Wednesday 24 August 2011

Social silos adding to enterprise silos? Not with proper Integration

Laurie Buzcek called out for Integration as a solution for the failure of Enterprise 2.0 and Social Business - which she equates to each other - and I couldn't help but think of Tibbr when reading her post
Dion Hinchcliffe responded with a post in which he also stresses the integration of social media with enterprise tools, albeit he's careful to stress that pure technology can't be the answer - apparently we're really beyond E2.0 now

Dion claims OpenSocial 2.0 is the answer but I fail to see how that will help us further: although an impressive amount of work, it is purely technical and relying on the fact that

Developers can create applications, using standard JavaScript and HTML, that run on social websites that have implemented the OpenSocial APIs

and I don't see that happen any time soon - the only successful 2.0 Social Tools are those that are 1.0 in nature: confined
Old and new, East and West, the twain will never meet. Watch the current drama with Cloud Computing: Cloud became Pure Cloud because the software and hardware vendors invented Private Cloud, then others jumped in and compromised that to death with Hybrid Cloud. Who's wrong there? No one if you ask me.
It's the age-old story between establishment and rebels or revolutionaries: in real life you might even have a genuine bloodshed and a clear win, but in the end you end up converging from both sides and ending up somewhere in the middle, and consolidating on all three frontiers: old, new and old-new

Take the vendors: they represent the old. IBM is a perfect example, not having innovated much in the last decades. Whenever I hear people tell me they use Lotus Notes they either apologise or look sad, but IBM isn't too shy to push that as the new Social Tool at the Lotusphere conference back in February. IBM = Social? Heck no - you can still register for the event that took place 7 months ago

Take "the people": they represent the new. They want open standards, new stuff, one single user interface and log in to access all their applications: social, private, business, work, everything. Yes, from desktop (anyone still have one by the way?), laptop, mobile, xPad. Oh and free of course, and with archiving, oh and being able to retrieve data accidentally deleted

What's in between? A huge gaping void - and that's exactly why I chose the picture above. Enterprise or even company business is not about hugging your clients for free, it's about delivering hard value for hard cash. Whatever revolution you claim to represent, someone must be buying it or willing to fund it. And unless you have hundreds of millions of users and / or a very smart marketing machine, guess what?

So, the old are willing to buy in when they can make more money. That means either selling their old stuff under a new name with some slightly altered functionality in the beginning, then slowly converging towards the new new (sic) with adding real functionality - fake it till you make it

There is something in between the new and the old though: take Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn - they offer a lot for free and some for money. They, like the old, are trying to impose their standards onto the world, because they know there's money in proprietary. Building in some nickel-and-dime next new standard? Heck no - why? It will cost money to do so and even more money by having done so - giving away control over your confined user base usually doesn't have a solid business case

So in the left corner we have the old, and in the right corner we have the new: now who's inching towards whom? The answer: no one is

I saw the rise, shine and demise of XML. Of ESB. Of SOA. Of SOAP. Everything invented in the last decade with regards to Integration, was a fight between the old and the new. Standards committees were (over)populated by hardware and software vendors so they could keep their finger on the pulse and know (and push) what next to sell. Are they interested in open standards? Certainly not - their only interest is in using so-called open standards as a sales channel

So, if we want to move away from the old enterprise silos, yet want to avoid social silos, who's going to do that? My age-old answer: accept the ever-changing diversity and just get your integration-act together; you shouldn't have silos in the first place.
We're writing the year 2011: plenty of tech and tools around to enable applications to disclose their functionality. How? Who cares - syntax is never an issue, semantics is. We don't get into fights because we don't speak the same language, we fight (and mame, kill, etc) because we don't understand each other

The easy part of IT is the fact that all applications are there because they fulfill a functional business goal: their semantics do the job for us. Maybe not for 100% (anymore), but it's close enough.
The somewhat less easy part is to write down the structure of that: in IT we call that data model. How many minimum and maximum order lines per order, and items per lines? What is required for a delivery address, a work address, a home address?

Where ever your business requirements meet your system limitations, you have a Go: you have a complete service that will fulfill your business needs, and can populate that with data from inside the application itself, from outside it, from across the globe, by OCR-ing a fax, or by a Tweet or status update - as long as they comply with your minimum demands. If you have your application integration (A2A) in shape, you have no silos, and are "open" to the whole world

Will there be Twitter in 20 years? Probably not. Will there be Facebook in 20 years? Probably not. Will your enterprise application landscape be the same in 20 years? Probably not. Will there be a need for Integration in 20 years? Absolutely most certainly so

Next I'll write about the different levels of Integration: A2A, B2B, B2C. If you haven't got the message yet, it's never about one single standard, or one-size-fits-all. If you want to break the power of the Old - as well as the new New - you have to come up with a cunning plan

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