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We Attended salesforce.com’s ‘Tour de Force’ Event January 18, 2008

Posted by Jeff in Event Reporting, Technology.
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The first event of a multi-city roadshow profiling salesforce.com’s platform, called Force.com, was held yesterday in San Francisco.  We saw presentations on their latest platform capability, called VisualForce.  This is a tag-based toolset for building custom user interfaces.  In total, Force.com includes the following components:

  • The runtime environment, which forms the basis of all operations, and persistence.  The runtime environment includes standard presentation facilities, standard navigation, on-demand load balancing, account management, and handling of all database-related operations.
  • The building tools, which are all visual, drag and drop tools for creating applications.  These allow the definition of custom objects, custom layouts, custom controls, etc.
  • The scripting/language environment, which is called Apex code.  This is a language similar to PL/SQL, Java or PHP, within which application logic can be written.
  • The presentation environment, which is called VisualForce.  This is defined as a set of tag-based extensions to HTML, in the same way that JSP tags provide presentation tools.
  • The AppExchange, which is Salesforce.com’s facility to package, present, and provide metered access to completed applications which are built with the above four components.

Not surprisingly, the concepts underlying Force.com are very content, or database, oriented.  The API’s have a database-like feel, with operations such as “query”, “update”, and “describe”.  The query language is SQL-based. 

For another description, see the article on the event by Phil Wainewright.  Force.com is one of a rapidly expanding number of cloud computing platform choices available to ISVs today.

It appears that platforms are going to be the important territory to control in the enteprise space during 2008.  This is the latest level of abstraction: we have moved from browser wars some ten years ago, to programming model battles (J2EE vs .NET) during the early part of this decade, to the platform struggles during the latter part of the decade.  There are clearly important platform plays coming from SAP and Oracle.


Notes on Enterprise Software Architecture – Part I September 26, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Business, Technology.
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In this sequence of postings, I am going to review current trends in Enterprise Software Architecture.  This appears to be a very interesting time period, driven by the following underlying patterns:

  • The basic plumbing for integration of applications and their content is now in place.  While it is still being built out, this includes concepts of SaaS, SOA, web services, and Rich Internet Applications that we have discussed in prior postings.
  • Users are expecting a new level of capability and business value in the applications.  This wave is being represented by the Enterprise 2.0 concepts.  One interesting driver of this trend is that the employees coming into industry today are expecting their applications to work like the Web 2.0 applications that they use in daily life.  This shift has been discussed at length by a number of analysts.
  • Corporations have realized that the traditional model of centralized services is not going to be effective.  (more…)

Serus is Presenting at Enterprise 2.0 Mashups Summit September 25, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Announcements, enterprise 2.0, Technology.
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Serus will be presenting a case study on using enterprise mashups in outsourced manufacturing at the Enterprise 2.0 Mashups Summit in San Francisco on Friday, September 28th.

Other companies presenting include Google, IBM, StrikeIron, Salesforce.com, Mashery, and JackBe.

Where’s the Content? – Reviewing Content Collaboration Software August 16, 2007

Posted by Jeff in collaboration, Technology.
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In our previous posting, we considered the levels of collaboration.

This document is being used to compare software products that are for content collaboration, in the above definition.  Most of the commercial products listed here were exhibiting at the Enterprise 2.0 conference, though we have been tracking a few before that. (more…)

Mashup Technology July 20, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Technology.
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Recently I have been trying out the Mashup Editor known as Yahoo Pipes.

This is a fascinating example of how to combine information from different web sites and sources, all done through a visual example.  It is still under development, but it shows a very useful trend toward allowing users to construct complex reports.

While most of the examples that we have seen are consumer-oriented, it is likely that enterprise applications will appear as well.

Check it out here.

Google is developing something similar, but it has not been released yet.

Also, you should check out Microsoft’s Popfly, which is a similar mashup tool.

How is Collaboration Software Used in the Enterprise? July 16, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Technology.
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From our perspective, there are three levels of collaboration software.  In general, these are increasing in complexity, and each builds on the prior one:

  • Content-oriented collaboration deals with allowing users to see, edit, and organize content, such as pages and documents.  This is the oldest and most traditional form of such software.  The main objects are content oriented, such as a Word document, a web page, a news article, etc., and the environment provides users, views, editing facilities, classification tagging, etc.  From this definition, tools like wiki’s and blogs are still within content collaboration, as they are really just pages or articles, with annotation, date tracking, link tracking, etc.  The canonical example might be eRooms (now owned by Documentum), with Wikipedia being a more recent example.
  • Relationship-oriented collaboration: deals with the producer of the content, how that content is perceivedby others, and how content gets to others.  Besides the objects listed above, the main objects are ratings, scores, rating-based filters, etc.  Examples of problems addressed by relationship collaboration that are not handled by content collaboration would be identifying experts in an organization based on ratings given by others, identifying the content needs of the readers based on their usage pattern and ratings, organizing a knowledge base of support questions by having generators of questions be linked to providers of answers of questions, and providing notifications of new content that is or may be of interest to users at their endpoints.  The canonical example might be help desk or knowledge management software, another example being illumio from Tacit Knowledge systems, but I would also classify Facebook and MySpace in this area.
  • Process-oriented collaboration: deals with the reason for producing the content or change in content, within a process context.  Besides the objects listed above, the main objects are workflows, cases and contexts, approvals, rules, pending changes, etc.  For instance, an insurance case might be opened for an accident, and that case would have content placed into it, including documents and photographs, while the system is also maintaining information about the status of the case, who needs to work on it next, what activities are pending, etc.  The canonical example of such a solution is probably FileNet, however, there are clearly examples of systems built within domains, such as nearly all of the operational systems for insurance, medical, manufacturing, or sales management.  Examples of platforms for building process collaboration solutions include Lotus Notes, or Salesforce.com.

Thoughts on the CMP Enterprise 2.0 conference June 24, 2007

Posted by Jeff in Event Reporting.
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I just got back from the CMP Enterprise 2.0 conference in Boston, and it was quite exciting.

The conference was attended by about 1500 people, and had about 30 exhibitors.  The level of energy was very high.  There were presentations and exhibits by all of the major companies, including IBM, Microsoft, BEA, Cisco, etc.

For Serus, the most useful sessions were the ‘case studies’ of Enterprise 2.0 applications, and mashups in particular.  While no manufacturing companies were profiled, there were quite a few banks and other financial organizations.

What was disappointing about the material, or perhaps positive for Serus, was that few of the cases deals with quanitiative collaboration, which is hallmark of our concepts and approaches.  Instead, most of the presentations dealt with knowledge management, such as tracking documents, news stories, textual material, etc.

Where I felt that Serus was adding unique value was in our discussion about
qualitative, quantitative and options-generation based collaboration that we proposed back in April of this year.


Our Definition of Enterprise 2.0 April 3, 2007

Posted by Jeff in collaboration, enterprise 2.0, Technology.
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In the last 18 months, the Internet world has been greatly changed by the development of “Web 2.0”.  A range of different meanings have been given to this term, but all of the meanings revolve around an Internet that is “socially linked,” as well as technically linked. The interactivity of the applications has reached a higher level than that of e-commerce applications of the 1999-2000 era, and the boundaries between the producers of content and the users have become blurred. The “social linkage” stems from the use of the Internet as means of interacting on an “always on” basis, in which a community is formed by users voluntarily sharing their calendars, contact information, preferences, critiques, and other content via information utilities.  Today’s users take advantage of low-cost high-bandwidth connectivity to share stories and videos.  Any user can upload new content, and any user can provide comments on the content.  Users can tailor and combine information in new ways, such overlaying map or geographic data with information on favorite stores or coffee shops.

Serus Corporation believes that the “Enterprise-level” use of similar technologies will create a new category (called “Enterprise 2.0”) of value-added information services for corporations.  In this white paper, we review the most relevant aspects of Web 2.0, and extrapolate those trends into the world of the enterprise.  We include a discussion of Enterprise 2.0 trends from the early paper by Andrew McAfee.

Serus Corporation focuses on “out-sourced operations management”, typically in high-tech manufacturing.  We believe that there are eight key aspects of Enterprise 2.0 for corporate planners, schedulers and operations, and each are defined and discussed in the attached paper:

  • Collaborative – everyone participates as a reader and author of content
  • Options – generate options to resolve an exception
  • Notifications –  generate alerts for exception conditions
  • Tags & Comments – content can be marked and prioritized
  • Real-time – content is fetched up to the minute
  • Open – uses open systems content, such as XML
  • Links – hyperlinks between concurrent analysis processes
  • Scenarios – create what-ifs and forecast results

These items are already present or under development in the Serus Intelligent Operations Management platform, which we will use as the basis for driving the definition and deployment of Enterprise 2.0.

Download the full paper here.