Spending a week in Boston at the Enterprise 2.0 conference recently was great. Despite the plethora of channels open to us today (at the moment I have email, Twitter, IM and voice open in front of me) there is no replacement for face to face contact. This is never more so than for someone like myself who lives far from the tech centers of the world – meeting and reconnecting with people is crucial.
It was also refreshing to attend a business focused event after a few much more consumer-centric events that I’ve attended of late – the participants tend to have a much more pragmatic perspective on things – ROI is eminently important.
Reflecting back on the four days, I have to concur with a number of my fellow attendees who bemoaned the dearth of user case-studies at the event. Conference organizers always need to balance the relative needs of their attendees and their sponsors and align those with the financial imperatives – the general consensus was that the organisers of the Enterprise 2.0 conference didn’t get the mix quite right. I wouldn’t go so far as to completely agree with conference watcher-from-afar Dennis Howlett who was somewhat scathing in his remarks – that said he does have a point. As with most conferences, the real value was in the back channel and the lobby, hallways and after-parties were alive with the odd deal being done but more importantly connections being made.
As always there were some frustrations – I attended a panel looking at the use of microblogging tools within enterprise. Not surprisingly the panelists, all of them vendors, were completely confident that microblogging heralds the coming of a new paradigm. They were also fairly confident that their own services were in fact “platforms” – it seems the 2.0 world, once high on the prospect of being picked up by TechCrunch, is now high on the idea of being “a platform”. Even more telling were the two questions asked of the audience – firstly do you think microblogging is worth paying for (roughly half did) and secondly who would actually pay for the service (almost no one). In my curmudgeonly way I can’t help but think that there is a real disconnect between the Enterprise 2.0 illuminati who, having drunk the kool-aide of microblogging, have a heightened sense of its utility within an enterprise – I guess time will give the answer to that one.
In terms of highlights for me from the four days, the Booz Allen case study was impressive, showing a real benefit from investing time and resource into social tools. I’ve already blogged about youcalc which I’d have to say was by far the most promising start-up I encountered.
The Enterprise 2.0 organizers are moving two a twice a year format, with events on both coasts. For that to be successful they’ll need to focus much more heavily on user adoption and real world case studies. In the past 12 months the murmurings from attendees at these sorts of events has been that there needs to be real ROI to justify their attendance – the way to drive that is to have real end customers there, hearing real end-user case studies. Let’s not forget that vendor presence is an adjunct to an event like this, not the central theme.