Reflections of a WordPress newby on Enterprise 2.0 May 24, 2007Posted by Bernard Lunn in Enterprise Web 2.0, start-ups.
As a newcomer to blogging – this is my second post – and somebody who is old enough to remember using a Telex machine to send a proposal, I needed to use something that was pretty intuitive. After about an hour working with WordPress I can say that WordPress is as good as it gets; it is as close to “free, perfect and now” as I have seen. I can see that there is tons of functionality that I have not yet used and I am motivated to experiment and learn more as my experience to date indicates that my frustration level will be low.
During 30 years in the software business, I have got used to the idea that software is mostly pretty bad – no, lets be frank very bad. Pre the PC I learnt that software was monumentally hard to develop, always (I mean always) over budget and and the green screen text stuff was for people in back offices and data centers only. My first hands-on experience was with a Mac (great) and then decades of frustrations with Windows.
WordPress is part of a new wave of software that looks like it may actually get it right. This looks like second generation Net native software. The first generation of Net native got the “wow” factor but rather the same way one goes wow when you see a dog walking on its hind legs (amazing that Rufus can do it, but he still does it very badly). The second generation takes Net native as a given and really focuses on usability. It has to be usable as adoption is based on thousands of individuals voting every minute with their mouse.
This is not how the Enterprise works. Somebody makes a decision and everybody has to use the clunky monstrosity. Of course people do still vote with their mouse but in destructive, passive aggressive ways that derail the project. These are the projects where the CFO at the post-mortem meeting asks “So are are you telling me that after 3 years and $x million we are facing a write-off decision? Can somebody tell me how we got here?”
I can see how systems like WordPress can avoid this by growing more organically. Add a few colleagues/partners as posters. Add some traditional semi-static pages. Add some social network, a bit of video and a podcast or two. Pretty soon I have a modern CMS, with minimal implementation costs and all on a pay as you go basis.
This is what the analysts are touting as Enterprise 2.0. At a 30,000 foot level it makes sense. History has a way of repeating itself and Web 1.0 went from individual to Enterprise and the big Enterprise Net roll-out is still in full swing. Does that mean WordPress type companies should hire some hot-shot sales guys to knock on CIO doors? As somebody who has knocked on a lot of CIO doors, I think not. The possibly vicious cycle goes like this:
- Get VC by writing a Business Plan with aggressive revenue projections
- Hire expensive sales guys who will promise whatever it takes to get that revenue target
- Build whatever clients want/demand without the time to design it right
- Clunky monstrosity here we come
This can end fine with a trade sale, everybody walks with some money vowing to do it right next time. Actually I think we have a lot of teams with precisely those scars who are determined to do it right this time.
The Net has not only changed the way we deliver software. More importantly it has changed the way people buy software. The enterprise gatekeepers have less power. The gatekeepers still have veto power but only if the software breaks the rules on privacy and security. It is not just start-ups buying this way, it is self-managed teams and departments. Try it free and use the credit card to buy a bit and expense it; the credit card vendors do a good job at expense tracking and those miles and other benefits are nice bonus.
Then at some level of usage, the corporate department may come in to give it the blessing and negotiate volume discounts. The trick is not letting those negotiations drive the featuritis that becomes spaghetti code (as in “we will buy 500 copies if you add xyz feature now”).
I am hopeful that this is a genuinely new era for software and that the teams who have enough experience with the old ways will stick to their design vision and keep it growing with Einstein’s famous phrase in mind:
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.”