Coghead – Simple is Powerful

I spent Tuesday yesterday with Greg Olsen at Coghead, a company that is hitching on to the web 2.0 in the enterprise theme with an interesting solution that goes well beyond the developer tools of years past. I’ve known Greg for a long time, having first met him in the late 90’s when we invested in his previous company, Extricity, and then staying in touch with him after he sold it to Peregrine.

Interesting comment on the Peregrine piece, we spent a good amount of time talking about how damn hard it is to get established companies to fundamentally shift their perspective on things like application development and user enablement as a driver for application innovation. I’ve been writing occasionally about the “complexity bias” that SAP and our brethren have, I think I’m just about ready to put that down in a Niel Robertson style blarticle.

Coghead is interesting because while a “tool company” (a.k.a. “venture quicksand”) it is really an ecosystem play. In order for them to succeed they have to recruit to their network not only an array of developers who will assemble applications components but also advanced users who will take that componentry and glue it together to create actual end user apps. Their ability to monetize this network through their hosted development and deployment services is what the business is ultimately about.

The other thing that is interesting about this, as well as Abgenial and DabbleDB, is the notion that packaged applications are kind of done, at least insofar as the major categories are concerned. What these companies are going after is the situational application that is purpose specific, often throwaway, and always very niche. Even just a few years ago this would have been a non-starter for any company to pursue, but with the investments in SOA over the last 5 years there is enough of an infrastructure foundation to actually realize the goal of highly customized purpose specific end user applications.

The concept of widgets (think Konfabulator) is not new, but in the enterprise space these are not effective because widgets as we have them today rarely interact with anything that could be called a process, they are at best data integration components. By bringing workflow and BPM/BPEL into application self assembly companies like Coghead are fundamentally shifting how end users get functional apps that help them do their jobs better.

There is a huge legacy app replacement opportunity looming, the challenge is to enable this without going down the path of being a packaged app vendor where the laws of software economics (sales and distribution) doom you before you start.

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