Web 2.0 in the Enterprise Think Tank

Today I participated in a “think tank” session organized by SAP Labs and the World Internet Center. In addition to a bunch of my SAP colleagues there were individuals from Google, Zoho, Abgeneal, Dojo, StrkeIron, nStein Technologies, and Socialtext.

This has been a pretty interesting day on a number of fronts, most significantly because it illustrates the challenges of dealing with the theoretical. Compliance, security, reliability, documentation, UI consistency, availability and many more topics move from the academic to the real sense when our customers are trying to implement this stuff, however, all of this reinforces my view that we have a substantial complexity bias in enterprise software. If it’s meaningful we believe it has to be complex. We really have to start thinking about the “good enough” solution instead of falling back on the reasons why something won’t work or will it could fail as reasons not to build it in the first place.

Mashups are a hot topic and the issues facing enterprise vs. consumer markets are substantial. Consumer mashups are essentially data integration in nature – I have a batch of addresses that I map out in google maps. Enterprise mashups are process in nature, I want to hook up my CRM and inventory systems with Ebay and Paypal and then feed the resulting financial data back to my ERP system. This is hard because it’s rule driven as opposed to data driven.

My other observations are rather unsurprising, including the fact that there is heated discussions to be had about the appropriateness of REST for transaction systems, how positive user experiences are achieved, the degree of scale that web 2.0 services can achieve, and tactical objections like security and loss in control.