It’s kind of interesting to see the turn among most companies out there concerning the use of different software tools for different tasks. For years we have had a mentality that either you create your own monster of a solution or you customize one product from some big vendor. But since the appearance of internet and the web our world has gotten a lot more fragmented.
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Lately the consumer market has created a feel for sites and products on the net that is not only OK to use, but “necessary” to use. I am of course talking about web based applications and social software. In other words, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, instant messaging products and other similar tools. Several companies have their own Wikis, blogs, forums and instant messaging products. Micro-blogging tools like Twitter and Yammer is also being used more and more these days.
For years we have had Open Source Software (OSS), and except for Linux and Apache not all of them have been accepted by big business. And the only reason that Linux and Apache got accepted was due to their track record and the support from some pretty large vendors, among else IBM.
Lately I have got the feeling that a lot of corporations have accepted the risk of using products with a smaller support organisation than what these corporations are used to. The acceptance of small vendors and OSS products into the suite of software used by corporations have given me as a professional both benefits and challenges.
The biggest challenge is the same as it has been for years now, integration. We need information and functionality integrated on several layers and in infinite ways. So what the big vendors do and have done for years is to create tools for us to help integrate our fragmenting world.
The increasingly complex world of tools and services always make me think of the second law of thermodynamics. Luckily we do not have a closed system; we have the opportunity to impose change and to establish ways to solve our complexity.
So, the next time you use a wiki for documenting your experiences, the next time you rate some other users post on the web, the next time you chat with a colleague or the next time you write a blog post, consider this – how do you use such information from other products and sites within your company. Are you able to use the information? Should you be able to use it? Do you want to be able to use it? And finally, if the answer is yes on any of those questions, how do you integrate your tools?
I have deliberately not mentioned search, archiving and all the other corporate necessities like reviewability, reusability, accountability and so on. Neither do I want to mention the words service oriented architecture (SOA), web services or integration platform. What I want is a world where this information is seamlessly available to me, stored indefinitely and persistently at no cost. As a professional I do not trust this, so I need to gather knowledge I have produced in such a way that it is still available to me even though the service I originally used to create this information no longer exists.
How do you do that?