I had the privilege of watching the recent NSA surveillance story unfold from my hotel room in London this June. Seeing the story from a decidedly non-American viewpoint got me thinking a bit differently about the implications for our society. From my point of view — no matter how you define the squishy and now beat-to-death “big data” concept — the NSA story has moved it from something “they use” to something that is uncomfortably close to where we live our lives. In other words, big data just moved in next door and is peeking over our fences into our living rooms. Eeek.
There are lots of socio-political issues with this, and I’m not even going to go there. However, the way that I see it, this incident will ultimately create a lot of opportunity for businesses savvy enough to get ahead of it the can of worms now squirming in our laps.
I think one of two things is going to happen. Either: 1) the US general public will shrug and go back to business as usual and this story will die, or 2) the public outrage will demand governmental oversight and accountability resulting in a tightening of our legal system. The latter case would be an example of how digital disruption, a topic we have written and blogged about for a while, is not just a business thing. It’s a cultural phenomenon that will rock our society for a long time.
A few weeks ago I read a blog post by Seth Godin and it hit me like a ton of bricks: Records management is a skeuomorph. I confess, I had never heard of the term “skeuomorphism” until just a few months ago. I learned the word via blogs and tech articles discussing design trends in mobile.
What is a skeuomorph? A simple definition (courtesy of academic George Basalla, via Wikipedia) is “an element of design or structure that serves little or no purpose in the artifact fashioned from the new material but was essential to the object made from the original material.”
In other words, every time we pick up an iPad and download our digital “book” on an electronic “shelf” painted with virtual wood stain – we are engaging with a skeuomorph – like this one:
Since joining Forrester this year, I’ve had the opportunity to get briefed on the RM offerings of many ECM and information governance vendors, and with just a few exceptions, there are some unmistakable common threads I see across products. Top of that list? A user experience that has lifted the paradigm of paper and plopped it on top of an electronic records repository.
For the past few years of our enterprise architecture management suite (EAMS) coverage, we’ve noticed a trend that many of our clients are seeing in their own organizations: As the scope of the practice of EA expands, the range of what they need for tooling expands – and there is no one tool that accomplishes the full span of these needs. Though many vendors fly the flag of the full and broad EAMS, the reality is that they’re all bringing a different perspective to the mission and content of EA. I demonstrated this in The Forrester Wave™: EA Management Suites, Q2 2013, where I looked at four different EA value propositions, and found different firms were leaders in these different value propositions.
The news from this morning that Software AG acquired alfabet AG is an indicator that maybe this is about to change. The merger of Software AG’s business-process-centric view with alfabet’s strengths in IT planning and portfolio management mends one of the biggest divides in the market today between business process and enterprise architecture roles. There’s still plenty to learn about this acquisition, but I have a few initial reactions that are quite positive for the now united companies:
1. If properly brought together, the new offering could be the power-player. Both are leaders in the EAMS market from a tool functionality perspective, giving fantastic depth and breadth to the future offering.
Watching a recent episode of The Apprentice, I was struck by how completely disorganized they all were. I realized that it didn’t matter who the PM was on the “team”; they all suffered the same problem – there was never enough discussion of goals and objectives, never any discussion of needed responsibilities and the roles that would carry them out, no clarity on ownership of those responsibilities (trust and empowerment). Instead of a consideration of what is needed, there is a rush to action . . . as though just starting will get them to the goal sooner.
As a result, there were always people standing on the sidelines wondering what to do – always people trying to lord it over others, always errors of judgment, missed opportunities, lack of transparency, and a complete failure to meet the goals and objectives (set by Lord Sugar).
Doesn’t that sound familiar?
So many businesses are similarly disorganized. Most organizations struggle to balance a wide range of issues – the differing demands of customers, the need to cut costs, ensure compliance, respond to the actions of competitors, etc. Point is that without an integrating architecture; these conflicting challenges spawn weak execution and organizational thrashing (just like the teams in The Apprentice). The culture in these organizations focuses on appeasing the leaders of the silos, with little thought put into what is needed to achieve the ultimate goals and objectives. And for most commercial businesses it’s the outcomes delivered to customers or external stakeholders that suffer.
Ten years ago, open source software (OSS) was more like a toy for independent software vendors (ISVs) in China: Only the geeks in R&D played around with it. However, the software industry has been developing quickly in China throughout the past decade, and technology trends such as service-oriented architecture (SOA), business process management (BPM), cloud computing, the mobile Internet, and big data are driving much broader adoption of OSS.
OSS has become a widely used element of firms’ enterprise architecture. For front-end application architecture on the client side, various open source frameworks, such as jQuery and ExtJS, have been incorporated into many ISVs’ front-end frameworks. On the server side, OSS like Node.js is becoming popular for ISVs in China for high Web throughput capabilities. From an infrastructure and information architecture perspective, open source offerings like Openstack, Cloudstack, and Eucalyptus have been piloted by major telecom carriers including China Telecom and China Unicom, as well as information and communication solution providers like Huawei and IT service providers like CIeNET. To round this out, many startup companies are developing solutions based on MongoDB, an open source NoSQL database.
Familiarity with OSS is becoming a necessary qualification for software developers and product strategy professionals. Because of the wide usage of OSS among both vendors and end users, working experience and extensive knowledge with OSS is becoming a necessary qualification not only for software engineers, but also an important factors for product strategy professionals to establish appropriate product road maps and support their business initiatives.