No Shoes, No Services

 
 
By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2006-11-20 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Opinion: Mercury IT governance plans address IT's cobbler's-children status

I know its been two weeks now, but Im still getting used to seeing a Hewlett-Packard logo when I surf to www.mercury.com. It appears that HP has better taste in making strategic acquisitions than it does in hiring contractors.

There may be doubt about whos in charge of HPs in-house inquiries, but theres none about whose name goes on the pink slip at Mercury Interactive (Im talking about the kind of pink slip that proves ownership of a car, not the kind that signals dismissal from a job. Pardon the Freudian, umm, slip.). The former shareholders get cash, not stock, and the company is now a wholly owned subsidiary of HP.

Mercury CMO Christopher Lochhead spoke with me just before the firms "last big event as a stand-alone company," as he called it: the sizable Mercury World conference in Las Vegas at the beginning of October. Many will be glad to learn that this was apparently not the last of all Mercury World meetings, with the 2007 event already scheduled for June 19-21 at the Venetian.

Lochhead made some points about the key role that Mercury plays in the overall HP story: those points suggest an opportunity shared by all tech pros to re-establish their charter as part of the enterprise platform migration to service-oriented architectures, which I believe we can now describe as a general phenomenon rather than an early-adopter experiment.

"The biggest mega-trend in technology is not a technology trend, but is a business trend," Lochhead asserted, continuing: "About 80 percent of core business processes in the enterprise are automated in software—and so, the applications are the business. Theres not a major government organization or Global 2000 company in the world that can hire an employee, or take an order from a customer, or perform any key function without the use of applications—and now, services."

The paradox, he observed, is that "While IT has played a huge role over the last 30 years in automating, optimizing, transforming, re-engineering every part of the enterprise—finance, manufacturing, engineering, sales—the IT function itself is sort of the cobblers children with no shoes. The management paradigm in IT, the established best practice, is firefighter by day, arsonist by night."

Recognition is growing, said Lochhead, that technical measures of IT function fail to capture the actual business impact of IT performance (or lack thereof). "If the server is at five 9s availability," he said, "but the customer who presses buy on your Web site gets the most popular application on the Internet—Error 404—then bad things happen."

What I see here is a concurrence of two trends. Business unit leaders are becoming more aware of their exposure to immediate, measurable and serious consequences from anything less than perfect IT performance—which understandably makes those managers more interested in having direct involvement in IT implementation and execution. At the same time, IT architects are becoming far more able to parcel out responsibility for business process implementation, defined and delivered in the form of a service interface and protocol, to individual business process owners—putting incentives, accountability and control a whole lot closer together, if not yet quite in a single set of hands.

Mercurys label of BTO, Business Technology Optimization, is as good as any label Ive seen for the right cluster of concepts—demand management, project management, performance management and diagnostic feedback loops that keep the whole system on course—envisioned from the right perspective based on tomorrows architecture of services rather than yesterdays architecture of the glass house. I wish the company well in its new role as part of HP and hope that others will compete on the playing field that Mercury is doing much to help define.

Tell me if your IT department is walking barefoot on broken glass at peter_coffee@ziffdavis.com

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Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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