I had a great briefing this week with IBM’s Dan Gisolfi of its Emerging Technology Group. I was able to clear up a few things. For starters, it’s not THAT easy to create a “long tail” micro situational app. Gisolfi says, “Today, it’s extremely hard unless you’re a programmer… and unless you know Ajax, Java script, and programming languages, you’re not going to create a mash-up.” But that’s where this IBM group is headed. With their web 2.0 class of tools– mash-up makers– ultimately, the high IQ guys and gals in IBM’s key installed base accounts will be able to create their own dashboards ad hoc and provision data across departments and groups without troubling anyone from IT at all.
Gisolfi and I waxed philosophically about the cultural trends that are driving Enterprise 2.0 and we agreed about the socio-cultural underpinnings. Now here is a guy who can fit squarely in both camps– traditional IT, wearing the IBM logo, yet can hold a respectable conversation on the latest in open source, or any web 2.0 technology. We agreed the new Enterprise 2.0 wave is not about technology. The technology is evolutionary and Gisolfi recounted many examples of initiatives IBM has been involved in for years that are now hyped as web 2.0. What’s different now, however, are the attitudes that eclipse the technology. He said, “Web 2.0 is a convergence of enablers… coming together at the right time, at the same time.”
We then talked about a possible rebirth of the systems integration industry– something I found intriguing. Gisolfi said, “For the IT guys, we’re not taking away work, we’re creating a new type of work. Instead of doing integration of monolithic applications, today, you’re going to create granular software components.” He used Sarbanes-Oxley as the perfect example of the need for a customized, daily mashboard. He described using a business analyst or consultant to define the data indicators and then pass it to a software guru to render it and provision it as a mashboard.
It’s at this point, I started thinking about the sweet-margin business of the late 80s: systems integration. I checked in with Graham Kemp, who tracked the SI market in those days. Graham said, “In the late 80s, SI margins were good… in the high teens… and FM (facilities management [outsourcing]) margins were fair (low teens). As the 90s came in, both dropped.”
On EDS’ Next Big Thing blog a few days ago, I read with some interest a post resurrecting the “I” word:
For a long time, the Fellows have been talking about the movement away from the Chief Information Officer to the Chief Integration Officer. The integration of process and information flow between and across the enterprise to enable greater flexibility is where all organizations need to be headed.
And as I just wrote recently to the head of analyst relations at CSC, before all outsourcers were called outsourcers, they were systems integrators. It might be time to ditch the losing battle in the ITO market, and start putting up recruiting booths on MySpace. There may be high margin opportunity introducing the Global 2000 to Enterprise 2.0.