Monday, October 26, 2009

Is "Integration" the word?

At the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco on October 20, Mary Meeker and team at Morgan Stanley presented a market analysis about the trends in the technology industry with a particular emPHAsis on the prospects for and impact of mobile computing. Here's a link to the full report called "Economy + Internet Trends":

The report covers a lot of ground. I was re-reading it this morning and have a thought about the chart below on page 32:

With each new phase or stage or era of computing the number of units sold goes up by an order of magnitude. Whether the numbers are actually this smooth or not the progression reflects what we all see on a day-to-day basis. Information technology is now present in most things that we do. In fact, is so prevalent that many relax or vacation by trying to get away from it.

From a business perspective the mobile phase will have profound impacts in terms of the ways that businesses go to market ("business model change" is the top issue found in a recent IBM survey of CIOs) and thus on how technology is designed, built, deployed and used in business.

Working on Step 2

I'd like to quibble with, to question, the arrow in this chart that says "Increasing Integration." At some point, roughly in the transition from mainframes and minicomputers to computing via desktops, the idea that we could achieve and deliver planned, central integration of IT became less tenuous.

Personal computing means individuals do as they please. They still can't "do as they please" with that portion of an Applications Portfolio that is delivered from the IT organization. Its hard to imagine that individuals should with "core" applications. But the PC widely popularized a trend that began with personal time-sharing like VM and TSO and put substantive amounts of the computing that occurs beyond the reach of the IT Architects and their IT Strategist forebears. Mobile computing greatly accelerates that trend.

Instead of "Increasing Integration" the chart could read "Increasing Interconnection," implying a larger portion of "organic" interactions between people and systems. Perhaps corporate IT and the IT Architects will increasingly establish and enable a set of capabilities that customers, partners/suppliers, and internal users will mold to their own use? Morgan Stanley's Internet Retailing Adoption model may be a guide:

For the interconnected mobile world an Enterprise Architect may be concerned with the "integration" of the Infrastructure and the Services but allow that the content used and the retail commerce (or its parallel) will be directed by un-integrated "market actions" or "market forces." Said another way, they're concerned with the interaction between core systems and capabilities and Das Kloud. Its the challenge of influence without control that is at the core of all meaningful governance discussions. But there's no going back. After all, "How can you keep them down on the farm after they've seen [Droid]?"


  1. Doug, you are right to question what "increased integration" means. I think the interconnection you talk about is not interconnection between people and systems, it's technology-enabled interconnection between people and other people. This is sometimes referred to as "technology enabled social networking."

    Dennis McDonald

    One implication is still the sale of more technology units. But the community focus of the new technology may actually be reducing the need to force standardization the way old-line IT used to force standardization.

  2. Ever since people like Ken Olson (founder of Digital Equipment) started delivering information technology outside the MIS or DP function (as it was then called) people have made standardization arguments implicitly for "give me back control" reasons. But the electric grid, as an example, has a vast array of standards for the provisioning, distribution, consumption and measurement of electricity with the "central utility" having direct control over a smaller and smaller portion of the grid over time.

    We can easily over-use this analogy but the new information technology you reference can be viewed more like the machines, appliances, tools and toys in factories, the workplace and at home. Standard in certain ways, overtly unique in others, not managed from one office.

  3. plus standards can be generated from the ground up for temporary yuse -- look at the "hashtags" that spring into use on Twitter, sort of a lightweight standard.

  4. Paul Clermont comments separately:
    Doug, you raise a good distinction. Interconnection is easy—relatively—since it's simply a matter of technology. From the time of the invention of the telegraph 165 years ago, the pace of progress in technologically enabled interconnection has been relentless and accelerating. But as Thoreau asked when the telegraph first enabled Maine and Texas to connect over a wire, "What if Maine and Texas have nothing to say to each other?" By contrast, integration means they do have something to say and they say it because it's vital to their jobs and prosperity. But figuring out what to say and why to say it doesn't happen automatically; a fair bit of frustration and waste result from failure to understand this. The pace of integration will inevitably lag that of interconnection—people are people, after all—so the challenge for managers and leaders to get business results from investments in technology never ends.

    Carry on!

  5. And this from Bruce Rogow:
    Agree... The integration thing is a recipe for disaster. I took Reliability Engineering in College and one of the few things I remember was the risk impact of integrated vs interfaced systems...