PLM, Enterprise Social Software and Excel Litmus Test?

I want to take another round of thinking about Enterprise and Social Software. My last post related to that was followingEnterprise 2.0 conference in Boston in June – PLM and Enterprise 2.0: No Fight… Yet.

Few days ago, I posted about PLM, BOM, Excel – How to Make it right? Chris Williams at Vuuch made an interestingcomment that made me think again about existing PLM problems and potentials of social software for enterprise organizations.

Excel Litmus Test
I’m coming to the conclusion that enterprise software vendors can use MS Excel as a Litmus test for potential problems. Depend on the amount of MS Excels, you can make a conclusion about the quality of solutions they provide. Users are voting Excel each time enterprise software doesn’t work or too complex to be used.

Enterprise Social Software
The term ESS (Enterprise Social Software) first appearance happened during Enterprise 2.0 conference couple of years ago. Here is Wikipedia definition:

Enterprise social software (also known as or regarded as a major component of Enterprise 2.0), comprises social software as used in “enterprise” (business/commercial) contexts. It includes social and networked modifications to corporate intranets and other classic software platforms used by large companies to organize their communication. In contrast to traditional enterprise software, which imposes structure prior to use, enterprise social software tends to encourage use prior to providing structure.[citation needed] Carl Frappaolo and Dan Keldsen defined Enterprise 2.0 in a report written for Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM)as “a system of web-basedtechnologies that provide rapid and agile collaboration, information sharing, emergence and integration capabilities in the extended enterprise”.[1]

Back in 2006, Social Software was defined as one component of Enterprise 2.0.  As of 2006, “Enterprise 2.0” had become a catchier term, sometimes used to describe social and networked changes to enterprises, which often includes social software (but may transcend social software, social collaboration and software).

Another marketing buzz was Enterprise Web 2.0. This term related to the software making intensive use of Web 2.0 technologies for creating Enterprise applications.

Enterprise Portal Renaissance?
Let me move you back ten years. Do you remember Enterprise Portals?

An enterprise portal, also known as an enterprise information portal (EIP) or corporate portal, is a framework for integrating information, people and processes across organizational boundaries. It provides a secure unified access point,[1] often in the form of a web-based user interface, and is designed to aggregate and personalize information through application-specific portlets. One hallmark of enterprise portals is the de-centralized content contribution and content management, which keeps the information always updated.

I found this definition very interesting. If you replace “organization boundaries” with “product lifecycle” you are getting almost the definition of PLM. I found an old report provided by Delphi group in Boston in 1999 about Enterprise Portals. Download it navigating to the following link. You can see below a diagram I took from this report.

I can see lots of correlations between functional categories of Enterprise Portal model 1999 and Enterprise Social Software model 2010. It looks like we may have a second wave of Enterprise Portals coming with a new name – Enterprise Social Software on top of Web 2.0 technology matured during the last ten years of Web 2.0 deployment.

What is my conclusion? Complexity is hard. In my view, Excel Litmus Test can help you to identify it easily. PLM is in the deep complexity recession. Enterprise 2.0 and Social Software can provide some fresh air. However, as it usually happens during the hype period, many companies will try to sell you old stuff with a new name. Then we will be in danger of double-dip recession. Ask about functionality and technology? Try these things out and see if you remember the same stuff with old names. The good thing about Enterprise Social Software is try to bring modern Web technologies to enterprise. The last make a lot of sense to me.

Just my thoughts…
Best, Oleg


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  • Oleg – Absolutely see parallels between the “old” enterprise portal landscape and the current Enterprise 2.0 landscape. And actually, two of the references you’ve cited, I was a part of making them happen – the portal learning loop was created while I was at the Delphi Group for 13 years, where we did a LOT of portal consulting work – and I still find that loop very useful to orient people today.

    The Enterprise 2.0 definition you reference was from the work that Carl and I did while at AIIM – in the largest Enterprise 2.0 ever executed at the time (and perhaps since). That was 2008.

    And now, continuing in our new company, launched in late 2008, at Information Architected, we are currently engaged with a number of companies bridging the gap between their original portal/intranet implementations (in many cases, these have not been seriously touched/upgraded in 7-10 years), and moving into a far more modern world – at the intersection of collaboration, content, knowledge, innovation and process.

    You can get a glimpse of that work in a presentation I gave at the Enterprise 2.0 conference this year – see – shows a contrast of the old vs. new approach.

    The metaphor of the portal, along with distributed pieces of work (portlets, widgets, microblogging, streams), is immensely powerful, and far simpler to implement usefully, than most of the overcomplicated approaches we are helping people to undo.

    Better, faster, cheaper – it’s not only possible, but I would argue it’s the only sane approach. Enterprise software has been too expensive for too long.


  • Dan, Thanks for your comments and info sharing. I had a chance to see your presentation back in June on E2.0. I think, the sane approach is to stop planning “grandi portali” and design things in a more granular way that can help to solve a particular information problem in enterprise organizations. There are many of them. However, devil is in details. The approach on 2000s was kind’a ‘one big boom’. It doesn’t work and need to be re-defined for 2010s. In addition, I’d be thinking about more vertical information solutions for enterprises (i.e. manufacturing, etc.). What is your view on this? Best, Oleg