On a recent plane ride, the fellow sitting next to me fired up a movie shortly after take off. He was watching the first Matrix. Agent Smith had just arrived at the apartment where Trinity had been detected. A cop, dripping with arrogance, informs Smith that his men were bringing her down. Smith replied, "No. Your men are already dead."
Many pundits and the SIs themselves believe that the advances made in next generation enterprise architectures like SOA will usher in a golden age of prosperity for the integrator community (at the expense of vendors and other ecosystem players). Nothing could be farther from the truth.
- The barriers to application integration will lower. The first time I ran an Oracle integration project was an intimidating experience. We just needed add one piece of information and tweak the process in one module, but were faced with hundreds and tables and thousands of views that no one seemed to understand. SIs have owned that world, sometimes having a better understanding of the ramifications of tweaking a table better than the vendor's own consulting group. SOA is eroding that advantage.
- Open platforms like AppExchange and Netweaver are creating ecosystems of vendors around a dominant providers core offering. These vendors are enhancing the value of the host's core offerings. They are doing so at the expense of SIs. It used to be the case that SIs made a great living creating niche process extensions around an enterprise software vendors applications. This has been so lucrative, Accenture has often flirted with the applications business. Increasingly, niche software providers have leveraged the opening up of platforms to create out of the box, packaged software for the cracks once filled by SI "customization" projects.
- The knowledge required to understand how to modify and repurpose workflows and business processes will be more easily available. It's only a matter of time before users will create and integrate their own applications. Imagine a Duet world in which a project that would have kept a team of Bearingpoint consultant's families fed for a year is reduced to adding a column to a custom view in Microsoft Outlook.
I had breakfast this week with an friend and enterprise software executive. When I mentioned the future of SIs, he chuckled. He had just finished a phone call with a long time friend and partner with a large SI firm. The friend had just left his firm. During a CRM engagement, they had completed a needs analysis for a F500 manufacturer. It turned out that the best application for their requirements was Salesforce.com. After heated internal debate, they decided to deploy Siebel instead. If SIs weren't blinded by their myopia, they would look into the trenches and see that their men are already dead.