Unlocking Value of Realtime Conversations & Relationships

Originally posted September 17, 2009

Enterprise Transaction Conversation Relationship

In 1999, Doc Searls, David Weinberger and Chris Locke released The Cluetrain Manifesto outlining a number of insights on the rise of the internet, its ability to empower individuals and the impact it would have on business.  The subtitle to the book declared “the end of business as usual”.

The introduction to the book includes a description of how “a powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies”.

Ten years later, companies are trying to get smarter faster by embracing many of the opportunities and implications of networked markets, customers and employees as outlined in the Cluetrain.   Following the lead and lessons of consumer centric Web 2.0 applications, the enterprise software industry is realizing there is significant opportunity for differentiation and new growth.  Whether you call it the “Consumerization of IT”, Web 2.0 in the Enterprise or Enterprise 2.0, it is clear that consumer innovations are inspiring enterprise innovations and transforming the workplace for all of us.

The Enterprise is the sum of its Transactions, Conversations and Relationships

The first of the 95 Cluetrain theses stated “Markets are Conversations”.

If “Markets are Conversations”, paraphrasing Doc, then “the Enterprise is the sum of its Transactions, Conversations and Relationships” supporting and interacting with markets.  Transactional activity from processing new orders, to inventory requests to billing and field service reports represents structured processes and structured information generated at each step of the enterprise value chain.

In addition, as these transactions are executed, there are numerous conversations that occur within the enterprise, across collaboration teams, within functions and externally with customers, suppliers and partners.  These conversations come in the form of meetings, phone calls, conference calls, web conferences, emails, instant messages and increasingly wikis or blogs.  These transactions and conversations are supported and complemented by the various levels of strong and loose relationships between colleagues, customers and communities across the business.

The Soul of Enterprise Software will be found in User Conversations and Relationships

In May 2006,  Google’s GM Enterprise, Dave Girouard referred to the current state of enterprise software as being “bereft of soul” saying:

“This is Darwinism. In the world of consumer technology you either meet the end user’s needs or you’re finished very quickly.  Innovation is happening in the consumer world. Enterprise software is entirely bereft of soul. It is designed for business not for humans.”

Thinking about the enterprise as the flow of all the transactions, conversations and relationships focused on the development, delivery and support of products and services to customers provides an interesting framework for how the enterprise software industry will evolve with the adoption of Enterprise 2.0 innovations.

For the last 15+ years, the enterprise software industry has focused on organizing and optimizing the value of transactions.   The emergence of ERP, SCM and CRM software markets worth billions of dollars annually have, for the most part, focused on innovations that structure and track enterprise transactions across numerous business processes.  Improvements in the scale and reliability of business process software, database infrastructure and transaction reporting and analytics have helped drive process efficiency gains across the enterprise.

In the next 15+ years, as Enterprise 2.0 emerges and matures, the enterprise software industry will be focused on organizing and optimizing the flow of conversations and relationships for enterprise users and customers. While continuing to optimize transactions will be important, innovation and new value for users will come from the “humanizing” impact found in sensing, threading and sharing user conversations and relationships with and across the enterprise.

Today, much of the conversational and social content – and related metadata – generated by the volume of interactions with and across the enterprise has been locked away.  The value untapped.

As Enterprise 2.0 innovations emerge, the soul of the enterprise will be found in enabling users to follow and filter the flow of their most important, most relevant conversations and relationships with colleagues, customers and communities.


  1. […] My interest in the emerging Interaction Analytics market goes back to a project I led in 2008 that was focused on the capture, index, store, sharing and analyzing of my voice, text and video conversations. […]

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