Jeff Nick Interview: WordPress, Enterprise 2.0 and the EMC Innovation Network
I had the good fortune to sit down with Jeff Nick CTO of EMC at the excellent Future in Review conference a few weeks back and we discussed the EMC Enterprise 2.0 initiative he calls the “EMC Innovation Network.” A video of the interview is here, and my notes follow.
EMC is trying to achieve two objectives with the Innovation Network. One idea is that the network will create value earlier in the product development pipeline. Traditionally EMC has been very strong on development, but less focused on pure research. Nick is anticipating that the initiative will enhance this dimension of their R&D efforts. The second objective is on collaboration — to provide a means of getting cross-cutting capabilities and innovation across business units.
EMC has grown organically and also through a set of acquisitions. Within business units information flows fairly freely, but the challenge has been breaking through the independent silos so ideas can cross divisional boundaries. Nick feels the systems they’re implementing will provide a collaboration model that cuts across business units.
EMC is not alone in this challenge of propagating knowledge across divisions . Nick’s discussions at FiRe with Mark Bregman and Tom Malloy (the CTOs of Symantec and Adobe respectively), made it clear to him that other organizations are also also challenged with cross-divisional knowledge transfer.
Nick told me that initially he focused on providing a platform for process innovation. He identified a set of areas where crossing the seams between business units would be a priority. He began with the intersection of security and information management, and then where resource management and information management came together.
Content management and collaboration are key to the initiative. Nick feels these are arenas where Web 2.0 technologies excel. In the collaborative sphere, the requirements for EMC were:
• To get people to be able to find each other
• To communicate and socialize ideas
• To harvest those ideas
• To iterate across organizational boundaries
• Enable rapid sharing, and materialization of collateral
Nick and his team investigated the capabilities of current open source collaborative tools and also talked to companies providing proprietary technology. EMC finally settled on what Nick calls a “framework model” which allows for integration of a variety of different tools. They specifically did not want to be locked into any particular monolithic platform. Nick’s team also preferred tools that their user community was already familiar with, and liked to use.
EMC largely settled on open-source applications including WordPress. The only proprietary technology they’re using is Documentum which is designed to securely share content and documents, but not a great way to collaborate. These tools have been enhanced by EMC with code to provide enhanced security, and some WordPress plugins are in development.
Nick’s team now has blogging and Wiki capabilities, along with RSS feeds, and instant messaging.
The collaboration is not just internal — the collaboration includes many university partners and these outsiders are granted access to the full capabilities of the system.
We’re working to get someone from EMC to our upcoming event to discuss the specifics of the tools they’ve implemented.