IT’S A MASHUP: The End of Business as Usual

Review: Andy Mulholland - The End of Business as Usual at BCS, 5 Southampton Street, London WC2 October 15th, 18:15 to 20:15

I went to this BCS North London branch event because they usually have an 'enterprisey' slant and this one was supposed to be about Web 2.0 and mashups, which is not something I regularly associated with enterprise IT. Andy Mulholland was a very good speaker, it seems like we got the same presentation he regularly gives to boards of directors, the slides are available from the link in the previous paragraph. From now on I'm going to assume you've looked at them and list some of the things Andy discussed while he was showing the slides that stuck in my mind (ie. for an overview of the whole talk, read the slides).

The key trend affecting enterprise IT in the drive to web 2.0 is that users and consumers are now driving technology adoption, they get used to things at home and start to ask themselves why they can't use similar tools at work. As the proportion of tech-literate vs tech-illiterate clients and workers shifts in each industry, we pass an 'inflection point' past which businesses have to change to remain competitive. There are some businesses where this has already happened: travel; retail; music. The traditional business view of IT products is characterised by: "If I purchase this, I can work more cheaply." The user led change of priority is from the perspective: "If I purchase this, I can work more effectively."

There are some common traits of businesses which 'get it' which can easily be contrased with more traditional business practices:

New: Amazon leads with the most popular items responding to external demand
Old: Barnes and Noble leads with its internally defined offers

Right: eBay allows external demand to create new markets and indexes
Wrong: CommerceOne failed as it defined the markets that it would make available

Aware: Google business model continuously improves, people explore for the new
Adaptive: Traditional Software business model depends on set upgrade offers periodically

Innovative & Money Making: Second Life participants create over 7 million lines of code a week to improve environment. As of December 2006 456 people earn over $500; 29 over $5000; 2 over $25000 Every month from participating in Second Life. About 500,000 Chinese work in “gold farms” creating superior players and selling them.

Web 1.0 was characterised by content, web 2.0 is characterised by contacts or community, this reflects a general shift for the knowledge worker: 20 years ago 80% of the knowledge they needed to do their job was in their heads, now only 20% is in their heads and the rest depends on them exploiting the vast information resources available, which is too vast for them to do by themselves.

Finally Andy discussed how to build a business case for mashups (and web 2.0):

  • Not all valuable business interactions involve a transaction
  • Front office to back office integration depends on open standards
  • We are fixated on productization. Move the value proposition from the box to the knowledge.
  • Wrong question: "If I had Google Apps, what would I save over MS Office?"
  • Right question: "What can I do with Google Apps that I can't do with MS Office?"

Overall this was an excellent talk, 5 out of 5, which may not be obvious from my potted summary. If you have a chance to see Andy Mulholland speaking in person I recommend you take it.

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