|By Hollis Tibbetts||
|July 3, 2012 05:00 AM EDT||
I like writing about "Infrastructure Software." One of the most challenging things about being an advocate for a broad horizontally applicable technology is that it does not solve a particular business problem.
Instead, it solves about 100,000 business problems.
That was an admittedly uber-geeky joke I made on my column "Integration Edge" on ebizQ in an article about Legacy Modernization.
Although I was making light of the situation, the impact for a technology advocate is real. The problem with writing about infrastructure software is that everyone is impacted by it, yet nobody is particularly interested in it. It's a bit like America's "crumbling" infrastructure" - roads and bridges. Critically important, yet so easily overlooked. That's why I often refer to software like Integration or Data Management as infrastructure software.
I had breakfast this morning with the CEO and the CTO of Algebraix Data, an interesting Austin-based infrastructure software company. We were discussing the challenges of bringing such software to market, and I mentioned "infrastructure software does all the heavy lifting, yet gets almost none of the credit". When things are working well, nobody sees infrastructure software. When things go well, it's the end-user products like Salesforce.com that get the credit. It's a tough marketing problem to crack.
I’ve been writing about application and data integration technology for quite a while. The good news/bad news: lots of people “get it” and even more don’t.
If Technology Is the Problem, What Is the Solution?
Getting people to understand infrastructure technologies like Integration is so much more difficult than it is for "business applications" that are used by end-users.
Like other kinds of "infrastructure software", Integration is more or less invisible to most people. It "enables" everything, but "does" nothing by itself. It does the hard work necessary to solve a lot of problems - problems that end-user applications like CRM, SFA, HelpDesk, ERP, Financials, etc. then take credit for fixing.
What's the solution? Perhaps the solution is to focus on "problems" - to reframe the discussion around specific business or technology problems that people understand. Problems like Legacy Application Modernization, Quote to Cash automation, the Recruit to Retire process or Procure to Pay.
I've recently been a bit captivated by Legacy Application Modernization (alternately called Legacy Modernization, Application Modernization, Software Modernization, etc.) - as it's something which has such potential to transform organizations, if done properly - and it's highly reliant on infrastructure such as Application and Data Integration.
Legacy Application Modernization - a Critical IT Initiative Enabled by Infrastructure Software (like Integration)
Legacy Applications (as in "Mainframe") continue to be at the core of business operations for many large organizations. Yet they are expensive on many fronts to maintain, nearly impossible to extend, and are neither agile nor flexible nor extensible. Legacy Application Modernization is a key business initiative that is at or near the top of the agenda for large IT shops. Some 59% of IT leaders place it as their top software issue according to Forrester Consulting.
By doing a functional analysis of these legacy mega-applications, by rewriting some components in modern languages like Java, leveraging Cloud (public or private) technologies, inexpensive on-premises Intel platforms, and purchasing Off the Shelf software packages (on-premises or SaaS), these organizations can save a tremendous amount of money, and enable a huge leap forward in IT's ability to support the organization in an agile and extensible fashion.
Yet none of this can happen without infrastructure software - like Integration. When you take a legacy mega-application and de-compose it into many different pieces - newly written applications, various purchased or licensed applications, etc., you end up with business processes which span multiple applications, and almost certainly multiple systems.
Integration is what ties all those pieces together and makes them work - so that they can deliver the promised value (and flexibility/extensibility) to the enterprise.
Anyhow, I'll hedge my bets a bit. I still like writing about the nature of infrastructure software; however, expect to see much more focus on highly visible technology and business problems - which I'll use as a vehicle to communicate the value of critical infrastructure software technologies.
Hollis Tibbetts is a Software Strategy Director for Dell Inc.'s Global Mergers and Acquisitions organization. He writes on a number of software marketing and technology topics, including marketing "best practices", growth strategies, Data, Integration and Legacy Modernization.
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