I spent last week at EMCWorld, and most of my time was spent engaging with customers in a variety of ways. One thing I always find interesting is the amazing consistency of priorities across our global customers.
For example, we held a session for executives, and I simply asked the open-ended question “regardless of whether it involves our products or not, what is your top IT priority this year.” The answer was clear, overwhelming and simple, yet also rather surprising.
But before I tell you the answer, I want to tell you why it was surprising to me. I keep up with the CIO surveys and the trends and buzzwords. This particular trend seems to be invisible in the media hype and yet this group of CIO's and senior execs were almost in unanimous agreement that it was at the top of their priority list.
How could this be? One reason could be it that the surveys often force us to pick between a list of answers that fit into established buckets (apps, PC’s, networking, storage, virtualization, etc). Another reason could be that the answer itself is hard to quantify. There is no single product or service that you can buy to fill the need. This is also why you should never try to figure out the next game changing technology from reading surveys – if it is in the survey, you are probably too late!
OK, so their answer was "integration." Integration was, by far, their largest priority. Why? Simple. Most companies (and governments) are not startups and most large companies are also an amalgamation of acquisitions and mergers. These organizations have hundreds, if not thousands, of apps. Many of these apps were written by folks who retired long ago, yet they are still providing critical functionality.
For most companies, tearing down and starting over is simply not an option. New and replacement applications must first be able to integrate with the existing environments. Several years back, I thought that information would be moved into huge monolithic databases and ECM repositories as that would clearly be the easiest way to manage it. These repositories would then serve up information to applications. Least to say, this never happened in large part due to the fact that it is simply too costly to rewrite existing applications.
So, the problem not only remains, it is getting worse. For a while, it was acceptable to simply build additional silo's for new applications and information repositories but that is no longer reasonable as much of the value we need from new applications relies on ability to integrate these applications and federate the information.
So, the word “Fedegration” came up in discussion. I can't lay claim to coming up with it - one of our customers did. To me it is the best descriptor I have heard in terms of the challenge that faces most if not all major IT consumers. The key priority today for IT is to be able to integrate and federate both their applications and their information!
So, to me, fedegration means that we can leverage data and content across applications for new purposes (new applications, analytics, governance) and still leave it (and manage it) in place for the existing application.
Fedegration, I believe, will also become a key element on next-generation Information Governance strategies as IT will need to manage more disparate information but not be able to manage via simple centralization of data. Clouds only accelerate the need further as companies start to slice off IT elements to providers (CRM to Salesforce, EMAIL to Google, HR to Day, etc).
Ultimately, the competitiveness and efficiency of an organization is at stake. How many of us bluster when we call a company and they can't help us because they can't see some information from another division. How frustrating is it to have 20 "portals" inside your company with no integrated view of content. How much business value is left on the table when an organization doesn't have a 360 degree view of their customers and customers don't have that same 360 degree view of their accounts with a company? What are the risks of not having a single management view of sensitive information?
While technologists are off building faster processors, cool new devices (like my new iPad), some 150,000 iPhone Apps and even clouds, it is clear to me that many CIO's really have something else on their mind - that is how to bring 20 years of legacy applications and information together and build new world-class capabilities. I bet they wish there was an App for that...
In later posts I will discuss my thoughts as to how our team is taking on this challenge.