New Technology’s 3 Phased Life-Cycle
By David Marco
In our industry we consistently hear about some new technology that will absolutely revolutionize the way we build systems. After watching enough of these technologies come and go I’ve noticed that, without exception, all of them experience a 3 phase life-cycle. Understanding where a technology is in this life-cycle will help you in determining how it may or may not help your company. Let’s look at the stages.
Phase #1: Cures Cancer And Solves Global Hunger
When new technology debuts it typically is accompanied by tremendous fanfare and hoopla. Let’s look at an example: Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA). SOAs entered Phase #1 around a year and half ago. Since the term SOA has debuted we have heard some amazing claims including: 1) “The majority of companies are building their systems using SOAs and saving zillions of dollars (two years ago most people didn’t know what SOA stood for)”, and 2) “An SOA driven messaging bus will remove the need to understand your systems as they provide a common layer that all of your applications can plug into”. Let’s assume that your company’s key executives have bought into the suggested value of having an SOA environment and building messaging buses utilizing technologies like TIBCO and WebMethods, along with a host of standards like OASIS, XML, CORBA, DCOM and many others.
How successful are these messaging bus implementations? Most organizations I have seen are not building standardized processes with their messaging buses but rather using them to mimic point-to-point interfaces. This approach is successful in slowing down already over burdened point-to-point interfaces; however, it completely undermines the entire goal of SOA which is to simplify overly complex IT environments. For example, I recently visited an executive of one of our clients. In between our various meetings of the day, we stopped by an internal event called a “Solutions Showcase.” In this Showcase they had set up a vendor floor-like area where many of their large IT project teams could discuss their efforts. One of the booths featured an SOA messaging bus that they were currently implementing. The executive and I approached the booth (neither one of us had name tags so we were incognito), which was being staffed by the large consulting vendor that was building the bus. The featured attraction at this booth was a mock messaging bus that was constructed using LEGOs. Yes, those same LEGOs that you and I played with as children. The LEGO set was supposed to move the LEGO blocks between the different LEGO built buckets (I guess this was supposed to be what a messaging bus does?). Before the vendor started this demo he looked at the executive and I, and then proudly stated that they used over 2,000 LEGOs to build the demo. As soon as he turned on the demo, the little LEGO pieces that were supposed to be gently moved between the buckets started flying all over the vendor floor to the dismay of the 10 or so people watching this catastrophe. At this point they immediately stopped the demo and I have to confess that a little devil sitting on my shoulder made me offer aloud the comment “that is the most realistic demo I have ever seen!” After the audience laughter settled down, I began to ask the vendor a couple of very simple questions on their SOA architecture, including how they will monitor their environment and track the efficiency of their messages. The vendor looked me in the eye and said that the key to their project was their “data meta repository.” That is not a misprint. “Data Meta!” That same little devil on my shoulder then coerced me into asking “could you please tell me more about your ‘data meta’ repository!” With intelligence at this level, it is not surprising that this project has not delivered on its promises.
Anyone who has attended one of my talks knows that I do not believe in “silver” bullets that magically make sense of your data and your applications. No matter what technology has been introduced it never replaces the need for understanding and properly managing your system’s data and processes.
Please do not misinterpret this article to be anti-SOA. An SOA environment can provide tremendous value to an organization; however, proper meta data management that has already been implemented is an absolute necessity to make the SOA environment a reality.
Phase #2: The Most Useless Technology Anybody Ever Conceived
When new technology enters into Phase #2 it starts being portrayed as the most useless technology that anybody ever thought of. My example of a technology in Phase #2 is e-business. A few years ago we saw person after person become “paper” millionaires and billionaires in the various “E” ventures, even though their companies were losing money at an amazing rate. What was even more fascinating is that for most of these companies, as their revenues increased, their expenses increased at an even FASTER pace. Many years ago I earned an MBA and the first rule of MBA school is that if your expenses are increasing faster than your revenues you cannot make up this difference with sales volume.
About 4 years ago e-business was clearly entrenched in Phase #2. Pick up any IT magazine and you would find plenty or articles talking about e-business failure. At the time even my book publisher told me that the best way to guarantee that a book does not sell is to put “e-business” in the title. Yet the reality of e-business is that it is a valuable distribution channel that is here to stay.
Phase #3: We See Where It Actually Fits Into The IT Puzzle
Once new technology leaves Phase #2 it enters into Phase #3. This is where we see where it actually fits into the IT puzzle. I’ll use data warehousing to illustrate a technology in Phase #3. Data warehousing stayed in Phase #1 for 5 – 6 years. During this time we couldn’t do any wrong. In late 1998/early 1999 data warehousing jumped into Phase #2. In Phase #2 we were reading article after article talking about the failure rate of data warehouses. For example, I had a journalist request an interview for a data warehousing article that he was writing. He began the interview by saying that he wanted to hear about data warehouse failures. I asked him if he wanted to hear about the factors to avoid data warehouse failures? He replied, “no I just want to hear about project failures”. I asked him what kind of article are you writing? He said one about why corporations should not build data warehouses. I replied, “You’ll struggle to find a stauncher advocate of data warehousing than myself so you’ll need to talk to someone else for your article. This interview is concluded”. Clearly this individual was looking to write a negative piece on data warehousing.
Shortly after this period data warehousing entered into Phase #3. Now there are very few people that question what is and is not a data warehouse or the value that it provides.
About the Author
Mr. Marco is an internationally recognized expert in the fields of enterprise information management, data warehousing and business intelligence, and is the world’s foremost authority on meta data management. He is the author of several widely acclaimed books including “Universal Meta Data Models” and “Building and Managing the Meta Data Repository: A Full Life-Cycle Guide”. Mr. Marco has taught at the University of Chicago, DePaul University, and in 2004 he was selected to the prestigious Crain’s Chicago Business “Top 40 Under 40” and is the chairman of the Enterprise Information Management Institute (www.EIMInstitute.org). He is the founder and President of EWSolutions, a GSA schedule and Chicago-headquartered strategic partner and systems integrator dedicated to providing companies and large government agencies with best-in-class solutions using data warehousing, enterprise architecture, data governance and managed meta data environment technologies (www.EWSolutions.com). He may be reached directly via email at DMarco@EWSolutions.com