Time to be either controversial or helpful in identifying what is the real issue in the use of technology for business as we look ahead. It’s pretty clear too that from CEOs, to CIOs; from CTOs to CFOs; to say nothing of users and consumers, we are using a wider range of technologies than ever, and more particularly that this is largely due to the advent of a new ‘paradigm’ (please forgive me for the use of the word) with various aspects of the Web at the centre.
We were here some twenty years ago, and many of us built our careers on the last paradigm change around the introduction of Personal Computing and the whole shift in technology and working practice that this introduced. It was this shift in, well just about every aspect of computing and its use, which led to the term Information Technology, or IT, being introduced in the early nineties to cover this entirely different environment. The point of introducing the term was to separate the new technology environment built around PCs, Networks, and Client- Server architecture from the previous generation of computing technology.
There is a similar argument today that says using Web based technologies in the enterprise is sufficiently different both for business purpose and technologies applied that it too should have a different name to prevent confusion. Forrester Group, as far as I am aware, first proposed this back in 2006, and followed up with a detailed analysis in May 2007. Since then it has become more widely recognised and adopted.
The key definition is obviously that IT was PC Network based, and BT is Web and Internet based, but I want to go further than that and look at the architecture side. IT was clearly based on client-server and split the technology elements up to support a person using a PC in new more productive ways. This was linked to a business organisational shift towards matrix working and lots of change in how enterprises established their back office practices. The term Business Architecture is used to define how an organisation is organised in respect of responsibilities. Wikipedia provides the following:
“Business Architecture” is an architecture that structures the accountability over business activities prior to any further effort to structure individual aspects (processes, data, functions, organization, systems, applications, etc.). A Business Architecture arranges the accountabilities around the most important business activities (for instance production, distribution, marketing, etc.) and/or the economic activities (for instance manufacturing, assembly, transport, wholesale, etc.) into domains.
That works for IT, but what works for BT? Firstly what comes first the technology architecture as in the case of client-server leading to business architecture of ERP, or the Business innovating its working practice as in the case of the PC at initially a personal level? Right now I think we are at the personal level moving to the department level in much of the Web 2.0 based adoption, and we are just starting to grasp the enterprise level consequences with the MashUp playing the role of the spreadsheet.
A colleague has just written an excellent white paper on deploying MashUps at Enterprise level that demonstrates the value of this move clearly. But what is the real Business Architecture that is the value from Business Technology? Your thoughts are welcomed and I will be posting mine next week.