More on four pillars

Where was I rambling last night? Let me try a different tack. Consumerisation has taken hold of us; enterprise software design and architecture will now be driven more and more by consumer expectations. The consumers of tomorrow are the youth of today.

Unlike any previous generation, they come trained to use the tools of tomorrow. They live and breathe those tools.

And if we’re smart, we will leverage that learning and training. Somewhat like the inversion that Doc refers to in Intention Markets, we will no longer train people to use our tools, but change our tools to use their training.

Hence the four pillars.

There’s an interesting corollary, if we really buy this argument. Enterprise architecture is set by the market of tomorrow (today’s youth) and a level of convergence will therefore take place between market participants. So what differentiates the firms of tomorrow?

More later.

Thinking further about the four pillars: syndication

Imagine we live in a war-for-talent environment, because human beings don’t scale enough, and have yet to achieve Moore-Metcalfe-Gilder-influenced price-performance network-effect virtually-free-bandwidth existences.

Imagine that every “firm”, whatever such things will look like in five or ten years’ time, suddenly realises that grandma was right, that First Hire Good People, Then Do the Right Thing actually made sense.

Then imagine showing the graduates we’re trying to hire what we are used to, the core ERP and SCM applications we’ve replaced our clerks with, and the spaghetti of spreadsheets we’ve brought in as glue.

Have you ever seen a kid using a spreadsheet? or a presentation tool? Really using one? Maybe today’s college generation are just about willing to put up with analogous tools. But not tomorrow’s.

They don’t want separate logins and structured list menus that can only be accessed in specific ways, even if the firm concerned has managed to discover digital certificates and virtualisation and platform/device independence. They don’t want end-of-day reports. They don’t want it so much that they’ll find somewhere else to work, something else to do. And they’ll go where they like the “user experience”. It’s only old fogeys like me who will continue to use terms like user experience, for them it will be normal and expected.

They are an incredible resource in comparison to my generation. They already know how to use the technology of tomorrow. No training needed. Provided the applications work like the world they know, not the world we know.

Which means there is no longer any difference between SAP and BBC News and Wall St Journal and iTunes podcasts. Just published content that they can subscribe to and receive in a time of their choosing, on a device of their choosing, and in the way they want.

Does this mean we are going to replace all our core systems overnight? We couldn’t if we tried. But what we can do is make sure that the content we create and publish gets to them the way they expect to receive it.

Doc Searls has been posting about Intention Markets. And Sean at The Park Paradigm has taken the ball and run with it into financial markets in general.

Is it time to think about an Intention Market for information? Is that what syndication and alerts become? I declare my intention to acquire some form of information by subscribing to feeds and enriching the flow with profiling information and feedback loops; I discover them through some form of aggregator service, and then choose to transact with the information that best meets my interest.

The applications of tomorrow actually compete to give me the information I want the way I want it. They overlap in terms of content, but so what? We have applications today overlap, and we hire an army of people to keep it that way. It’s called reconciliation. They overlap in terms of functionality, but so what? They do that today, but we call it silo and regional thinking. And end-of-day reports is like telling tomorrow’s staff that the news can be seen at nine o’clock and at no other time.

The applications of tomorrow will have to deliver the content to a myriad of devices using a myriad of connection styles and types. 802.11 alphabet soup. And guess what, the devices won’t be locked down on to the desktop at the office either. These devices will probably be personalised and “skinned” and stickered and whatever else. Do you really want to look at the applications of today through mobile device form factors? Okay, I confess, I have seen people read spreadsheets on blackberry. But there’s a different answer to that. It’s called counselling.

Can you imagine rolling back the years and being a graduate wet-behind-the-ears and starting your first job, and being told you can only use company-issue pens? That’s what we will sound like when we tell tomorrow’s staff they must use our devices and our devices only.

And the price they will pay is their time and their attention.

There’s a lot to think about, and a lot to do. Comments and flames welcome. If this post doesn’t get flamed then my site must be down.

Open versus closed information

I am privileged to work with many talented people, people who like thinking about what they are doing and why. As we began our circuitous route on to an internal blogosphere, two questions kept coming up.

One, should we start with an open approach to information and then close those bits and pieces that need closing….or should it be the other way around?

Two, should we enforce declaration of identity or should we allow anonymity?

I think that both these questions are critical in the context of a number of debates about information, particularly those that touch on digital rights, identity, security, privacy, confidentiality and the like.

I’d love to know what you think about these two questions, and am looking forward to comments that I can learn from.

In the meantime…. my gut feel is that DRM implementations that start with a “closed” approach to information are doomed to failure. I have always believed that knowledge management and information security are kindred spirits. You impute value to an information asset. You declare who can see it. You declare who can’t. You must start with a view that information is an asset that increases in value with reproduction and enrichment and evolution and adaptation. Start with free for all. Only restrict access when there is good and clear reason. And there will be good and clear reasons: confidentiality, privacy, regulation, commercial value, whatever. But it is easier and simpler to close bits when really necessary, in comparison with trying to open bits that default to closed.

I’d be interested in knowing other views on this, whether mad or wise.

I approach the second question almost as if it is the first question. Open is better than closed. There may be reasons for stimulating or encouraging anonymous behaviour, but I don’t find them easy to understand. [I am reminded of a 20s-30s book by Julius Henry Marx entitled “Beds”. Chapter One was headed Essay on the Advantages of Sleeping Alone. The page was blank. And in a footnote the Editor stated “The Author refrained from making any contribution to this chapter”. Or words to that effect…forgive me, it’s thirty years since I last read that book.

Looking forward to the wisdom and madness.

Blogs in organisations

Euan Semple commented on something I’d posted earlier, and it stimulated me to checking out his blog, something I had been remiss about for a while. My bad. I particularly liked the David Maister piece on blogging behind the firewall. You can check it out here. I’ve been a fan of Maister’s ever since Managing The Professional Services Firm. Thank you Euan.

Enterprise applications architecture

My son Isaac takes two minutes to critique a mobile phone. My daughter Orla holds a dozen IM sessions in parallel while doing her nails, her homework and listening to music. And the youngest, Hope, gets frustrated as only a seven-year-old can, when she can’t install the game she’s bought because of poorly designed parental control filters that should affect web browsing and not CD-ROM installing.

They are the future. In fact, the way consumerisation’s moving, they are the present. Mobility and wireless, virtualisation and service orientation, Moore, Metcalfe and Gilder, the opensource gang, Jerry Garcia and Arctic Monkeys, and Steve Jobs. They help define the environment.

Some time ago I started working on a four-pillar model for enterprise architecture, in the belief that everything we do will be classified into one of the following:

Syndication: We will subscribe to stuff yanked out of humongous content publishers and consume them via a syndication, alert and aggregation facility. RSS gone ballistic. SAP and Oracle Financials meet Wall Street Journal Europe and Reuters. All stored somewhere both within the firewall as well as without. Text and voice and video.

Search: We will do some ad-hoc yanking ourselves, getting used to a Google-meets-StumbleUpon world where collaborative filtering of role and context helps relevance go up, and there are simple yet powerful heuristic tools because we can tag things and vote on them for future reference. Again from storage within and without.

Fulfilment: There’ll be a bunch of things where we need to discover what’s out there by syndication, search and learning. Refine what we discover to a set of things we’re interested in. Check out captive and brokered and otherwise made-accessible inventory. Discover price and select item. Provide shipping instructions or logistical information. Identify our right and authority to exchange value. Exchange that value via card or account or wampum. Be fulfilled. Flights, hotels, stocks, consultants, books, music, food. All fulfilled.

Conversation: Another bunch of things gluing all this together. Voice. Video. E-mail (though it will decay into pretend-snail-mail and die, I hope). Blogs and wikis. IM. Texting. Whatever. Ways of discovering, co-creating and enriching the value in information. Information that you need to fulfil things you have to do.

None of this will work if the information we need to get pushed to us or get pulled down by us is hidden behind walled gardens. Walls made of weird DRM constructs like Region codes on DVDs. Walls that hold our information and make it harder for us to rip it and mash it and make something useful out of it.

And DRM is a cater-cousin of identity and authentication and permissioning. All blessed by the grand panjandrums of information security, or escapees from the Y2K-marries-Basle-II-and-then-leaves-her-for-Sarbanes-Oxley-while-no-one’s-watching zoo.

But there’s good stuff too. NAND RAM may make our boot-up times easier. Consumer boradband wireless may well be reality soon, and the 20-year threat of telephony becoming software is finally happening. Opensource keeps redrawing the lines for the desktop and for core productivity tools. Apple goes Intel. It’s a good time.

I want to be able to come in to work. Get instant karma at my desk, with whatever passes for a desktop and whatever passes for a connect. Don’t care. Identify myself with whichever two factors are in vogue that day, provided they leave my cells intact and my privacy unflustered.

Then I take a look at what’s come in via my aggregator. Roll with it while I StumbleUpon the web. Stimulated by what I see in the aggregator or the web, I start pulling things down from the great data warehouse in the sky, preparing to create value by fulfilling something or the other. And all the time I’m talking to people and sharing metaphorical coffee and and and.

It’s happening now. So I think it’s time to keep elaborating on the four pillars, have them shot down and rebuilt as many times as possible. Egoless.

So this is what I’ll do in this part of the blog.

Talking about pillars. Christopher Wren designed the Guildhall where I live. 17th century wonderful support-free curved roof. They had town planners then. “Your edifice won’t stand up, you need more pillars in the middle”. “Says who? I’m the architect here”. “Says we, and you don’t get to build your beautiful building unless you do what we say. Four more pillars please”.

Dejected, he built them. In the central area. Just as they asked.

Six inches short.