Thinking about Four Pillars and enterprise software

It’s been maybe eighteen months since I first put pen to paper on the Syndication/Search/Fulfilment/Collaboration model for enterprise software, and I’ve learnt a lot since then. Some of you were at the workshop at the bank in early December 2005, when I shared what I was thinking with participants; it just doesn’t seem like it was over a year ago.
Over the last eighteen months, one of the commonest questions/comments I’ve had on Four Pillars is this one:

But JP, what’s it going to look like? It all sounds like airy-fairy theory to me. Do you really expect SAP and Oracle and Excel and e-mail to disappear? Go get a life.

My answer is simple.

It’s going to look like Netvibes.


I think there’s a lot that we can learn from the Netvibes model. Here’s a summary:

  • 1. It encapsulates syndication, search, conversation and fulfilment already. Yes it’s currently weaker on conversation and fulfilment, but the model’s already there.
  • 2. It helps people visualise what it would mean to have “traditional” enterprise applications get “demoted” to becoming content publishers. Why do you think all the world and his wife are trying to patent RSS implementations? We should all rally round Dave Winer on this. RSS is for everyone; every attempt to patent a particular implementation just adds more gunk to the DRM gunge.
  • 3. It exemplifies how single-sign on can work, how layers of application authentication and permissioning can get taken care of.
  • 4. The powerful personalisation it represents is a sign of the times. Choose what you want to see, where you want to see it, how you want to see it. Mass customisation provided by relentless standardisation.
  • 5. It leads the way on what browser independent means. Just look at how long it took for Netvibes to have Wii browser support. Amazing.
  • 6. The ecosystem model is very much where enterprise software needs to go. To me it really gets the Free as In Freedom model right, it has all the feel and behaviour of community yet  is packaged in a sensible commercial manner.
  • 7. It captures something that I think is critical for enterprises. A sense of consistent information from single trusted sources with differentiated granularity. You choose the granularity. The information remains the same. The process of altering the granularity is the same for everyone.

There’s a lot that’s good about Netvibes, and a lot we can improve on as well. What do you think? Do let me know.

I will continue on this theme sometime over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, I wish everyone a happy new year.

7 thoughts on “Thinking about Four Pillars and enterprise software”

  1. Hi JP,

    Amazing. I just looked at the netvibes page a few minutes ago, I can see how I could make this a true browser home page. I see you have been in a spanish mood music wise today and I have been checking out last FM as I add Mahler to what will be a terabyte of mp4 files by the time I finish digitizing my classical CDs. I spent a year in London (1965-1966) at the LSE. What a golden age. I heard many of the Mahler Symphonies performed at the Royal Festival Hall before I ever heard them recorded.

    Merry Christmas JP. You are wishing everyone an early new year. Trust we will hear from you before the new year rings in.

  2. I like the idea. You could think Outlook (and I guess other alternatives similarly) has “widgets” for calendar, email, todos, etc. But doing it the netvibes way, the start page information could be a lot more specific, only listing information for the current project for instance. And it would be very easy to change and customize the view often to best suit the changing work situations and provide the information that needs most attention.

  3. There is something reassuringly convergent about Netvibes, yet I fear is still has some usability issues to work through. Indeed, to my agency I’ve recently identified it as an example how of increasingly capable and functional tools can create towering barriers for users. We strive to deliver digital experiences, be they to communicate information, to shape brand messages or, simply, to build/nurture communities.

    I use Netvibes and agree it is (philosophically) moving us in the right direction. It isn’t perfect yet and we still face a design challenge creating tools as usable as they are powerful. As you continue to point out, it is an ongoing and evolutionary process.

Let me know what you think

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