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Sunday 11 October 2009

Thoughts on Forrester Business Technology conference: lean times and enterprise mashups

Last week David and I attended the Forrester Business Technology Forum in Chicago. The main theme of the conference was adopting “lean” approaches to IT – which seems a particularly appropriate term for the lean times we find ourselves in.

The lean concept applies across the full range of activities performed by an IT department, but I was particularly struck by the discussion on its use in application development in John Rymer and Dave West's session*. Four key ingredients were seen as essential to lean software:
• Making sure deliverables are “fit for purpose” for the business problem at hand
• A clear focus on hard, measured value
• Simplifying the delivery platform – moving away from overbloated infrastructure stacks if they aren’t needed
• Allowing efficient evolution – avoiding stovepipes without creating undue overhead

Overall, this combination of getting quickly to the right, “just enough” solution and then improving and reusing, while measuring all the time is both powerful, and with the benefit of hindsight obvious! However, it is sobering to remember how far from this approach so many enterprise application development and integration projects are.

Much of “getting to lean” is about methodologies, management techniques and people. However, the right technology for the right problem can provide powerful enablers if chosen appropriately – another key point from the sessions. Discussions at the conference confirmed that - when it comes to integrating applications for people - process based enterprise mashups can provide a key to a leaner approach:
• Encouraging building directly from the desired user requirements under the control of the business and process owners
• Allowing user and process execution to be clearly benchmarked and measured to show improvements
• Pragmatic, light-touch, standards based integration
• A first, “just good enough to make a different solution” in days, followed by iterative improvements and spinning out reusable “building blocks” as a natural by-product

Lean is an important theme. Using enterprise mashups won’t get you there by itself, but it encourages and helps you to work in a lean way – which can’t be a bad thing!

* How can lean software enable you to better serve the business by John Rymer and Dave West, Thursday 8 October 2009, #BTF09

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