Firstly – Happy New Year to you all. I hope 2008 brings you everything you want and more. For me, it is good to be back in the saddle.

Surfing Jay Deragon’s blog (seems to be down at time of writing) this morning I found the following quote from Marc Canter:

I believe that all software are social. As a vendor you need to be a parent. You need to know when to hold on and when to let go, as well as not only to talk but when to listen also.

I love the way this captures the opportunities and the challenges of the future on so many levels.

Firstly Marc is spot in saying that all software needs to be social. I think this has a couple of dimensions; social networking/web2.0 features and extensibility.

On the web2.0 feature side I think we will see more and more companies getting to grips with the fact that markets are conversations and building out the services that enable them to play in this arena. Also from Jay:

“The list of financial firms deploying Web 2.0 applications, both within the enterprise and externally, is growing. TD Ameritrade, Bear Stearns and Wells Fargo all have announced new 2.0 applications in the last few months. “Enterprise social networking is still in its exploratory stages,” observes Matthew Nelson, senior analyst with TowerGroup. [Ed. note: At press time, Nelson left TowerGrouo to join Omgeo as director, market intelligence.] “But it is going to become standard. The industry simply can’t afford not to go this way because that’s the way people in general — employees and customers — are shifting.”

On the extensibility side the success of Ning, Salesforce and Facebook in the last twelve months give a great steer on the way the world is going. These companies have all benefited greatly from opening their platforms to third party extension and customisation. Note that this goes much deeper than configuration. I’ve linked to it previously, but Marc Andreessen’s excellent post from last year on platforms captures this brilliantly.

But there is nothing so far that hasn’t been said before, in one form or another.

Which brings me to my second point, which is the analogy with parenthood. It captures brilliantly how you have to take chances to succeed and the fine judgments that are involved. It also talks to how difficult the execution is. As a parent you are continually faced with important decisions that have no clear right or wrong answer, this has not traditionally been the case in business (not to the same extent anyway), but as everything moves social that is changing.

Judging how open to make your platform or how to properly engage your customer base (current and future) is difficult – there aren’t many precedents to look at and the implications are huge. On the platform front being truly open has major architecture and code implications and on the engagement front once you start in social media, stopping will be counterproductive.

Making the right decisions requires a deep understanding of both the issues and your customer base and doesn’t lend itself to traditional strategic analysis. At this early stage of the market it is more about intuition and gut feel, which makes it doubly difficult for established companies run by people whose success came from having an altogether different mindset.