Archive for the ‘Opensource’ Category

Does your CEO really believe “our employees are our greatest asset”?

July 4, 2008

Susan Scrupski had some strong words in her post about GenY and the self-serving behaviour of management 1.0:

“we excelled at the selfish art of Machiavellian achievement, in the end it took my generation down a path that led to, well, the S&L scandal, Enron, one-dot-oh greed, and now, the subprime meltdown. Our narcissism is our legacy.”

The caricature Gordon ‘Greed is good’ Gekko has become a real living nightmare reeking havoc on the economy. Is our current management of business now changing with the arrival of the next generation and their affinity with social media?

The social spark of Web2.0 is igniting Enterprise 2.0 and fanning the fire of management change. In addition Gary Hamel is banging the drum of a much needed management change with his trade marked term Management 2.0 and latest book. Many others must be in agreement with Hamel as he’s been propelling to the status of the most influential management guru.

Google has been put on a pedestal by academics such as Hamel because of its innovation model, flat management structure and people centric approach. Hamel recently interviewed Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the future of management conference, it’s long but if you ‘listen’ below there are some insightful pearls of wisdom from a seemingly un-egoistical 2.0 Manager.

Jeffrey Hollender and Keith Sawyer who were both at the event have produced good reports.

The similarities between Google and Opensource are strong. Both are increasingly challenging some of the world’s most profitable software business models and our current approach to organisational management. Neither Google or Opensource has a management hierarchy, they both carefully select the best employees/contributors and then engage and empower them. Interestingly this moves much of the managerial power from the self serving individual to the shared decision making of the collective.

However the Google and Opensource models are not without weaknesses. Most Opensource developers or contributors to projects such as Wikipedia have day jobs which pay them enough so they CAN contribute to a community as a hobby. Interestingly one of the motivations of Opensource developers is based on the ego. As for the Ad model, it breaks down when Ad revenues top out or if Ad’s are strongly rejected by visitors.

As examples the Internet poster child Facebook has been unable to fully capitalise on Ad revenues because of user kick back. In the case of Wikipedia, they are too worried introducing Ad’s in case of alienating their unwaged contributors.

Like the Google and Opensource models the next generation are challenging the norm, however they maybe warn down by management hierarchy and copitulate to make money and progress careers. Like many of us GenYers want to be happy and satisfied at work. They are increasing looking for firms like Google which give them the chance to have a real say in decisions so they can make a difference.


Scott Gavin’s GenY ‘Meet Charlie’ deck is a must see

If firms that embrace fundamental management change gain greater economic performance then most firms, through survival, will evolve this way. It is important to attract talented GenYers but they alone unaided are not going to be able to change a 100 year old engrained management hierarchy. However GenY and the catalyst of Social Media are critical parts of the jigsaw of change.

The Death of Salesmen with “Power to the people”

June 26, 2008

How we buy things and how they are sold is continuing to change. Remember before we had Amazon, Ebay and forums to review and rate stuff. We used to talk to salespeople but now we are increasingly listening to each others opinions and buying on-line. We are now moving into a time where consumers (retail consumers and business users) can directly control the product design and features they want. This change has significant economic and organisational implications.

For many years on-line communities have been operating in the background. In 1998 Before Microsoft crushed Netscape in the ‘Brower Wars’ Netscape gave birth to the Opensource Mozilla project, which produced Firefox, now the most downloaded software in history. Against Microsoft Netscape’s browser marketshare went from 90% to 1% and today Firefox sits at 18%. Fundamentally consumers want choice and value products which they can have input into producing. Opensource is destined to grow much further with this user involvement.

Another example of this change is from the renowned innovation academic Eric von Hippel of MIT who believes the Threadless business model has “tapped into a fundamental economic shift, a movement away from passive consumerism” and he goes onto say “everything is moving in this direction”. In the Threadless model the customers design the products and serves as the sales force. Customers opinions tend to be trusted as they are real and honest.

The tables have turned with suppliers no longer gradually driving innovation but communities of consumer’s actively pushing innovation forward through participation. The idea of the ‘Wisdom of Crowd’s’ argues that groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them. This theory is supported by academics such as Andrew McAfee of Harvard. Web2.0 is a another example because it has lead to Enterprise 2.0 which in turn is putting a spotlight on current management practice limitations and should result in management innovation to a more open structure.

With 1,407,724,920 Internet users the rate of change is increasing, however many of our existing firms organisational sales and marketing structures are unable to keep up. Firms generally understand the need for product, process and management innovation, however organisational hierarchies are not like consumer communities they are slow and careful. And so new organisational structures are formed within fresh new companies, that if successful, grow to become dominate forces. This is classic entrepreneurial economic innovation, however a point which really struck a cord with me at the Boston conference from Don Burke of the CIA was ‘at no other time has the rate of technological change been so rapid within a life time.’

The latest evolutionary organisational form seems to be a firm with no sales force and a marketing department focused on community building and relations rather than advertising or branding as discussed by Umair Haque of Harvard. Most importantly this new structure moves innovation out of R&D and puts it in the hands of the employees closest to the customers.


“Power to the people” – Citizen ‘Wolfie’ Smith

Today’s innovation challenge for many firms seems to lie with too much power with too few people. Perhaps the answer is in trusting employees to make and take the decisions, who are not afraid of making mistakes along the way. Some old wise firms will make the jump into the new model, however many won’t and the faces of our leading companies will continue to change at an even faster rate than in the past.

Enterprise 2.0, Boston Judgement Day (4) – Who should the customer believe?

June 19, 2008

With so many choices when selecting a Web2.0 Enterprise 2.0 strategy, who should the customer believe: the vendors; the analysts or themselves? Seeing the numerous vendors categorised at Tony Byrne‘s CMS session, selecting the right solution must be a difficult decision for any customer. I heard many customers during the conference say that the event was too much of a ‘Vendor fest’, which was echoed at the final ‘Town Hall’ feedback back session.

Despite all the vendors shouting from the rooftops the majority of the case studies presented were using Opensource applications (Three out of the five: CIA; Sony and Pfizer). Even the wonderful case from Lockheed Martin was customised on the ‘included’ version of Sharepoint with a massive 14,000 man day effort. Interestingly there was talk from Lockheed of Opensourcing their code and expressions of interest from the audience .

Was the stark difference between what we saw from the vendors and what we heard from customer cases because these users were early adopters (visionaries) prepared to work with unpolished Opensource? Or is Opensource providing the working products, with the help of in-house technical expertise, being demanded by customers. It is well know in the industry that some Opensource is better than commercial code.

Unfortunately I missed the opinions from Opensource Panel session at the Conference with Bob Bickel of Ringside Networks, Jeff Whatcott of Acquia and John Newton of Alfresco but caught up with them on John Eckman  MP3 recording.

Perhaps Enterprise businesses are now looking to free applications as in the Web2.0 world. It is a compelling argument, free/low cost and working products. There is no doubt Opensource is on the rise, as supported by Jeffery Walker of Atlassian. Yet only 5% of vendors at the conference were representing this large and growing community, a view shared by Kathleen Reidy and John Eckman. Interestingly some of the commercial products at the conference are reliant and partially build upon Opensource, some even up to 80% I was reliably informed! Customers maybe starting to question why pay for an application which is built on Opensource. The problem with Opensource is it can sometimes be poorly packaged and can need a lot of attention to set-up and maintain.

The cases presented at the ‘leading Enterprise 2.0 conference’ shows that customers are ‘baking’ or testing solutions before fully implementing them as recommended by Tony of CMS. Opensource offers a very attractive approach to testing and trying before buying. I believe customers are increasingly listening to each others experiences, believe less in the vendor’s promises and are more willing to use Opensource. However, as Milton Friedman said ‘There’s no such thing as free lunch’. Customers say they want more case studies and less vendor pitches. However, someone has to subsidise conferences and pay for the commercial development work to round Opensource products off for the mainstream.

I believe the balance between Opensource and the proprietary commercial software is going to change with many vendors having to move more towards a business model like MySQL(pre-Sun) or MindTouch who were at the conference. Because many of today’s vendors are so proprietary and lack flexibility they may not be able to make this transition. However the challenge Opensource vendors have is making healthy revenues from a very diverse, demanding and large customer base. Currently the most effective and successful software vendor model for the future still remains unclear.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.