An Evolution: Social Media > Web 2.0 > Enterprise 2.0 > Enterprise Collaboration > MindTouch

There can be no doubt that one of the hottest spaces in enterprise software today is collaboration. Its no surprise collaboration is getting a lot of interest. The old metaphors for capturing, authoring and sharing information are stale and inefficient. As such, there is a lot of room for achieving productivity improvements through improved user experience. This has been true for all software, but especially so in the enterprise software space where collaboration is essential to daily operation and where every ounce of productivity translates into big dollars.
In the last several years a software renaissance has been taking place in the consumer space that has begun seeping into, and benefiting, business and enterprise systems. The innovation in software during this renaissance, more commonly referred to as Web 2.0, has been almost entirely about improving user experience metaphors. AJAX, new social metaphors, lessening of the file/file system metaphor, making structure implicit rather than explicit and just generally simplifying user interfaces are all trends evidenced in this new wave of software. While most pundits think Web 2.0 has been about making the Web participatory, enabling social connectedness and conversations these are but side effects of the improved ease of use and increased stickiness (fun of use) software has experienced.
As mentioned, the innovation in the consumer space is now seeping into business and enterprise software. To date, this has largely translated into a repurposing of consumer applications for the enterprise in an almost direct mapping. That is to say, not a lot of innovation is happening there. Enterprise social networking startups are trying their damndest to convince companies they need Facebook in the enterprise. Social bookmarking, video sharing, blogging, microblogging, mind-mapping, etc. are all attempting to re-imagine how people work. Alas, individually these applications dont deliver for the enterprise in a meaningful way without the network effect of their consumer counterparts. Enter the suites.
Enterprise 2.0 Suite vendors have recently captured media and analyst attention and are hastily developing products that combine aspects of many of the aforementioned Web 2.0 / Social Media tools in a race to fulfill the feature check list. Trying to be everything to everyone, the feature check list approach to software development, is never pretty. We played this out in the 90s and learned that it leads to crappy unusable software that may look good on paper, but is useless in practice. The Enterprise 2.0 Suites consistently force the enterprise to adapt their workflow to this new application instead of enabling the application to be adapted to the needs, workflow and existing systems of the enterprise landscape. The result is yet another silo that is difficult to get data into, out of, integrate, extend, reuse, secure, maintain. Moreover, in the haste to check the feature boxes vendors are making rookie engineering mistakes regarding scaling and security. In short, its a band aid thats sure to cause an expensive infection.
And then there is MindTouch. When Steve and I first approached the problem of collaboration we came at it with a background in distributed systems. This lead us to solve the problem of enterprise collaboration with a completely different approach than any one else attacking the problem. We saw collaboration as a distributed heterogeneous network that needed an easy to use canvas to surface data and behavior. Think about this a moment. Any modern company has a multiplicity of disconnected data and application silos. Email, databases, files, file serves, Intranet, CRM, ERP and a growing cloud of useful web-services. Its clear the enterprise desperately needs a new kind of tool to connect all these systems and services and enable easy collaboration across all of them.
Lets think a little more about the problem of the modern enterprise. This isnt a problem that would be nice to solve. This is a problem that desperately needs to be solved for the enterprise. We are bleeding here! We are hemorrhaging money! Please make it stop! Just getting access to information we need to do our work is difficult if not impossible. When, and if, you get access to requisite data from CRM, databases, web services, etc…massaging these pieces into actionable information is again painful and time consuming. When successful, what fruits do your labors yield? A static (dead) document or file that is likely trapped in email, a network file server, Microsoft Office SharePoint Server or your local computer. In short, this is yet another disconnected silo. Never to be seen again or reused. The next time you need similar actionable information you repeat the process anew and it is just as time consuming and painful. This is fundamentally broken and its killing the productivity of every company.

Now lets look at how MindTouch is solving this problem for the enterprise. Less technical persons (not necessarily programmers) can connect disconnected enterprise systems, databases, Web 2.0 apps, web-services with MindTouch pre-built adapters. This can be done securely and with IT governance, but its even easy for business units to do this on their own. Then anyone (of any technical aptitude) can access information from these disconnected silos, mash it up, make it actionable, create dynamic documents that are updated (effectively) real-time from multiple data source and web-services. If you arent a MindTouch Deki user then allow me to describe this for you. Imagine a Microsoft-Word-like document in your web browser that allows you real-time access to information in CRM, your legacy intranet, Microsoft Access (and other databases), LinkedIn, Twitter, Google or other APIs and more. All in an easy to edit Word Processor like experience that is easily shared with others, versioned and searchable with a powerful enterprise search engine. I reiterate, your data is dynamically updated for you (or you can take a snapshot in time).

MindTouch is enabling business/enterprise automation that is saving companies millions. Yes, millions of dollars. See Red Mountain Retail Group case study (25% productivity gain across the entire company) and Bill Me Later, which was recently acquired by eBay for $945 Million. Bill Me Laters use of MindTouch was a feature article in the New York Times; they enjoy a 1,000 to 1 return on investment (ROI) in the first year. One significant cause for these huge gains is because MindTouch does not force users to adapt workflow and processes to the product. Instead, MindTouch is easily adapted to existing workflows, systems and processes and effectively extends and upgrades other systems. There is no other product that enables this without investing in expensive and time consuming software engineers. And in these cases, which include portal solutions, the end product is something that is inflexible, doesnt enable collaboration and requires another team of software engineers to re-engineer as needs evolve. Not so with MindTouch. The platform is easily adapted to evolving needs without necessarily requiring any engineering resources; most often this is accomplished by less technical business or IT persons using pre-built enterprise adapters.
Newer Enterprise 2.0 or Collaboration tools are busying themselves with checking feature boxes, adding low value, nice to have, social tools with limited payoff and delivering products that have issues with scale and security. This approach forces users to adapt to the vendors view of the world and creates a simplistic walled garden. Another silo. Meanwhile, the older enterprise portal vendors are hurriedly snapping in place sub-standard bolt-ons to check their feature boxes and re-messaging their stale products with prefixed words like social. Neither are appropriate solutions for the enterprise. Neither will provide as much ROI or a lower of total cost of ownership (TCO) than MindTouch. On one hand, the newer vendors are not customizeable, difficult to scale and non-extensible. On the other hand, older vendors are delivering clunky, non-collaborative, difficult to use solutions that require significant engineering resources to extend and adapt. MindTouch evolved from both these worlds and has moved the solution “up the stack”. We invested the time and resources to develop a robust, scalable, easily extensible, easily integrated distributed platform that is adaptable to the needs, workflows and IT ecosystems of the enterprise.
Contact MindTouch or join us in one of our weekly webinars to better understand how MindTouch is evolutionary leap ahead of the competition in terms of technology and the ability of our products to deliver ROI at a dramtically lower TCO.

Posted by Brian Hill 2009-01-30

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