Lately, it seems, no system is ever “finished”. You are only running “this week’s build”. And this is how we want it! What drives the demand for continuous evolution of information systems?
In my opinion, it’s the possibilities. The possibility for interconnections among disparate systems, stakeholders, and devices. The model of exteme interconnectivity is enabled through standard protocols and data formats, and it is the single most striking change in IT from 4 years ago. There was a time when you needed to buy your CPU and your hard disk drive from the same manufacturer, or they wouldn’t work together. And can you belive we actually had vendor-specific networking technology? Does nayone remember DecNet and IBM’s Token Ring?!
Just ten years ago, Scott McNealy, then CEO of Sun Microsystems, was criticizing .NET as “Not yet” or “Dot Not”. His line was that .NET was a “lock in” strategy. Lock in! Remember that? Java was proposed as the way to avoid “vendor lock in”. Does anyone really think about vendor lock-in any more?
We have come a long, long way. Rather than worrying about evading vendor leverage, CIOs are interested in proactively solving business problems, and they realize that means interconnecting disparate systems. It means buying what they can buy, and building the rest, and forging as many connections as the business needs. It means relying on JSON, XML and REST – messaging, rather than elegant distributed object models like CORBA or Java everywhere, as the preferred way to connect systems.
The interconnectivity enabled by that practical approach is the impetus for continuous change.
Open standards and defined data formats allow the interconnections that produced the explosion in possibilities for building software systems. Any developer today can perform lookups on Google’s data services to do geolocation. It is straightforward to use Bing maps to display a color-coded map of sales results by country, or a map of the density of clients by county. This stuff was exotic or expensive just a few years ago, and now, because we can interconnect systems so easily, the state of the art has advanced to the point where the business demands this sort of analysis and intelligence. Look at Tableau Software – they are a terrific example of a company exploiting this trend.
Analysis of business data right now. When a new opportunity opens up, I want to be able to analyze that, right now.
But there is still so much more upside. Just the other day I was speaking to a sales manager who bemoaned the inability of his IT staff to produce a report he needed. But that situation is as unnecessary as it is frustrating. Why is he relying on someone else to produce his reports? He should have access to his own business data, the way he wants it! He should have desktop business intelligence. He shouldn’t have to wait for his monthly staff meeting to see the data.
There’s lots more to come.