In Part 1 of this series we introduced Vorpal Inc, a traditional company in the popcorn machines business, entering new markets by bringing some ‘Shadow IT’ into the light…
Part 2: The larger picture
The larger picture of what Vorpal is going through is a shift from ‘hub IT’ to ‘Edge IT’. The wagon wheel representation shows this as a next step in historical enterprise applications evolution:
- The ‘hub’ holds the core enterprise data and monstrous, large scale applications to maintain it, with clear, predictable processes;
- As the limits of the hub are reached, customization and refining to new business needs happen through custom Enterprise applications;
- The ultimate level of flexibility and dynamism is achieved by opening up to the new world via controlled services. Inevitable to remain competitive in tomorrow’s markets.
Unfortunately it is an evolution that few companies will initiate spontaneously. One single idea -ideally-, holding a promise of revenues, might trigger the transformation process. But preferably a company has a culture that stimulates its workers in creativity, provides room and space for people to think, experiment and learn. A starting point can be pretty standard collaboration tools and platforms, although that already means for traditional management to let go of micro-control. And then quickly social media come peeking around the corner…
It helps revealing new ideas at the companies that dare to go for corporate utilization of Shadow IT. It will bring what is hiding in the dark into the light. Note that this is like unlocking the unstructured hidden information in enterprises (approximately 80%!), i.e. the Dark Matter of the Digital Universe. But, like in open-source projects, it requires gatekeepers (‘repository keepers’ in the book) for the collection and realization of ideas. Gatekeepers serve to protect the overall integrity and compliance of built services.
It may require no more than utilizing the power of the already present ‘computer natives’ generation workers, natural born innovators, and their use of shadow IT. They naturally form communities with like-minded outsiders, your source of innovation at hand. This is “Generation 3.0”, the X & Y generation (<30y). They are a demographically increasing portion of today’s companies. By themselves highly critical on novelties and the use of new technologies, they are very peer and community minded. So let them build new relationships, discover new business enablers. Support them. Even if it requires IT departments to start thinking beyond the firewall of the company, beyond the traditional one-way communication portals, beyond classical content management. IT can rest assured that the firewall will only let pass flows and data through controlled and secure services.
The potential of the changing web should be used in corporate advantage by using it as a platform to run transaction services, by building and supporting (composite) mashup applications. The services will safeguard secure control of the data and the conversation. And the automation aspect of it will take away wasteful and robotic operations from people, reducing errors at the same time. It will open products to new markets as external parties can connect to controlled services and do business… for you. And ‘controlled’ does still mean legal agreements, contracts, concise frameworks, documented rules, service repositories and… technical support on the offered services. Not in the least as sometimes official regulations may be applicable. Companies can at last provide real-time answers to a growing on-demand market, users and customers.
The rules of service-based operations however do not only apply to the customer side. Suppliers should be offering services to which a company can connect, establishing a complete SOA-enabled supply chain, turning it into a real value chain. It holds a way of integrating with suppliers that very much resembles the Lean vision. It’s about building relationships on profit (and risk!) sharing. Mutual growth rather than a traditional supplier-customer relationship that is based upon large volume purchases, big negotiation rounds and pressuring one another, likely to end up with at least one strangled party.
The target of the SOA transformation is that there is no target, no definite end goal. The target is an ever-involving ecosystem, a living organism of actors that interact and work together upon a clear set of technical and social rules, forming a whole to flexibly respond to external circumstances and changes. Communities.
The transition to a service-enabled enterprise is not one to be made overnight. It can only be done gradually, including learning from each step.
- It starts with the design and implementation of one or some services;
- To move on by grouping services in systems of services that cover complete business processes and include well-thought orchestration.
- The highest maturity consists of service-enabling all enterprise applications. This will require new professions, titles and functions. Although that’s part of what is traditionally called ‘change management’, this still is psychologically very sensitive. And the introduction of incentives in itself is not enough. People should be in many options beneficial on the ‘success’. Many fears need to be addressed.
Creating and evolving (web)services puts a lot of pressure on IT and development. It requires a ‘build-and-run-fast’ culture throughout the organization, but certainly from those building the software and applications. The book presents a little summary of eXtreme Programming, Scrum and RUP, acknowledging the added value of these fast-delivering development methods.
Good subject to elaborate on in a next part…