Notes and Insights from the Catalyst Conference

June 15, 2006 · · Posted by Jordan Frank

I was invited to speak at the catalyst conference (see Jordan Frank Talks on Blogs and Wikis at Burton Group Catalyst Conference) and was able to sit in on both the Collaboration & Content and the User Centric Identity management tracks.

Burton Analysts, Mike Gotta and Peter Burton put forth IT imperatives in their presentations:

Peter: Communication, collaboration, content strategies are increasingly mission critical for work and personal contexts. They are becoming platform issues.

Mike: To sustain high levels of performance growth and innovation, enterprises must treat collaboration as an organizational competency that must be mastered.

Together, this suggests that enterprises need strategies that address collaboration from both an IT and human factors point of view. Organizations need a variety of tools and a training program enabling their knowledge workers to master them.

A consistent thread in their presentations and throughout the conference was the emergence of blogs and wikis as collaborative tools in the enterprise. This happens despite the presence of the "super platforms" in organizations that deploy blogs and wikis as alternate collaborative platforms.

The customer panel, including IT execs from a large finance and a large health care company confirmed the importance of collaborative platforms. Both have mixed platform environments and will be dealing with a relatively diverse IT infrastructure for the foreseeable future.

One panelist noted that while they have attempted to use portals to unify content and resources, even the portals have proliferated:

We have an enterprise portal. The home page is customizable for each user. There are dozens of bricklets people can include. Our portal does not address user role based information at the business level.

Some business units have made portals of their own and collaboration system allows that kind of thing too. So, we have an embarrassment of riches in our portal explosion.

One of them remarked about the proliferation of separately searchable resources and the problems deploying search engines designed for the internet on the intranet:

We spent the last 2 years struggling with this issue. Because of our various repositories, you had to search each repository in turn, and many you may not know exist. We started pulling together enterprise products from the vendors.

One additional note is that the mechanisms that work well on the internet don't scale down to even the large enterprise because, by comparison, the volume of content is microscopic. We have found some vendors that do have products that work right for the enterprise and that will go along way.

By reaction or strategic plan, both are seeking to deploy enterprise search rather than formal customer portals (though both have these technologies) to cope with the variety of otherwise disconnected repositories.

The panelists and many of the audience members talked about the increasing presence of blogs and wikis on their networks.

Burton analyst Guy Crease's presentation discussed the key content trends since 1976. The trend for 2005+ is defined as putting the user at the center, taking into account these four points (and one more that I didnt type in time!):

  • Blogs and wikis are removing strict structure and the setup pain; writers can just write.
  • Universal search enables users to stop switching between search interfaces; users can just search
  • Web analytics and A/B testing are helping companies tune content (from whatever source) to the audience; visitors can just read
  • Records management is helping companies monitor and track this combination of tons of content and many users

Guy's point and the remarks from the panel converge on at least one reasonable conclusion:

Regardless of the desired end-point for these IT organizations, I think their course is a strong statement for a more web-like IT infrastructure with diverse, distributed applications and resources that all rely on Identity and Search for a simulated unification and a derived taxonomy based on user applied tags and extracted concepts or key words.

Our partnership with FAST Search (see Fast and Traction Software Partner to Combine the Power of Search and Enterprise Blogging) is certainly motivated in part by this need to sit within a greater IT universe with all the parts required to recognize the power of the internet, given the quirks and constraints of content types and permissions present in the enterprise intranet.