Finally, Web 2.0 and global competition are creating top-down demand (from the boardroom and CEO on down) for IT innovation. Many of the enterprise Web 2.0 capabilities can be directly linked to profits, and therefore have measurable ROI -- better customer acquisition and retention, for example, or increased employee productivity through collaboration.
To be sure, today’s crop of enterprise companies faces some major challenges. Commoditization rages on -- a Web analytics package that might have sold for $250,000 three years ago, for example, now can be had for free courtesy of Google. International competition from outsourcing services companies beginning to productize their solutions is another concern.
The big question is whether today's enterprise startups can string together enough pieces of differentiated functionality to be meaningful to enterprises -- and how many of them can develop into true, silo-spanning "platform companies." A recent Forrester study claimed that CIOs want to buy suites for Web 2.0 from large established vendors rather than small startups. The study cited the usual "integration" and "viability" concerns typically levied against early stage vendors, and advised Web 2.0 startups to "partner up" to successful penetrate enterprise accounts.
Perhaps that's right, but it may also be stale conventional wisdom, not what customers are actually saying or doing. Let's face it: Large incumbents almost never deliver the "next big thing" -- otherwise we'd still be running OS/2 and texting each other on our StarTACs.
Value creation isn't a smooth, polished process, either, but it's what enterprise customers need most these days. As a recent Gartner report pointed out, IT must think differently and focus on delivering new sources of value.
"The people who will make this happen are unlikely to be the staff you have already," the Gartner report said. "Your management team is likely a monoculture of middle-aged, middle managers from the aging baby boomer generation."
The same could be said of the incumbent, large vendor community. And that bodes well for the new crop of enterprises startups. So, for this month anyway, let's don our nose rings and let the disruptive innovation begin!