Enterprise mashups are still both very chic and very poorly understood. I have accrued some experience in trying to help a range of clients understand how enterprise mashups can provide value to their business. I thought I would share the strategies that I employ in case you too are either wrestling with what they are all about, or trying to help colleagues get to grips with the concepts.
In the course of conversations with clients I find that I generally resort to one of three strategies depending upon their expectations and levels of understanding:

  1. The role of mashups in creating growth versus cutting costs.
  2. How mashups address a number of generic business and IT scenarios.
  3. The spectrum of capabilities within various enterprise mashup platforms.

Using one of these starting points and establishing a rapport, my goal is to create a “situational” conversation that provides the final concrete context in which explore opportunities. Sometimes I start at the top (1) and descend as required. Some clients like the hard detail, we start at the bottom (3) and I develop the conversation upwards. A lot of the time it makes sense to just start in the middle (2).
Starting at the top, I explain how mashups can facilitate innovation in a number of ways within businesses, such as through knowledge worker enablement and self service, or through re-wiring whole corporate ecosystems in heretofore unexpected ways. I contrast that with how mashups can support higher velocity, lower risk integration of existing information technology assets at a cost much lower than traditional approaches. It’s a top-line versus bottom-line thing, and there is a perceived greater appetite for the latter in these challenging times.
Starting at the bottom, I run through my personal categorisation of the strengths and weaknesses of a number of enterprise mashup platforms. Useful dimensions here include:

  • The types of mashup supported (process, function, data)
  • Levels of governance, management and security
  • The inevitable trade-off between power and flexibility versus simplicity and usability
  • Hosting scenarios (cloud, onsite, outsourced) and deployment scenarios (portal, web site, mobile device…)
  • Pre-caned integration and architecture pre-requisites

Some of the vendors I usually work through along these lines include Corizon, JackBe and Cordys.
Starting in the middle, I walk through a number of standard business and IT opportunities or pain points that address the need for growth, cost cutting, rapid delivery, better collaboration, sweating of assets or building upon SOA investments. These are usually well known scenarios to CIOs and CTOs and provide excellent conversational hooks onto which I attach exploratory discussions.
The only consistent theme in my mashup conversation with clients is that I walk in with a preconceived view of how mashups might help them and I am immediately taken on a tangential exploration of unforeseen circumstance and opportunity. Fortunately, this allows me to learn valuable concrete use cases that I can add to a library for later reuse in future engagements. So, I have the concepts, the strategies for imparting them and I am building up a portfolio of real life business value. I’d like to share some of these in future communiqués…