The Office 2.0 conference took place in San Francisco this week and I attended and took notes for ReadWriteWeb. The Day 1 recap is here and Day 2 is below.

The sessions highlighted in this post are Going 100% SaaS and Meeting without traveling. I also reviewed Joblogs, a CRM "relationship and management lite".

Going 100% SaaS

This was the session I really wanted to see the roll call of panelists was;

  • Gadi Shamia (Revongo)
  • Daniel Druker (Intacct)
  • Doug Harr (Ingres)
  • Robert Hull (Adaptive Planning)
  • Jeff Schultz (Bill.com)

Not surprisingly the recent Debes article came up - the crowd, again not surprisingly, was dismissive of Debes contentions about the imminent demise of SaaS as a model.

First question was why aspire for 100% SaaS?

The panelists agreed that SaaS gives functionality to SMBs that they wouldn't have otherwise been able to access. There was also agreement around the enabling benefits of SaaS apps. Why build a data center or expensive traditional software when it's so much more readily accessible and cheaper via SaaS?

In response to a question from the floor about whether or not SaaS is actually cheaper or whether that is just a marketing spin, Doug Harr from Ingres gave the example of a Siebel implementation for 150 salespeople that cost $1.5million. His new company implemented Salesforce.com which cost $140k/year for 130 users.

Another question from the floor raised security concerns for large businesses - the panelists agreed that they had no real concerns about their data being in the cloud.

What sort of business is more likely to adopt SaaS? - not surprisingly the panelists felt technology companies were prime candidates, also service companies, young companies and rapidly growing organizations. Phil Wainewright brought up the issues around large businesses not going with SaaS due to their already sunken costs - again Doug Harr gave a great example where true total cost of ownership analysis can bring up surprising results - the costs and hassles with the old school behemoth software offerings are often sufficiently high to outweigh the monthly costs of a SaaS alternative.

Discussion around integration - feeling was at this point in time it's acceptable but this is where the growth will come from  - creating pseudo best-of-breed total solutions via integration of diverse offerings.

To be honest, given the fact that this conference is meant to be about visioning the future - it was a surprise that so much time was taken in justifying SaaS as a model - it would have been nice to see more time spent on a picture of what a truly 100% SaaS ecosystem would look and feel like - maybe next year....

Meeting without traveling

A panel discussion that the Twitterverse was no doubt interested in - check out the Twitter cred of the participants;

  • Robert Scoble (Fast Company)
  • Guillaume Cohen (Veodia)
  • Gary Griffiths (LiteScape)
  • Loic Le Meur (Seesmic)
  • Alain Mowad (Polycom)

The panelists introduced themselves and their businesses/offerings. The panel ranges across the spectrum from super hi quality Cisco Telepresence systems down to Seesmic for low quality ad hoc solutions like Seesmic.

Loic Lemeur announced that Twhirl will include video within the next two weeks. He discussed the fact that video allows relationships to be formed around the world without actual presence - it brings people closer together.

Robert told of WalMart's ability to buy fabric internationally over video conferencing the quality is so high.

Cohen told of the savings that video conferencing brings - gas, time, environmental etc. People can work remotely easily - so long as the video integrates tightly with their existing workflow processes - people feel more comfortable giving feedback over video than "in the flesh". Veodia does all the hard work in the background and serves up one button for users to push - delivering up the best quality that the connection available can give.

Mowad says that Polycom is much more focused on real time video sharing - gives examples of tele-medicine and tele-education.

Questions from the floor.....

What are the coolest things the tools could have?

  • Someone who has video on 24hrs a day when she works remotely - a sense of intimacy when they're not there
  • How do you create a technology that becomes so immersive that one feels that they're "really there"
  • Video brings an experience as close as possible to real life
  • Video enables Seesmic to run an international development team with real time collaboration

How can video-conferencing work when their are larger teams?

  • Remote controlled monitors that move depending on who is talking!
  • There's a threshold beyond which video conferencing just doesn't work - 9 or 10 people perhaps?
  • There is a perception of presence - the host of offerings - audio, video, IM etc build up a feeling of intimacy that means that the group feel together - even if the camera is focusing on someone else at the time

Discussion ensued about the fact that going forward the ability to catalogue the audio from a video stream - allowing for searching and text string recognition.

Joblogs launches!

I took the opportunity to meet this morning with Steve Ireland from Joblogs - a startup out of Canada which launched their offering today.

Joblogs is most readily described as CRM, relationship and management lite. It serves up a nice, intuitive and quick workspace which allows for the aggregation of contact information, email and documents and links and stakeholder comments all in one location. Their name is a mashup of Job and Blogs - not blogs in the traditional sense but in the sense of being enablers of two way communication and idea collaboration.

It's a good solution for anyone handling large number of customer interactions - service based industries being the most obvious - anyone that requires daily coordination of a dynamic set of different data streams.

It goes out to general release on Monday 9 September and has been bootstrapped via subscription from a previous offering. Joblogs puts their specific points of difference as;

  • Non-obstructive user interface (e.g. no save or cancel buttons, and of course no page refreshes)
  • Customizable databases with drag and drop
  • Private blogs with that serve as a point of collaboration for business projects
  • Arbitrarily relate different records together
  • Email dropbox that automatically links messages to associated contacts, companies and projects

Here's a screencast of the product:

And it's over!

Sitting in the last session of the conference with organiser Ismael Ghalimi going over the tools used to run the entire operation - 500 physical attendees and a couple of thousand virtual ones. All planned and arranged in a couple of months - it's been a whirlwind.

Overall it's been great to be around a bunch of people who "get it" - understand the cloud and what it can bring to business going forwards.

If I had any criticism it would be that a lot of time was spent talking about where we are at - not so much time spent envisioning the future. Obviously with a number of vendors present this isn't a surprising fact - but nonetheless it would have been great to have some vision sessions that were vendor agnostic.

Anyway... thanks to all the attendees, thanks a bunch to Ismael and his team and I look forward to seeing you all again next year.