IT Reformation and Splinternet

The IT Reformation and the Splinternet (Part 3), by Frank Johnson

The potential impact of the IT Reformation and the Splinternet on data governance in the enterprise

Data governance advocates could likely tack and adjust successfully to the IT Reformation . With business units taking on the responsibility of acquiring their own technology solutions, users might be among the first to assume accountability for data quality.  (It’s their system; they would come to appreciate first-hand how critical it is to have good data hygiene from its inception.)  And, the IT department would still be there, “ensuring accurate and safe data, integrating business processes and promoting collaboration.”

But what if business users and their IT compatriots can’t count on business technologies being universally open and accessible?  What if elements of these applications are made non-interoperable by design?  It would be harder for enterprises to establish and maintain technology-enabled relationships with their partners and customers in an environment of walled gardens, platform-specific apps, and other hermit kingdoms.

I’m not suggesting that business units are going to start using Facebook for their application platform.  But some might be attracted to applications that reflect the belief that a uniform user experience is more important than an optimal degree of openness.  Too many such choices would make it difficult for a post-Reformation IT department to ensure information and applications work together both internally and with business partners and customers.

It’s true that “we’ve evolved to a world where consumer tech like Facebook and the iPhone sets the bar for what all IT should look like.” It’s equally true that these new technologies “will be simple on the outside and unfathomably complicated under the hood.”


I am not advocating resistance to what appears to be inevitable change.  But I believe that we in the data governance disciplines, on the business side, the IT side, and the vendor side, need to take an active role in managing this (d)evolution.

To CIOs and other IT-savvy leaders, Forrester’s Ted Schadler offers this blunt advice:

You can watch and wait until marketing and customer service and e-commerce teams grit their teeth in frustration and spend their technology dollars on point solutions from vendors. Or because you are IT and have the broadest view of the technology requirements across all customer devices, channels and touch points, you can call out the Splinternet as a challenge and an opportunity. Then go orchestrate the resources and technology to deliver the best customer experience possible over the Splinternet.

As a member of the “vendor chapter” of the data governance fraternity, I am also obviously not opposed to innovations that allow competitors to differentiate themselves.  Creating unique, customer-focused, often disruptive capabilities is essential for commercial success.

But “standardization liberates people,” to quote Ashley Cook, operations director with Best Buy Europe. And for that reason, the examples given in the Wired article on the death of the Web – which claims that oligopoly naturally follows standardization – are somewhat misleading.

Yes, standardization allowed railroads and telephone systems to buy up smaller competitors.  But the resulting holding companies didn’t then re-set the track gauges or invent a new kind of switchboard to un-standardize their systems and lock their customers into a “superior user experience.”  It was only the fact that everyone’s rail and voice traffic could run on everyone else’s tracks and wires that made these consolidations practicable or even logical.

I know that vendors in the data governance space are aware of the need to ensure their solutions are able to “play nice” with others, especially as we add mobile apps and the cloud to our portfolio of capabilities. Business and IT leaders on the enterprise side are certainly aware of these issues at a high level.

My concern is that these issues need to be viewed and discussed in the context of problems that may arise from the disintermediation of the IT function on the one hand and the devolution of business technologies into closed channels on the other.

I’m confident that business leaders, IT leaders and technology vendors can rise to meet these challenges to governing, managing, and consuming mission-critical information.  To that end, I invite you to comment, criticize and correct in the discussion section below.

Frank Johnson has more than 25 years’ experience in information technology marketing. He is part of the marketing communications and analysis team at Enterworks Inc., a company that offers solutions for acquiring, managing, and publishing master data, digital assets, and related product content.  He is the lead blogger at Enterworks’ Multichannel Content Blog

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