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Thursday 11 June 2009

Are mashups lipstick on a pig?

One of the debates currently going on is regarding the lifespan and role of mashups (cpettey/Gartner). Are mashups just tactical, throw away applications for short lived micro-requirements that come and go in the business (aka situational requirements) with the associated business case challenges? Are they just good to temporarily paper over a gap while your systems catch up with user requirements? In other words, are enterprise mashups short lived either for the simplest of “applications” or simply as lipstick on a pig as suggested to me recently by the CIO of a very large telco?

One of the great values of enterprise mashups is that they can deliver in very quick time frames by leveraging exiting systems and applications to streamline processes for people. This can be to address a “situational requirement” such as a dashboard, combining RSS feeds for data reporting etc. They can also help mop up legacy applications before retirement i.e. provide lipstick on your old architecture while you deliver the new one. They can prepare for the deployment of packaged application such as CRM or ERP. This provides the value of quickly testing in real time, with real users the required “user process” (i.e. the set of steps a user need to go through to complete a task). This can even be implemented in the look and feel of the enterprise application. Users will then not be disrupted by the deployment of the enterprise app while deployment will be speeded up by “learning” from the tested user process implemented in the mashup. Once the enterprise application catches up, then the mashup can evolve to do less, be retired itself or remain to provide the flexible, process driven UI that would continuously require updating. This will depend on architectural decision.

It is in the flexible delivery of process driven UI that enterprise mashup become a key part of modern architectures and are destined to power solutions that will remain in use for a long time. Why? Because modern architectures need lipstick as much as the old ones! With WOA, SOA or any component based approach, user-centric applications are still required when a business process need surfacing to a user and those end up being built bespoke for each user group. This is because user interfaces are not service enabled, not turned into re-usable components. This is where enterprise mashups play a key part: with the creation of visual, mashable components that can easily and quickly be mashed up into user centric solutions, they provide a “face” to web services and deliver the flexibility and process adaptation required at the user level to deliver flexible architectures from top to bottom.

The answer to the lifespan and role is that enterprise mashups provide real value when they address real process pain point, have a role to play in legacy and modern architectures and can endure for considerable periods of time while the content and function continually evolve.

What do you think? Do you see the same trends?

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  • At 11 June 2009 at 21:54 , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    If we consider the term Mashup, in the classical definition, as "a web page or application that combines data from two or more external online sources", then I believe this is not a short-lived trend.

    In fact, we might consider newly emerging Semantically Aware Applications (SAA's) as a form of mashup which will help realize the Semantic Web (Web 3.0), built upon RDF triple store data and OWL-based ontologies.

    Therefore, mashups can be, but are are not always "lipstick on a pig".



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