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Does Web 2.0 herald the end of in-house development and provision of IT services?


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Presentation to the Shock of the Social conference, Oxford, 22/03/2007

Published in: Technology, Business
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Does Web 2.0 herald the end of in-house development and provision of IT services?

  1. 1. UKOLN is supported by: Does Web 2.0 herald the end of in-house development and provision of IT services? Paul Walk Technical Manager [email_address] A centre of expertise in digital information management
  2. 2. In the spirit of the Shock of the Social , what follows is an attempt to provoke a wider discussion.... you can ‘comment’ on the presentation as it progresses using the chat facility at:
  3. 3. Are remote, 3rd party, Web 2.0 services the future? <ul><li>our users are using them anyway - at least, we think they are! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>more data needed! </li></ul></ul><ul><li>they’re more cost-effective (& greener?) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>always difficult to measure </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>energy cost of hosting servers locally is increasingly a concern </li></ul></ul><ul><li>they can benefit from network effects unavailable to local services because they can become global in scale </li></ul><ul><ul><li>can an institution build a local system with a social network large enough to be useful? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>they develop more rapidly - perpetual beta & massive feedback </li></ul><ul><ul><li>can our locally developed services compete with this? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>there is so much already available - e.g. Office 2.0 Database at </li></ul><ul><ul><li>demonstrates viability of working with only a web browser and a network connection </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>itself is built on a Web 2.0 database, Dabble DB ( </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Objection #1 (faculty): “But what if the service is suddenly removed ?” ?” <ul><li>this is a real risk, in the sense that it can happen. Locally installed software can have its own peculiar problems, but sudden, unexpected removal is unusual.... </li></ul><ul><li>mitigation: make sure you can export all your data in a format which gives you a fighting chance of re-deploying it elsewhere </li></ul><ul><ul><li>e.g. tools exist for extracting bookmarks into a file </li></ul></ul><ul><li>identify alternatives which can import your data and provide a comparable service </li></ul><ul><li>do the business research - you do do this anyway for locally installed software, don’t you....? </li></ul><ul><li>radical thought: perhaps this is simply a reality - the downside of a new, generally better way of deploying services? Maybe our users will come to expect this and be able to deal with it? </li></ul>
  5. 5. Objection #2 (faculty): “But what if the service suddenly changes ? This beta thing makes me nervous....” thing makes me nervous....” <ul><li>a good, commercial service will not threaten it’s customer base by making sudden, significant changes, or removing important features </li></ul><ul><li>however, unlike locally installed software (where you can at least choose not to upgrade), hosted services will tend to be upgraded steadily (this might be seen as a good thing ) </li></ul><ul><li>the notion of perpetual beta is being explored and argued about </li></ul><ul><li>the customer needs to maintain an awareness of the service’s roadmap for future development </li></ul><ul><li>a good IT support department will already be doing this for their locally installed software - they need to apply the same strategy to hosted services </li></ul>
  6. 6. Objection #3 (management): “What about support, security, FOI, SLAs....?” “ What about support, security, FOI, SLAs....?” <ul><li>we can’t be responsible for supporting you if you decide to use gmail instead of our institutionally supplied email account </li></ul><ul><ul><li>is this why we still issue an email address to our students? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>security & FOI issues </li></ul><ul><ul><li>may be issues of where the data is held , rather than who supplies the service </li></ul></ul><ul><li>staff/students - different aspects </li></ul><ul><ul><li>we collect contact information from students </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>we issue contact information to staff </li></ul></ul><ul><li>service maintenance </li></ul><ul><ul><li>SLAs - very difficult to arrange in a distributed world </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>diagnostics are difficult if your service relies on others outside your organisational control: “ You know you have a distributed system, when a company you didn't know you had a relationship [with] changes their business plan and your application stops working” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>do you actually have an SLA with your local service? How often does one of your institutional services go offline unexpectedly? </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Objection #4 (marketing): “What about our brand, domain name....?” “ What about our brand, domain name....?” <ul><li>if we encourage our students to use flickr, for example, for uploading their work, can we advertise ourselves as providing this facility? </li></ul><ul><li>service providers are aware of this issue - for example Google have launched Google Apps for Domains </li></ul><ul><li>if a remote service can be utilised in a machine-machine way, then it can possibly be ‘wrapped’ in a local look-and-feel or ‘skin’ </li></ul>
  8. 8. Development: In-house developers <ul><li>so what do our poor developers do once there are no local systems....? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>there will likely always be some locally developed systems - concentrate on developing solutions to problems where local/domain knowledge is crucial </li></ul></ul><ul><li>integration - mashups! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>leverage the good work which has gone into external services and add value locally </li></ul></ul><ul><li>added-value work, rather than core services </li></ul><ul><li>experimental, research </li></ul><ul><li>the last mile - the presentation layer for the institution (portals, personalisation) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>customisation via APIs </li></ul></ul><ul><li>consultation for colleagues - helping them to use available services, even outside the institution </li></ul><ul><li>“ IT services should be an enabling service, not a barrier, but this requires a transformation in the way IT personnel see themselves in the organisation” Scott Wilson commenting at </li></ul>
  9. 9. Development: new opportunities for non-developers <ul><li>does Web 2.0 offer the possibility of ‘development’ to more institutional players - not just the ‘developers’? </li></ul><ul><li>Yahoo’s Pipes - drag and drop RSS mashups for everyone </li></ul><ul><li>free hosted portals - NetVibes , Pageflakes </li></ul><ul><li>elgg spaces - DIY social networking in an educational context </li></ul><ul><li>there is a (non-web) precedent: spreadsheets are the most widely deployed and used development tool of all - almost anyone can develop useful functions with this technology </li></ul>
  10. 10. Yahoo Pipes - development tool for the rest of us
  11. 11. Hosting, deploying, developing: a spectrum
  12. 12. Recommendations <ul><li>keep some development capability in-house, but make sure you can adopt modern development practices and engage with external services </li></ul><ul><li>when considering a new service development, look carefully at what the web has to offer </li></ul><ul><li>consider management & deployment costs </li></ul><ul><li>devise an exit strategy when using external services </li></ul><ul><li>manage , rather than avoid, the risk of using external services </li></ul>
  13. 13. Preparing for this presentation <ul><li>question: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>how do I make a presentation into something more social ? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>answer: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>blog about it beforehand , inviting comments </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>collect comments </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>incorporate comments into presentation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>do presentation, providing real-time chat facility </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>make the presentation slides widely available </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>blog about the presentation afterwards , inviting comments </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>using tag ‘’shock2007’ so discoverable on Technorati etc. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  14. 14. questions?