I only recently found out about GigaOm's upcoming Net:Work conference. It's held December 9 at UCSF Mission Bay conference center. While the name of the conference is a bit ambiguous, the actual area of focus is very clear: how will we collaborate in the 21st century?
The impact of smartphones, tablet computing, social networks, Software-as-a-Service and Cloud computing is just starting. As a result, I think there are tremendous opportunities for startup companies to disrupt existing markets with more modern, lightweight applications that foster collaboration inside the company as well as with partners, vendors, consultants and customers.
Companies that can more effectively tap into talent within their organization and across traditional boundaries may end up having a significant competitive advantage. Instead of the traditional top-down view of management edicts flowing from HQ to employees and field offices, you now have the potential to develop, test and refine ideas from any part of the company or community regardless of location.
That was the approach we took at MySQL and it worked very well with employees distributed in more than 40 countries, 90% of whom worked from their homes. We also had a huge community of users we could tap into that contributed tremendous value to the company. Even though we had primitive tools for collaboration (IRC, Skype, Forums, Wikis, conference calls, mailing lists etc), we always operated with a global perspective. This enabled us to develop great talent regardless of location. Managing a distributed organization is not easy, but you get some amazing benefits if you do it right.
Speakers at the conference include Marc Benioff (Salesforce.com), Dave Hersh (Jive), Maynard Webb (LiveOps), Tom Kelly (Moxie Software), Doug Solomon (IDEO), Zach Nelson (NetSuite), Aaron Levie (Box.net), Ross Mayfield (SocialText) and more.