One of my favourite parts of this week’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston was the time I spent with other vendors in the space.
This segment of the technology industry attracts sharp minds who are intrigued by the same difficult problem: How can technology make workplace collaboration more effective? The answers require experts not just in technology, but in ethnography, human factors and psychology too.
Last night our VP Gordon Ross discussed the writings of Richard Sennett with Michael Idinopulos, a deep thinker from SocialText with whom I’ve engaged in lively online debate. We also talked about some of our common problems as vendors, such as figuring out the best way to explain comprehensive software suites in terms that the target customer appreciates. Are we enterprise collaboration, chaos management, Facebook for the enterprise or social intranet software? Is “social” even a good word to use?
Shortly before that, we were guests at an event hosted by Aaron Fulkerson and Isaac Garcia, CEOs of MindTouch and Central Desktop, respectively. Aaron introduced Darren to the noted Open Source developer Miguel de Icaza, creator of Gnome (Miguel is famous in geek circles). Aaron showed me his MindTouch tattoo (don’t worry, it’s on his calf), and we talked openly about a large bid that we’re competing against each other on. Isaac shared his advice on server farms as we move towards a hosted version of ThoughtFarmer.
I attended the Jive “New Way” briefing on Monday and enjoyed the free chocolates :-). Jive puts on a flashy show, and their new executives are seasoned presenters. I have to say, though, that there are too many men in suits at Jive for my liking. It was comforting to see their soon-to-be-very-wealthy co-founder and CTO, Matt Tucker, doing network configuration on the Macs at their booth. He’s still a geek.
Lawrence Liu, now of Cisco and formerly of Telligent and before that, Microsoft, told me that all these software packages are overbuilt and 5 to 10 years ahead of where the customer base is at. We discussed ThoughtFarmer’s forthcoming SharePoint 2010 Connector, and he said there’s a lot of money to be made riding Microsoft’s coattails — if you don’t mind being their lackey.
Rather than avoid or resent my competitors in this space, I like to embrace them. They’re great people with great ideas that I can learn from. And as Isaac said last night to the guests at his event, “This is a huge market. There’s going to be a lot of winners.”