Yes, the question of “does it scale down” sounds bizarre to any builder of IT solutions since the first thing we are taught to consider is whether the solution scales up. Bigger has always been better over the last two decades, as IT has built up desk-based, client-server solutions and dealt with an exponentially growing number of users and the ever increasing size of monolithic applications. Scaling up has been the litmus test for these solutions since we have long held assumptions that exercising centralised control is necessary and applications should be big enough to encompass the full gamut of functionality.
Against this backdrop of growth in users and desperate grasp on centralization, we have also observed more diversity in the Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) software. So we are adding more applications into the complex enterprise spaghetti of systems. I mention all of this to show why the primary task of technologists, for so long, has been to solve the myriad of technical problems associated with scaling up.
This leads to a challenge I received from my own CEO about two years ago. He asked why I shifted my focus from technology towards business, or more specifically toward the new business ideas that Web 2.0 was driving. He teased me that perhaps I should become a member of Capgemini Consulting and work in Business Consulting. I replied seriously, if not with a fully formed answer. Essentially, I was expressing a belief that the shift from IT to Business Technology, aka the Consumerisation of IT, and the rise of Web Services (soon to be full Cloud Solutions) were changing the game, the focus, skills and capabilities of technologists.
Breaking it Down
Flash forward to the present and the driving forces in business now include decentralisation, meaning local optimisation towards the market place and events, and small, very small, applets, or apps. The enterprise architecture has also changed 180 degrees from close-coupled, state-full and deterministic to loose-coupled, state-less and non-deterministic.
So in a few short years we have gone from systems integration to services orchestration. And yes, all of this has to co-exist with and integrate with certain points of IT, but technologists need a radically different skill set to perform this type of orchestration. Who will break down these monolithic applications into small applets capable of providing for decentralized services? Those who have the experience to truly say they have worked with business technology and have hybrid skills. This is quite different than a technologist who picked up a Harvard Business Review book or an MBA who has an iPad. These are people like the ones my CEO actually did shift between Capgemini Consulting and Technology Services.
The App Store Principle
The challenge of scale has now been reversed. We should be asking if applications or services can achieve optimal granualisation? Are they designed to facilitate orchestration? These are the App Store Principle questions. And the answers require a different set of technology skills that include understanding, really understanding, how to use Clouds, Virtualisation, Rich Internet Applications, Open Source and new standards. That’s the developer side but on the other side is the creation of genuine valuable user capabilities that provide recognizable benefits to their lives. That’s not easy and the best innovations come from those directly involved in the users working area, the business savvy skill set.
The punch line? It is time to start seriously considering how to set up an internal App Shop in your enterprise and give a safe and enabling outfit to the creativity of your colleagues across the entire enterprise. Also, recognize the need to remix skills in a new way. Hybrid skilling needs help to develop and grow; in many senses it is at odds with the specialization models that have been necessary for the elements that make up the complexity of conventional IT systems.
Here at Capgemini we are trying to adjust to this as well, so expect to see changes in our web site as we try to make it more relevant. As a starting point there is www.thegreatremix.com from our colleagues in North America.