Greg Meyer from iJET gave a “practioner keynote” about process and risk management, and came out with the best quote of the conference so far: “I’d rather have someone tell me how to do something right, than something cool”. Having been at a lot of events recently where people were showing me cool things, but at a lot of customers who want to do things right (and equate “right” with “old and proven”), I find that the real challenge is keeping on the “right” path but remembering that “right” and “cool” are not mutually exclusive: how else do we bring innovation into the mainstream?
Meyer’s talk about risk assessment and human intelligence is fascinating, and anyone who uses the term “combinatorics” casually in his presentation has a place in my engineering heart. 🙂 As a non-American, however, I’m uncomfortably reminded that this is all about making US government intelligence better: iJET started out providing travel information/advisories to travel agencies, then 9/11 happened, the hits on their website increased by 60,000x since they could provide in-depth analysis of the impact of events, and they started providing information to multinational organizations and government agencies.
Putting my uneasiness about their customer base aside, they were dealing with the problem of being a small company that acquired a lot of large customers over a short period of time and had to grow quickly. They implemented an SOA, using an ESB to integrate data and services from many partners and implemented web services to allow partners and customers to access their services quickly and easily. They added a portal architecture to let them create new products and services in weeks or even days, rather than the months that it used to take. However, it didn’t help their bottom line because they had no better insight into how customers were using their products. Basically, they had their head stuck deep in the technology and weren’t considering it from the standpoint of how to improve the real business issues.
Meyer talked about then doing an implementation in the context of the enterprise that actually achieved the success that they were seeking, which appeared to be mostly adding BI (or more accurately, corporate performance management) to feed back metrics to the appropriate parts of the organization, and some better integration with other enterprise applications such as billing systems. The bottom line, not surprisingly, is that you have to consider the entire enterprise for a successful BPM/SOA/ESB implementation.