Facebook and the Rise of Universal Connectors

In the run up to the Facebook IPO a number of commentators on social networking have made the point that the pre-eminent social networking site is actually not good at mobility. The consumer rush towards mobile devices left Facebook ill prepared with effective mobile ad inventory. That made me think of our “universal connectors” concept.

Universal connectors needs to be seen as the dominant trend in business, forcing behavior and strategy change onto companies. Continue reading

Pebble Technology and its “Watch” — A Start-up Surging with Elasticity

With thousands of others, I just became an official backer on Kickstarter of the Pebble, a watch, really a wearable computing device that interfaces seamlessly, conveniently, and wirelessly  with Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android OS phones.

The Pebble / Pebble Technology
Source: http://www.getpebble.com

Over the past two months I’ve written twice about wearable computing – coming from mainline firms, Nike (the FuelBand) and Google (Google glasses). Nike and Google are well-established elastic enterprises and benefit from the elasticity that they have built into their companies. Their wearable devices add new levels of engagement and options for  their huge base of customers.

But Pebble Technology, the maker of Pebble, is a startup.  It also has a noteworthy distinction: it raised over $1 Million dollars from supporters on Kickstarter in 28 hours – for a product that is not yet in production.   But a snappy video and a low-key pitch inspired thousands to make an “investment.”  The Pebble folks also smartly provided “investors” with various contribution options, from a minimum of $99 to a high of $10,000, but each level will receive 1 or more Pebble watches when they are produced sometime in the fall of 2012. Continue reading

Explaining the Value of an API

We’re always on the lookout for writers who explain succintly any aspect of the five dynamics. Dan Woods over on Forbes has written a great article on explaining an API to your CEO.

Here’s a diagram Dan uses to explain the API value chain and it makes the value proposition beautifully simple:

From Dan Woods, Forbes.com

Dan and his colleagues have written a book on the business value of APIs. Rather than summarise it I advise you to start with the Forbes article, where there is a link to the book.

Netflix and Its API Strategy: Benefits and How-TO

Netflix have a Slideshare presentation about their API strategy which just about beats anything I’ve ever read as an explanation for how to make an API strategy work. It’s only a little bit technical, which is necessary, and wonderfully describes the business priorities that go into shaping the API strategy. I particularly like the way it illustrates scale – the Netflix API handles 10 billion requets per month (as of November 2010) and peaks at 10,000 per second. Presenter is Michael Hart – be sure to read the speaker notes.

Thinking About a New Way To Scale

In The Elastic Enterprise we introduce the term universal connector to describe technology that makes business much easier to scale. Why is this idea so important? Making it easy to scale business is transparently important but can it be true that something so little known as an API or an RSS feed can be pivotal to business?

Surely products like the iPhone or Android are what change the world? Continue reading

Your Calendar as a Universal Connector

We’ve defined universal connectors pretty much in terms of what we see out there – what they do. So a universal connector is RSS, an API or a stream.

In each case there is a software layer between an application and the World Wide Web, which gives us friction-free access to assets. In other words an application like a blog platform has a layer called RSS which allows us to distribute or call text from the blog to some other website or reader software.

Such connectors allow us to use remotely accessed assets to build business opportunity. In the case of RSS plenty of websites access other people’s content and then use those assets to populate their own sites.

That explanation might still seem a little opaque so I want to take the idea further with an example that might make the nature and power of connectors more immediate and obvious. Continue reading

Much Ado about Apps – A Long Transformative Tail (Part One)

By now anyone who has a smartphone or a tablet also has an app, or rather, several pages of apps.  Apps are ubiquitous in digital life.

Apps alone can provide business benefit.  But apps plus a business platform, plus a business ecosystem, plus universal connectors can  position the enterprise to become elastic, primed for highly scaleable growth.

In this post we will describe how apps are being used to create elasticity through the customer ecosystem, improving customer engagement, customer experience and customer innovation.  In a second post, we’ll describe how apps are used to make the enterprise more elastic through different ecosysstem communities.

via Wikimedia Commons"Fruit Seller"

" Fruit Seller" Louise Moillon, 1631

Let’s start with the customer ecosystem.  The Baroque era, 17th Century painting by Louise Moillon, “Fruit Seller,” captures the essence of the merchant and customer relationship.  The customer contemplates the basket of fruit and considers whether the product might fulfill a need.  The painting embodies the customer lifecycle, as it has existed for eons, in one dramatic and artistic moment.

But today, the customer ecosystem expresses the dimensions of customer life in a highly connected world.  Customers talk with other customers.  Customers talk with competitors.  Customers share experiences about products.  Customers help other customers.  And in some cases, customers help companies make products and services better.  With the right app strategy an enterprise can engage the customer in ways never possible before, transform their company and create a long tail for competitive growth.

Continue reading

What is a Universal Connector?

A universal connector is an important concept in the growth of the elastic enterprise, so we’d better explain it. Here’s how we introduce the concept in Chapter 2 of the book, with reference to RSS:

Think back to the early days of the World Wide Web. Suddenly a small symbol or acronym began appearing on websites, particularly those that hosted original content. The acronym was RSS and for many people it is still a mystery.

RSS though is one powerful example of anonymized business relationships at work. RSS stands for really simple syndication. It means, with a few mouse clicks, allowing people to access your content in a stream direct from the content host’s servers.

Why was this important? Because it meant content owners could suddenly make a permanent connection with readers. Once a reader clicked RSS, the content creator’s content would automatically be sent to the reader, on publication. This was a new form of syndication, pulled initially by users.

RSS is a universal connector.

It is important not just because it allowed the web, as we know it, to evolve. It also allowed new businesses to scale at low cost. Think of the Huffington Post, built for the most part by aggregating feeds from other blogs. In a relatively short span of time it had 6,000 writers.

Something similar happens with APIs – application programming interfaces, another universal connector. Continue reading

SAP as an Elastic Enterprise

Giant ERP vendor SAP of course is old school – or was. Over the past five years the big ERP system provider has become decidedly innovative, qualifying as an elastic enterprise because of its extensive efforts at openness and automated business partnerships – what we’ve described elsewhere as the use of universal connectors. See also its new, collaborative decision suite, Streamwork.

Dan Woods has a great piece over on Forbes about SAP’s journey. The article is technical in nature, or rather assumes some technical knowledge as well as knowledge of SAP products, but well worth  look. Here’s an example from Dan’s piece of SAP’s new openness and interconnectedness:

SAP NetWeaver Gateway will also likely be popular for mobile and social applications. Using Gateway and a simple mobile application development environment like EachScape, a normal human, not an SAP expert, can use the REST API and display order status or delivery information. Some SAP customers are using Gateway to tweet about similar information to customers.