The two sides of new technology

by admin on June 19, 2007

in General

It would have been great to be in Boston yesterday to see the debate between Andrew McAfee and Tom Davenport as moderated by Dan Farber, a valued colleague. The debate centres around the extent to which the ‘new’ stuff that folk like Andrew, Dan and I think are game changing are really an extension of what’s gone before. Tom’s position is that of ‘pragmatic killjoy.’ Crucially for a business audience, the debate touches on the extent to which these new technologies are impacting business.

Through the magic of technology, the event was video streamed over the Internet and is available via this link. The show, which uses technology from veodia, runs for 49 minutes but I think the arguments are well worth the listening. Andrew has blogged the event with his perspectives. Dan has done the same and John Eckman transcribed a good part of the conversation. A taster from John’s transcription:

AM: These new technologies really have the potential to address some deep needs in enterprises. We don’t have good means to allow our people to collaborate or find each other. If someone did the same project last year in another division, how do I enable teams to find out that info?

DF: Will this all get assimilated into SAP and Oracle, or will the myspace / myblog / mywiki approach overtake the system?

TD: I’m not sure how much of an incremental functionality improvement blogs and wikis provide. Some of the emergent tools are interesting approaches, but they aren’t that fundamentally different that MS Sharepoint (I don’t know if this has been encased in the E2.0 hegemony yet) has for some time. It isn’t terribly exciting, but I bet more people are using Sharepoint today than blogs/wikis.

DF: True, but there is a pretty big cost difference between Sharepoint and what many startups offer today.

I watched the show and while I agree we’re at the very early stages of adoption, that’s not to say they’re a fad or an extension of what’s gone before. The new technologies are allowing us to think about how we collaborate, in what context and around which information. I was part of an analyst panel in 2001 where we discussed new ways to collaborate. At the time we had to acknowledge the tools didn’t exist – or at least not at a price point people would pay. And even then we could not have imagined the potential we see today. That has changed dramatically in the last couple of years. As has ease of use.

My sense is that it is not a case of if but when and that will require a change in the way organisations think about sharing.

I disagree with what Tom says about Sharepoint but I cannot provide specific data points. What I can say is that I don’t come across companies falling over themselves to buy into that technology. If anything, Microsoft’s push to embed technologies that rely on Sharepoint especially in the applications space around Dynamics NAV and AX implies they need Sharepoint to fly. At present the burgeoning open source services currently dominate what I see in the market place. One million plus users for example. Having said that, I would like to know units shipments for Sharepoint. Anyone got a number?

In the pic from left to right: Tom, Andrew and Dan

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