Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Pharmaceutical Mashups

A few days ago Nigel Green commented that much of this "new" thinking actually goes back to general systems theory and the concept of value systems (not value chains which are a different thing completely). Which got me thinking more about how people keep ignoring the lessons of the past as if ignorance and optimisim are a design pattern.

Drinking a bit the other night with Nigel and Sam Lowe (if Sam is the Cliff Richard of SOA then Nigel is Keith Richards, been there done it, but sometimes needs to be told not to climb trees :) we got talking about all these new trendy terms like "Mashup" that are being bandied about. It really is amazing how people who haven't read (or experienced) the different challenges and solutions that have been applied over the years can suddenly leap upon something as being the silver bullet without understanding the challenges. You know the type, its all about Mashups and "Web 2.0" and guess what folks.. yup the old ways are dead long live the new. Same as when in 2000 all those bricks and mortar businesses were going to be destroyed by WebVan, Boo, Clickmango and the like. Its all become simple now.

So the question went up, why isn't everyone just moving towards Mashups in their enterprise, just dynamically assembling and deploying new applications and then seeing what survives. Its the next great hope of IT... Mashups can solve everything, its about how businesses work isn't it?

Err no it isn't, take a pharmaceutical company and apply the model. Don't worry about the FDA or all that regulation and process its just making you less agile, what you need to do is start rapidly assembling new drugs from the pieces you've got lying around, put them out on the market and then what works will be successful. Hell you never know they might start finding new drugs, or at least popular ones, much quicker this way, but yes there is the slight overhead of accidentally killing people on a regular basis, that doesn't matter though its all part of the process.

Stupid idea eh? But why should parts of IT be any different? Do you want your medical equipment to be lobbed together in a Mashup? Or an Air Traffic Control system, flight control system or the boring old HR bit that pays your salary?

People proposing Mashups and such techniques as another "ultimate" solution for IT are just simpletons. They are viewing the world through their own blinkered existence and pretending that all of the complexity that exists is just a result of people not following this great new approach and doing it in some old and fuddy duddy way. One size doesn't fit all, that is one of the great powers of SOA, it aims to help you use different approaches where appropriate. So hell use a Mashup to get that new Marketing Campaign onto the website, but don't use it to process payments from customers or create new drugs.

There is no Silver Bullet, and anyone who hasn't read that book should stop having an opinion till they have

Technorati Tags: , ,


Anonymous said...

"That book" being "Mythical Man Month" of course.

Should I have to call out the name of the book? 'Fraid so because like so much other software deliverance history it's ignored by many a current or next generation developer.

Frankly, any developer that comes to me waxing about this or that new hot tech but has no consideration for experience (that guy over there's 40 plus, he's so yesterday - what could he possibly know that I don't?) and no awareness of history and trots out rubbish like "CORBA failed" loses my respect instantly. Why?

They are demonstrating a lack of ability to learn from previous experiences and others, a lack of an enquiring mind and a complete inability to think. Why would I trust them to write code? Heck, not sure I'd trust them to make coffee!

Phil Ayres said...


I reckon that mashup is a great term that could be applied to Enterprise Portals for anything more than simple intranet applications. You know the things, where you can look up a colleague's phone number in the same screen as entering your vacation time and getting at the company's latest and greatest marketing materials. But again its visual web technology in action, so it sorta works.

Unfortunately my time (12 months) looking at the Sarbanes-Oxley problem in companies made me realize how much of a benefit agile aggregation and deployment of applications (a mashup by another name) could be. Many companies are running their most complex compliance processes (like financial year close) on spreadsheets stored on the P: drive and distributed by email. And most of the finance department is run on Excel based data and macros, roughly put together by an Excel Queen (aka Accountant) with zero testing or management.

Given this, imagine what a benefit a semi-seamless combination of basic applications could give these finance professionals for coordination and sharing of work, tasks and data.

Its not ideal, and I wouldn't trust my paycheck to make it into my account if Oracle Financials was replaced with a mashup of the next new web accessible DB, cobbled together with the ADP outsourced check-cutter.

But for those processes and parts of the organization that don't have any structure anyway, or still run paper processes (an area of interest of mine), maybe a mashup approach could cut the mustard.

Any thoughts?

Cheers, Phil

Steve Jones said...

The book is indeed the Mythical Man Month, and anyone who hasn't read it shouldn't be in IT.

And to Phil - Yup in someplaces a Mashup might work, not sure if SOX is the right place mind given the need to track how things are used. My rant was against the assumption that its always the best way to do things and is sooo much better than all those old fuddy duddy ways. So sure if you think a Mashup approach to create an information portal out of multiple RSS feeds representing the data and a GoogleSpreadsheet to cut and paste it into then fair enough, just remember that this isn't a hammer and everything isn't a nail.