Blogger: Lyn Robison
When businesspeople ask for an IT solution, the assumption is that they asking for a piece of software. When IT professionals gather the requirements for a new IT solution, they focus on gathering software requirements. I mean, IT professionals don’t start with electricity requirements; they start with the software requirements. Sure, there are process requirements and data requirements, but software will implement those processes and that data, so software requirements are the overarching concern. Clearly, in enterprise IT today, “requirements gathering” primarily involves gathering the requirements for a piece of software.
To design and build custom IT solutions, enterprise IT groups have user interface designers, software developers, and software testers. Software is the thing that the IT solution team implements in order to deliver the IT solutions that the businesspeople asked for.
Let’s not forget the computer hardware. The software requirements are what determine the hardware requirements. The software gets the hardware that it needs to satisfy its functional and nonfunctional requirements. Hardware requirements are determined by software requirements. (And the electricity requirements are then determined by the hardware requirements.)
Software does the data, software executes the processes, and software determines the hardware. It is apparent that today’s IT solutions are based on software. My question is: must they be?
Must IT solutions always be based on software? They didn’t use to be. Back in the 60’s and 70’s, IT solutions were based on hardware – mainframe hardware. You picked your mainframe, and the software and the data came along with it, almost as accessories. The focus of the solution was the mainframe hardware. Then with the advent of PCs, computer hardware became commoditized. With PCs, you could decide on your software, and then be confident that you could find whatever commodity hardware the software requires. IT solutions have been based on software ever since.
But here’s a question: what will happen when software becomes a commodity? What will IT solutions be based on then? Here’s my answer: information. When software becomes a commodity, IT solutions will be based on information requirements. When businesspeople ask for a new IT solution, IT solution teams will gather information requirements, and the information requirements will drive the software requirements, which will then drive the hardware requirements.
Some might think that software will never become a commodity. It has already. Here is a portion clipped from the Salesforce.com homepage.
It looks to me like the Salesforce folks are saying that software need no longer be the basis for IT solutions any more. Enterprises can get all of the software they need from the cloud. Software is a plentiful commodity. IT solutions can be based now on information, not on software. Gather your information requirements, then select your software, etc.
The only catch is the fact that your data is stuck within various data silos in the cloud. The real work is in figuring out how to migrate your data, integrate your data, protect your data, and manage your data. Data management has a bright future.