Four Pillars: More on enterprise standards

I thought it was worth picking up on the comments made by Kris Tuttle and by James Dellow on my previous post. We’re all driving towards the same place.

First, on the reason why enterprises choose to reduce proliferation of architectures and their components, why formal standards made sense. I believe this was for three reasons:

One, procurement. You could bring purchasing power into play by selecting and standardising on one. Even if you kept a second waiting in the wings, the threat of switching was a powerful incentive for vendors to keep their prices sharp. That kind of thinking is the basis of the story of the Amdahl salesman who walked into a major buyer’s office, put an Amdahl mug down on the guy’s desk and said “There. Just let it stay there and you’ll save a million bucks”, or words to that effect.

Two, EAI. All the “big” consultants in the world were eager to tell you that IF you standardised on operating system and database and language and whatever else, THEN you would have reduced costs of application integration. They could then shift to selling data mining and business intelligence consulting while you manfully tried (and failed) to extricate your data from your systems.

Three, resource planning and hiring. By reducing the skillsets you needed, you had a better definition of the pool of people you had to have, with high resource fungibility. Then they came along and sold you the resources you didn’t have for the skillsets you were told you didn’t need. Usually augmented by arguments about “time to market” being the reason to deviate from the standards they helped you implement.
It’s always been about cost reduction. And all three reasons, if true, would have yielded cost reductions.

But unfortunately the cost reductions were hard to come by. The vendor of choice had a million ways of ensuring that you kept paying more, because you made them a strategic partner and gave them access to all your plans and thoughts and ideas. So now they could lock you in at your request and make you feel good about it. Random upgrade cycles came your way, always selling some new sizzle you didn’t need, but thoughtfully marketed to the people you gave them access to. The vendor relationship managers even went to the extent of camping in your offices at your cost, ostensibly for your own good.  And they were there to shift tin. And bodies. Owned or brokered. And they did it well.

I’ve already said enough about the resource argument and the EAI argument, both horribly flawed.

What we are discovering is that the standards are about an ecosystem, an ecosystem that is not closely held but community-managed and driven. And thankfully we are seeing such ecosystem standards emerge. That’s what I meant by the BETA generation meeting opensource.

Separately, when James mentions research reports claiming that institutions will ask employees to bring their own devices in, and the consequent challenges for IT departments, I think the answer is right but the reasoning of the research firms is wrong.

It’s not the institution who will tell employees to bring in their own devices; it’s the employees who will tell institutions that they insist on using their own devices. Stickered and personalised and skinned and whatever. [I wrote a post a long time ago about the fallacy of forcing people to use the firm’s devices, an action akin to telling people that they could only write using company pens….]

Any device you like. Wherever you like. Whenever you like. Connected whichever way you can. Everything recorded and archived and searchable. Everything open to begin with, then selectively closed to reflect real privacy or confidentiality issues, usually protected by law or regulation anyway.

Using just four classes of application: Syndication Search Fulfilment and Conversation. With a plethora of plugins and extensions from a similar plethora of sources, working within an ecosystem approach to standards, market-driven, market-maintained, community-enriched.

With the right things done in terms of identity, permissioning, authentication. Which affects our current concepts of IPR and DRM and Security and Confidentiality and Privacy. Which is why I spend so much time thinking about these things.

3 thoughts on “Four Pillars: More on enterprise standards”

  1. Great follow up post. You’re last two paragraphs are spot on. Also, re: employees bringing their own devices, I remember (ok, searched) for where I blogged this, also citing Gartner, around the same issue – http://chieftech.blogspot.com/2005/10/consumer-tech-seeping-into-corporate.html :

    According to Gartner there are five key reasons for keeping an eye on consumer technology:

    – Consumer technology impacts employees;
    – It can provide clear cost advantages over traditional corporate hardware and software;
    – Potential employees will know all about it;
    – Customers will already be using it; and
    – If you try to stop your employees using consumer technology for work, it will backfire.

  2. Don’t confuse standards with a single-sourcing decision. Deciding to build to Inernet Explorer is a single-source decision. You are completely reliant on Microsoft’s upward compatability support. That used to be very good, but they have broken it seriously over the past few years.

    Choosing a standard is very different. XML and HTTP are standards. You can decide whether a product supports those standards.

    The cheapest approach is probalby to choose standards and preferred vendors, but not to lock out other vendors. If a Firefox user finds that your portal isn’t legal HTML, then go ahead and fix it. It doesn’t meet the standard.

  3. Mediaeval cathedrals have survived in surprisingly good condition into the 21st century. A few have burned down but I know of none that have collapsed without intervention or neglect. They were built by professional masons who provided their own tools and were trusted once they had mastered their skill. The master mason would coordinate the work, but he did not force them to use tools he supplied nor to submit their design for that flying buttress to the bishop for prior approval.

    We seem to have lost some of the lessons of history.

Let me know what you think