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Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Integrating applications for people

Dale Vile, from Freeform Dynamics, has written an interesting article discussing whether packaged applications are becoming less relevant:
Whether it’s SOA purists telling us that we’ll all be self-assembling solutions from components, enthusiasts of modern development environments wanting to build everything from scratch, or the SaaS evangelists saying it’s all going to go into the cloud anyway, it is trendy to dismiss application software packages as being out of touch with the needs of the 21st century….but the truth is that both vendors and their customers can only move so quickly, and while the latest incarnations of ERP, CRM and other packaged applications promise a lot, migrations and new implementations consume both time and resources.
It almost seems a response to a very frank article from ZapThink advocating the move away from packaged applications to self-implemented SOA solutions.

I agree with Dale - I don’t see companies in the current economic environment looking to rip and replace their current applications and systems. If they are, then they are likely to be looking at SAAs, but as Ray Wang emphasizes, this does not remove the integration issue:
Rapid SaaS Adoption Will Lead To A Repeat Of 1990’s Best Of Breed Integration Challenges’ and ‘Given these scenarios, CIO’s and line of business apps will need to rely on stronger enterprise architecture and integration in hybrid deployments. In fact, au contraire on the death of SOA!
So what everyone seems to agree on is the increased need for integration. However, resolving the integration challenge is far from being fully addressed today. A big gap still remains: integrating applications for people. Contact centres are a good example of this, but I would venture to say that most people involved in supporting key processes end up having to use multiple applications to do their jobs. SOA technologies do not yet address this problem: user specific solutions end up having to be custom coded, in effect ending up building new silos and legacy applications, destroying the point of establishing a flexible and re-usable architecture in the first place.

To address this issue, SOA technologies and approaches need to be extended to the user interface and user interactions. This needs to happen in ways that suit human centric processes, where change and speed of adaptations are key. Current SOA programmes are generally bottom up, complex and relatively slow to get off the ground. Much more agile, fleet of foot solutions to integration need to be provided. Solutions that can start delivering value in days but without building new legacy.

This is where enterprise mashups have a major role to play. They provide not only an approach to ‘clear out their application integration backlog more quickly and at less cost’ (Anthony Bradley), they also provide a route to delivering more effectively a modern, flexible architecture. How? By extending the SOA concepts of composition of services all the way to the User Interface. In other words they provide the capabilities to turn valuable UI (from legacy applications, modern solutions, SAAS applications) into re-usable components that can easily, quickly and cost effectively be assembled into user specific solutions. Whether your implementing new SAAS applications or need to evolve from legacy systems, enterprise mashups provide the answer to integrating applications for people .

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