The gatekeeper Vs. the storming hordes

Bernard Lunn commented on my last post  that when it comes to Enterprises and Start-Ups, we are thinking along similar lines.  His second post on his blog B2B media 2.0 and globalization is a well thought out discussion along similar lines, but with some minor differences in perspective to my comments. If you enjoyed my post, then I can recommend Bernard’s as adding some great value to this conversation.One thing he says that really got me thinking is:

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.

As someone whose role is as a bit of a gatekeeper, I think he’s right. It’s harder and harder these days to keep the gates shut against the storming hordes of Web 2.0, especially when the software is on the internet and essentially free. Hard earned stripes on implementing innovation tell me this isn’t a bad thing. There’s nothing like passionate users in the business to drive the need for Enterprises to sit up and take notice — there are very few IT shops left I would think that don’t value their user as their customer (those that aren’t are probably only a swift signature away from being outsourced) and as we all know, customer is king.That said, the problem space changes when it moves from individuals making independent choices, to trying to implement an enterprise wide solution.I’ll use Word Press as a great example (and I’m biased as this is a Word Press blog as well). As Bernard points out:

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.

For individuals or small groups, word press is fantastic and can achieve exactly this, but it’s still lacking some features that would make it really appealing in an Enterprise. For example, LDAP groups to manage the large numbers of starters and departers, centralised comment management so the marketing mafia can monitor what’s going on across multiple blogs and any number of small, incremental value adds.  Enterprises will want a real Enterprise Content Management system implemented underneath, users will cry out for single sign on so they don’t have yet another password, then marketing will want a reporting system to see whose hot and whose not.Unfortunately (and to my own point maybe because they’ve already paid for it) Enterprises will wait for their major vendors who are on the roadmap and mostly only months away from releases that begin to incorporate many of these features (with “committed” roadmaps for the next 12 months that show when the missing ones will come).It’s not all doom and gloom, I think Enterprises are slowly changing, and the gatekeepers are become more shepherds — letting the users mill around while trying to keep the flock from coming to too much harm! Open standards are the glue that will let the start-ups and the Enterprise meet in the middle.I love Bernard’s quote from Einstein that he concluded with, I’ll borrow it here:

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.”

It’s my increasingly strong belief that open standards will help us on this road (see some thoughts on this here: Poor-Rich applications).