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August, 2007:

SAP’s Imagineering Unit

Been running into a lot of articles regarding SAP’s Imagineering unit as of late. It is run by Denise Brown who, as outlined by Dan Farber over at ZDNet.com, is responsible for:

“imagining, developing and evangelizing Web 2.0 innovations–social networks, widgets, RSS, blogs, wikis, SMS, virtual worlds, etc.–across various SAP’s various product divisions and 39,300 employees in 50 countries.”

The goal of the team as defined by Larry Barrett of InternetNews.com is:

Incorporate new ways of using emerging Web 2.0 technologies to harness the power of its customer relationship management (CRM) (define) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) (define) software into tools that are easy to use, engaging and eminently attractive to an increasingly younger and tech-savvy mix of employees and customers.

Barrett’s article has some very interesting examples of CRM applications such as widgets that Browne’s group is pioneering. There is a whole other post to write to comment on some of there innovations discussed, I’ll leave that for another time.

Overall, Browne appears to have quite a cool job and leads quite an intriguing team. At Dow Jones, we do these type of tasks a part of our daily jobs in the product organization. Having a group such as this one is very advantageous because it fosters an active pipeline of ideas coming to different areas of the organization with a good degree of market validation directly from internal users and customers. It is always an ongoing challenge of trying to pioneer and run the business day-to-day such as releasing products, doing fiscal budgets, visiting customers and engaging the sales force.

There are a couple of elements that do strike me about the “imagineering” concept:

  1. A risk I see (or something to remain conscious of) is that you don’t want your organization to rely on the imagineering team for all new ideas. You want your teams always thinking about how to improve the products and the lives of customers. It is part of everyone’s job, not just an edge organization. That is one of the wonderful elements of Google’s 20% program.
  2. The balance between innovation and commercialization is critical. Farber notes that SAP’s philosophy is a conservative one when it comes to taking their new concepts to market. This I question. Yes, you need to be careful about alienating your customer base but not at the expense of waiting too long to bring value to your customers. Jeff Nolan, former SAPer, agrees. Customers will let you know if you are on the right track. And as a large organization, you run the risk of getting disinter-mediated by a more agile start-up that brings that value to YOUR customers first. If you are innovating your next disruption, it probably means someone else is or is thinking about it too. Now Thomas Otter has something to say about this in his rebuttal and he makes some very valid points. You have to be careful releasing new stuff. Just don’t make it black or white, release to customers or don’t.

SAP is definitely doing the right thing with the Imagineering team so they have the hard part nailed… investing in R&D in a big way. The elements I speak of above are much more process and effectiveness related which all goes to execution upon the base fundamentals.

Meritocracy of Ideas OR the Persona Quotient?

I was looking back at Stephen Johnston’s post about mobility in the enterprise.  (See my coverage from a few days ago).  I remember he referred to the "meritocracy of ideas than a hierarchy of job titles" in reference to the 2.0 paradigm and how people collaborate.  And this strikes a thought back on a discussion I recently had with co-workers regarding blogging.

A colleague inquired as to the primary reason why a person would start to read my blog (or start reading anyone’s blog for that matter).  Do they read because of the merit of one’s ideas?  Or do they read it because of "the Persona Quotient", or in other words, the perceived level of the writer’s background whether it be prior success, education, title or place of work.

It is an interesting question?  Do people read me for the context of what I say?  Or do they read me because my Persona Quotient is driven by my position at Dow Jones or former position at About.com.  Would I read blog.pmarca.com if it wasn’t written by a Netscape founder and successful serial entrepreneur?  Would I read A VC if it wasn’t written by the Managing Partner of two well-respected firms?  Both individuals have high Persona Quotients…

My instincts tell me yes, I still would.  I have a number of blogs I subscribe to based on the quality and insightfulness of their contributions.  That is the great thing about the b’sphere.  But I must admit I found them in many cases via the high Persona Quotients.

So, what is the driver of the real or perceived value?  The Meritocracy of the Ideas or the Persona Quotient?  Interested in your views…

“Enhanced Speed Reading”

Today, I was having a conversation with a colleague of mine, Greg Merkle, VP of Product Design & Creative at Dow Jones. Since joining Dow Jones, in addition to Greg and I collaborating on bringing the corporate research products to market at Factiva, we also have constant dialogues about technology trends and what we both see in the market. Today’s topic of discussion was about text analysis tools and how they help the researcher.

During the course of the conversation, Greg stated he refers to the use of these tools as “enhanced speed reading”. The types of tools we were discussing are text analytics tools such as Concept Q Pro, Concorder Pro and DEVONagent. These tools allow you to crawl, search and analyze a set of documents returned from a crawl. Each have their pros and cons and I recommend you try them out.

DEVONagent

But the fundamental element is the capability you gain by using those tools. Without reading, you can get the essence or “speed read” an very large set of content with several different lenses, really limited by the number of key terms you want to key your analysis on. And many of these tools provide you a dynamic look at clusters and context in addition to keywords in context.Anyway, Greg refers to this as “enhanced speed reading”. I’ll let him define it and he promised to have a related post up soon.

When Enterprise 2.0 Meets Mobility

Just came across a post by Stephen Johnston, who does business development and strategy at Nokia. His post entitled Enterprise 2.0 – what does it mean for mobililty? over at this blog, ThreeDimensionalPeople, is a great read. Stephen provides a solid overview of general enterprise 2.0 concepts so it is good if you are looking for a solid overview. His extensive post also takes it a step further really tying it back to mobility concepts and how the two concepts can come together and some considerations.

Clearly, mobility and the 2.0 meme will be converging and it isn’t much of a leap to guess that the convergence will happen at an even faster rate the current state of web mobility.  Yes, there will be challenges but if the mobile operators/platforms do not facilitate the 2.0 paradigm, there will be disruption just as other segments have seen to facilitate it.  My sense is that it will work itself out fairly rapidly.  And perhaps even faster with an added push from a couple more Apple iPhone generations.

Virtually Within “Column Inches” of the Social Network

This morning, I was discussing the company Doppelganger with Simon Bradstock, VP of Corporate Products at Dow Jones. The main point of conversation was how far extending the social networking paradigm is extending and now we are witnessing the merging of social networking with virtual reality. Wow!, an $11M third round funding for a company “offers programmed virtual worlds for the teen demographic.” The virtual world and social networking space is white hot right now.

The conversation led Simon to inquire, “How many column inches have been dedicated to Second Life?” I am almost embarrassed to say that my response was “What’s a column inch?” In fact, upon hearing the term, I immediately thought about architecture or World War I military tactics. It certainly did not trigger a written publication. According to Wikipedia, a column inch is:

“A column inch is a measurement of the amount of content in published works that use multiple columns per page. A column inch is a unit of space one column wide by one inch high.”

So, this led us to question as to whether “column inch” has now become a quaint term such as “horsepower”. I work for Dow Jones and I did not know the term. Does it actually show how much we’ve become a digital culture and have moved so far from traditional media. Is it one of those small signs that lead some credence the all the questioning as to the future of the newspaper such as Henry Blodget‘s recent post, Running the Numbers: Why Newspapers Are Screwed. (I happen to not agree with the completely bleak outlook; I do agree that newspapers will have to emerge with new models to survive in the digital age.)

Additional coverage of Doppelganger: