guided by end-users and shared amongst co-workers. The site has an excellent service preview that lets you quickly start assembling mashups visually, right online, using a rich palette of pre-existing widgets, feeds, data from local and remote SQL databases, and much more. I encourage you to try it, and though the functionality is clearly the deepest I've seen for a purely online application, and sometimes runs the risk of being too complex for end-users, it's as well-built proof-of-concept as I've yet seen. And a proof-of-concept it is. DataMashups is not yet released and at this time, though the power of the sample version alone is compelilng enough, it's not yet available for enterprise use. However, if this is an early indication of what's to come, it's increasingly apparent we're at the very beginning of the mashup revolution and the rise of situational enterprise applications.

Friday, August 04, 2006

An Open Source Ajax Shootout

Posted by Scott Delap on Aug 02, 2006 06:56 PM

InfoWorld columnist Peter Wayner recently reviewed six of the most popular open source Ajax toolkits. The article sets out to see if they are enterprise ready in comparison to commercial products such Backbase, JackBe, and Tibco's General Interface. The six open source projects covered were selected because each has a high-profile in the developer community and support of one or more stable organizations. Microsoft Atlas is included as a part of the six due to its "few pratical restrictions" and freedom to license code created with it as you like. Peter's summary of the each toolkit's main feature points:

Dojo
Broad collection of widgets
Package system speeds loading
Spotty documentation

Google Web Toolkit
Fascinating/Simple Javascript to Java translation
Broad collection of widgets
Complicated to integrate with other Javascript apps

Microsoft Atlas
Deep Integration with .NET
Excellent documentation
Too integrated with Microsoft development tools

Open Rico and Prototype
Clean code
Sophisticated widgets
No package management

Yahoo AJAX Library
Good documentation
Easy interface for beginning programmers and HTML designers
Lack of larger widgets such as live table

Zimbra Kabuki AJAX Toolkit
Efficient widgets
Source available to large application using it
No package management

In closing Peter states that he expects to see more of a difference to evolve between the toolkits sponsored by one specific corporation and the toolkits sponsored by a collection of contributors. His final recommendation is to mix and match the best elements of the various toolkits instead of expecting one to solve all your needs.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

IT ALL COMES DOWN TO EXECUTION

There is much we can learn from failure, both in our own lives and business. Personally, I learned more from being part of a failing company years ago than I did when the day-to-day operations were showing promise. Through analyzing the interworkings of these types of experiences one can identify the true factors of the demise and draw correlations between them. And by identifying these factors one is able to deduct what appropriate actions could and should have been applied. This is a short collection of a few “lessons learned.”

Vision

To be successful a company needs to align its people with a common end goal or vision for the organization to achieve. This ensures that everyone is aligning their individual duties to reach for this goal; creating a commonality in the interworkings of the organization. The importance of a vision statement is not simply the one-time event of stating a vision and then implementing it. Vision is an on-going creative process, requiring a leader to continuously reflect on it and reevaluate. Vision that is not clearly stated can't be shared, and a vision that is not shared, simply doesn't exist. If a business does not communicate with its team, it cannot expect the vision to become a reality. And if a business could get to where it was going without a team, it would be there already. You get my point.

Vision is required not only to see the sum of the parts but also to steer the business in the right direction. Corporate sustainability requires a complete understanding of the components of the organization and how those components relate to the financial, social, and environmental value drivers of the firm. With this understanding, a vision can be developed that relates the parts of the organization to maximize performance and ultimately maximize the value of the firm over the long-term. Long-term is a key word here. Enron had a vision that was shared by the multitude of new employees, but failed to encompass a vision that would delivery benefits to shareholders over the long-term.

To ensure that a vision is created, reevaluated, and communicated an organization requires strong and competent leadership. Too often we have seen success come to excellent, as well as not-so-excellent, leaders. Encouraged by Wall Street, the unlimited flow of capital, and their ego and importance, too many executives become enamored with the value of their stock holdings—hence Steve Case and other top AOL executives during the day. Once in that frame of mind, pressures for quarter-by-quarter growth, regardless of cost and resulting stock appreciation, overwhelm decisions that would produce balanced growth and profits over time.

Leadership & Management

Ahhh, the ideal characteristics of a good leader which include among other traits: honesty, accountability, and courage. I know this may sound overly simple but I’ve often witnessed leaders failing due to the lack of challenging other’s views and decisions. Leaders can fail their organizations by taking the easy way out and co-signing other’s ideas no matter how destructive the implications could be. An important part of leadership is realizing that one’s opinion is valuable, and that sometimes one may have to take some heat for voicing it. It is a constructive spirit of discontent. Some would call this criticism, but there's a big difference in being constructively discontent and being critical which a good leader needs to be. No one can lead without being criticized or without facing discouragement. A potential leader needs a mental toughness.

There is another component one must address when talking about corporate leadership and management and that is the board of directors and their relationship with top executives. Corporate boards have long had reputations as being too clubby with company executives. And it seems that no matter how many "outside" directors serve on boards, most are considered management rubber-stamps. What is troubling is that too many boards are filled with directors who have outside consulting deals or business ties with other interests other than that of the company.

There is a distinct difference between that of a leader and manager. Managers are employees or ‘agents’ of the owners to whom they have direct responsibility. They must conduct business in accordance to the stockholders desires. Steve Case made several mistakes after the merger with Time Warner, not least his decision to take a hands-off approach to managing the new company in the first months after the merger. His near-invisible profile triggered rumors on Wall Street and later attempts to involve himself seemed only to annoy senior executives, who complained that he was meddling too much.

Culture/ Ethics

There is no doubt that culture, or lack of cohesion, plays major roles in both the collapse of companies and the failed mergers of the world. I believe many organizations are examining their practices in light of their basic beliefs, ethics, and values. These no longer can be treated as "soft stuff"--nice to frame and display, prominent in the annual report and the employee newsletter, and included in every motivational address. They must become the "hard stuff" like product quality, cost reduction, and customer service. Companies with sound beliefs and ethics have a competitive advantage that extends far beyond one unique product or service, one set of loyal customers, a single technological breakthrough, the original founders, or one talented CEO. They help sustain the company at a baseline success level through all the ups and downs that will occur over time. Basic beliefs will not substitute for clear and focused strategy or vision or for effective day-to-day operations. However, when they are clear and consistently applied to influence and test major decisions and behavior, they allow ethical executives to minimize risk to the enterprise and potentially avoid collapse.

Transition and Strategy

Employees have a strong need for consistency and predictability in their working environment that they become accustomed too. During times of growth or after a merger sometimes people are unable to find their equilibrium in the evolved organization. These human nature emotions lead to resistance against management and their strategies and can hinder the overall transition into a new leader in that market. To properly smooth the transition from whatever the status quo, it is imperative that leadership provide employees with a sense of comfort, stability, and guidance.

Execution, The Discipline of getting things done.

Execution is a great unaddressed issue in the business world today. Its absence is the big obstacle to success and the cause of many disappointments that are mistakenly attributed to other causes. A company vision without the ability to execute is a hallucination. The problem is to me that everyone at an organization suffering from lack of execution blames everybody else for the company-wide poor performance, and very few people—managers and leaders—try to find ways for things to actually work. Execution is the major job of the business leader; it is both a discipline and an integral part of strategy. It is the difference between getting the job done versus merely talking about it; moving away from management theories and talk to reality and results. Execution must be a core element of an organizations culture in order to ensure long-term viability. Execution is the main reason companies fall short of their promises. It lies in the gap between what a company’s leaders want to achieve and the ability of their organizations to deliver it.

So, to all you leaders out there; know your people and your business ---- Leaders have to live their business. In companies that don’t execute leaders are usually out of touch with the day-to-day realities of the companies and also sadly themselves.