My Thoughts on Wave

My Wave single coverRich dumped his impressions and thoughts on Google Wave yesterday. Now it’s my turn.

In a weird coincidence, I heard Soundgarden’s “My Wave” earlier today and immediately thought of Friend of the ‘Lab Floyd‘s penchant for beginning his posts with song lyrics. Not sure why he’s stopped doing that, it’s a great little calling card for his posts.

Anyway, as Rich mentioned, he and I riffed for a while on the phone yesterday about Wave’s potential within the enterprise.

From the beginning of the ‘Lab, on of our goals has been to investigate a simple theory:

Work should revolve around people because people do work.

Seems simple enough. No matter what product or service a business provides, people are involved.

Enterprises may coalesce around objects like transactions, which are easily modeled by software, but fundamentally, every business has people running it. The struggle faced by many businesses involves mixing automated processes with manual work that requires people. As enterprises collect more and more electronically stored information, the constraint becomes people’s ability to find, analyze and process information.

This is a tough nut to crack. Portals, knowledge management and now, social platforms have moved to solve the consolidation and collaboration issues faced by enterprises.

Now, Wave provide a new framework for modeling human and robot (automated) collaboration.

Aside from the shiny objects the Wave demo showed (natural language processing, real-time, playback), the addition of robots to collaborative waves shows interesting potential for combining existing business process with the right people. Rich talked about his ideas for Recruitie and Expensie, and their are literally dozens of these robots that could be built on top of the business processes and workflows that are core to enterprise applications.

Think about your job. It’s pretty likely your work requires process that’s a combination of software and human interaction. What do you do?

Doing something can be boiled down to an action verb, e.g. submit, approve, procure, create, coordinate, build, test, buy, etc.

All those verbs are mapped out in flow charts or task lists somewhere, and frequently, they have been turned into software a.k.a business process automation.

Looking at Wave, you can see how these action verbs become interactive waves, peppering in a combination of people and robots along the way to completion. Even fully automated processes could benefit from waves. After all, success and failure of a process are updates that interest people, e.g. if you’re a DBA, you probably care that your batch processing completes, and you definitely care if it fails.

The federation interests me too. There are loads of processes that involve parties who don’t share networks. Remember extranets? If federation of Wave instances works as demonstrated, you could easily include outside parties like customers and suppliers for collaboration.

Even though the Wave demo showed mostly consumer-facing flows, the enterprise side has a ton more to offer developers than the consumer side. Think about it. The number of disparate tasks people do at work far outnumbers what people do online.

If Google really does open up Wave, the real advances will be in the enterprise. Once someone builds an Amazon robot, what’s left aside from tweaking it?

There are a lot of unknowns here, natch, e.g. security, compatibility, technology constraints, integrations, uptake, interoperability. You know the drill

Still, I’m as excited as Rich to get my grubby little hands on the code to start testing all these ideas.

It’s funny. About three years ago, I had an extended conversation with an SVP here about Google as a viable enterprise player, one that eventually helped land me this job. To this day, people don’t see it. Google’s all about ads, enterprise is a second-class citizen, they aren’t secure, etc. You know the manifest of objections.

Google’s huge. They have the iron to pull off real SaaS, and they’ve quietly built a pretty solid enterprise offering. They understand the enterprise, and frankly, I think they’re happy to be written off by pundits in the enterprise space. Oh, and I include Amazon in the not-really-enterprise-yet category, too.

If you haven’t yet, I recommend you allocate 80 minutes for the Wave demo.

If nothing else, the demo is entertaining. Plus, if you haven’t seen it, you might think like Joel does about the cluttered interface. I have to agree; it’s not very minimalist, which is typically the hallmark of Google’s UI. I assume the web interface could be replaced with another more traditional, email-style one. The platform and protocol matter more to me.

Share your thoughts here, positive and negative. This shiny object isn’t going away anytime soon.




  1. Hi.

    I've already given my first impressions on Rich's original blog, so I won't repeat myself.

    I have been wondering if wave could end up being the new friendfeed. My biggest challenge in terms of a Web 2.0 wannabe is actually keeping an eye on everything. Friendfeed helps, but it's not the answer. With the right extensions, wave could merge my emails, RSS, social networks and microblogs into a single consistent stream? You never know. 🙂

    I know it's a bit of a trivial use, but maybe that will attract the masses more than the business aspects of collaboration…



  2. Actually, those two were noticeably absent from the demo. They showed how Wave can interact with a blog, but not how it could aggregate information. They also didn't cover how contacts got into Wave.

    My guess is to do FriendFeed style aggregation would be possible via a robot, which I'm sure someone will build very early. Same thing for social network contact management. The APIs on those systems would make that pretty attractive as a starting point for developers.

    The consumer waves will be built quickly, but just as quickly, that well will run dry b/c there just aren't that many out there to build. This is why Rich and I see more promise for enterprises, leading to an ecosystem of enterprise waves built to support enterprise processes.

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