Over the last year or so I have been looking a lot at technologies that Gartner and others have branded as ‘Citizen Integrators‘ – products such as Dell Boomi, and the recently launched Oracle Integration Cloud Service. What I believe we are seeing is the appearance of a product family that in many respects will be to Integration what Excel has been to Finance systems. This is to say that Finance Systems such as large ERPs tend to be changed slowly when it comes to introducing process changes, but users can get reports easily to extract data into their Excel spreadsheets. We have the old joke that organisations finance can end up being run on Excel (http://www.wired.com/2014/03/many-spreadsheets-take-run-fortune-500-company/).
So don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying these tool are evil and should be banned or the such like, as such thinking is utter folly. I am looking at the quote much attributed to Spiderman (Stan Lee) but has been traced back to Voltaire:
With great power comes great responsibility
Why do I use this quote, well my experience (and that established by many others) is that with ease and agility comes a quick answer rather than a well thought out answer. That ease can be through cost (how many times have organisations discovered key systems solutions being run off someone’s desktop stuffed away in the corner of an office because they have been able to cheaply acquire the hardware and software get setup and then had viral adoption).
It is therefore beholden on those of us that understand the challenges of integration should be seeking to help our ‘citizens’ appreciate (not lecture, brow beat etc) the implications and some intelligent governance to ensure systems are not accidentally ‘poisoned with unexpected data’ and you don’t fall foul of legal obligations.
The biggest challenge, is for SME’s to ensure that their colleagues within the IT organisation who face into the business organisation understand and promote the right thinking. After all, developers and architects alike, think like all drivers -that they’re at least above average if not good drivers – after all why would we be in the job? But to set the average we can’t all be in that place (http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/motr/when-it-comes-to-driving-most-people-think-their-skills-are-above-average.html).
This of course also touches upon the arguments with Gartner’s bi-modal approach to IT, such as those presented by Jason Bloomberg. Personally I believe pace layering is right, but bi-modal thinking can create opportunities for things to be done badly – not an absolute certainty, but to work needs some strong hands trusted by organisational executives to steer successfully – something that seems rather rare.