Lipstick on a Pig

August 5, 2011 · · Posted by Greg Lloyd

On Aug 5, 2011, Andrew McAfee opened a public discussion on Google+ by sharing How Apple (unintentionally) revolutionized corporate IT by Aaron Levie. McAfee commented "Story from CNNMoney about how Apple is unintentionally revolutionizing corporate IT. About time, too." and asked "Does anyone doubt that the Cloud + mobile + social + new devices is going to have a huge impact on corporate technology infrastructures and costs within the next 5-10 years?" Off to the races...

Greg Lloyd - This may also radically reduce the roll-out time for new corporate capabilities designed to use native Web infrastructure including HTML5, GWT and other technologies that deliver a user experience on par with the public Web.

The same applies to back end services and IT's ability to acquire, deploy, adapt and support back end services more rapidly and effectively.

Contrast aggressive internal awa external use of Web tech and architecture by IT versus the interlocking three, four, or five year update cycles using the MS stack (or others) and update cyles of IT systems that depend on and lag MS by years.

A very highly placed person in government told me: "Traditional IT architecture and practice almost guarantees that any new initiative will be late, grossly over budget, and obsolete before it is delivered."

Forcing change to a Web-like approach from front end mobile and user experience expectations can shift IT back to focus on timely response and business value rather than plumbing. And deliver systems people like to use.

Dan Camper - +Greg Lloyd I agree with you, so long as the problem (and solution!) domain remains within the "corporate capabilities designed to use native Web infrastructure."

There is sometimes a tendency for IT to force an inappropriate solution onto the customer merely to make IT's life easier. A web app implementation rather than a thin app (or even a custom app), for instance. Or vice-versa. This leads to a dissatisfied captive customer base, which of course doesn't help anyone in the long term.

An IT department would do well to treat its internal customers as if they where external, paying customers instead. To borrow some of Steve Jobs' phrasing: Delight those customers with extraordinary, amazing solutions. Yes, you have to pay to play, but the end result would be worth it.

Greg Lloyd - +Dan Camper I agree. "Lipstick on a pig" fits for a weak Web interface as one-for-one replacement for IE6 or similar vintage IT clients for systems of record. But even a weak Web interface can at provide mobile access, and steps around an obsolescent plumbing choice that Microsoft urges customers to abandon.

I believe that the 5-10 year shift in corporate technologies and infrastructure Andy envisions should and will move toward: 1) traditional, transactional "systems of record" - ERP, MRP, Accounting, CAD/CAE - remain as specialized silos and functional back-ends for enterprise systems; 2) minimalist secure (authenticating) Web-compliant interface to these systems of record (to create a thin or custom app as needed); 3) secure, permission-aware search spanning content of systems of record and "systems of engagement"; 4) minimalist but effective, easily adaptable and extensible Web interfaces provided by vendors of system of record (scaling down to mobile); 5) social software / Enterprise 2.0 technology and "systems of engagement" spanning and connecting human work, exception handling, innovation and "systems of record".

Issues of enterprise wide authentication, secure access, permission aware search spanning "systems of record" and "systems of engagement" at enterprise rather than public Web scale can and have been successfully addressed - at least in early stages. The architecture of enterprise IT will more or less resemble the architecture of the public Web - with adaptation and extension of provisions for authentication, permission-aware access, permission-aware search that go beyond the needs of the public Web (although Google and G+ seems to be heading in that direction too).

For thoughts on this shift in IT architecture, see:
July 2010 | Intertwingled Work - Observable work as an activity spanning systems of record

And a step in that direction (Note - I am President and co-founder of Traction Software)
June 2011 | Traction Social Enterprise Web - "Marrying Deep Search and Collaboration"

In this case (and others) it's putting our money where our mouth is, not vice versa.

These are quotes from a public GooglePlus discussion - feel free to join in. If you need a Google+ invitation, please email with the email address I should use to send the invitation.


Reinventing the Web on how we got here

Building pleasant and stable islands in a storm-tossed sea on extending the Web

A Circle is not a Space on GooglePlus experiments and notes

Note: The only iStock photo I could find with lipstick on pig used a piggy bank rather than a real porker. Seems to fit.

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