In the workplaces of the
future, I envision alternative approaches to software development: situational
applications or enterprise mashups are created rapidly by teams or individuals
who best understand their business needs. Not burdened by the overhead and
formality of traditional IT methods, these casual developers focus on fast,
good-enough results that can be refined later, if needed. Applications developed
in this manner may not be ideal. They may be slow or deliver only a subset of possible
functions; yet, they provide immediate relief for a given situation. Development
based on situational applications can present opportunities to encourage
innovation at departmental and individual levels and, at the same time, improve
the productivity of knowledge workers.
Along with tremendous
advantages, situational applications place new demands on the enterprise IT
environment. They put corporate IT in the position of managing enterprise
applications while trying to determine how to best facilitate development, deployment,
and management of situational applications. Community-based development
within the enterprise may significantly increase heterogeneity in the
environment and introduce more complexity into monitoring, event analysis,
root-cause detection, patch management, and other systems management tasks.
The challenges presented by the
rise of situational applications in the enterprise we described in our paper
then, still exist today (although, they are being slowly addressed by some
- Access to data and data ownership
- Data quality
- Data interpretation and provenance
- User expectations
- Adoption among different user types
Our Systems Journal paper and following series of papers in developerWorks shared IBM’s own experiences in building the Situational Applications Environment (SAE) in IBM. They described both usage patterns and technologies that contributed to the current rise of community-driven SA development in the enterprise, and compared and contrasted it with the more traditional, corporate-focused SOA initiatives. In the second article we described the SAE architecture and different challenges we had to address in order to build it. In the final article we examined these applications that represent a wide variety of business challenges that SAs can be leveraged to solve.
In the enterprise of the future, the corporate IT role will change as it deals with the challenges and capitalizes on the opportunities arising from grassroots development trends. Corporate IT will gradually move from being the exclusive provider of enterprise systems to an enabler and facilitator of solutions built by self-reliant employees. I argue that this change is a necessity. The health, competitive power, and even survival of an enterprise will largely depend on its ability to understand and harness the power of knowledge workers, who are enabled to take responsibility for creating solutions that meet many of their business needs.