by Richard Sykes

The integration game

Mar 20, 20124 mins
Cloud ComputingMobileMobile Apps

Two years back, in my column Tablet offers clearer vision, I emphasised the developing divide between delivery of the computing on the one hand, and delivery of the consuming on the other.

I was reminded just how real this divide was becoming by a conversation at a recent business launch.

I was told of an 18-month-old already quite at home on his father’s iPad 2, activating it, seeking out apps that appealed and working the screen with an instinctive confidence.

I cannot imagine any 18-month-old acting thus with my Sony Vaio.

With the iPad the computing is both invisible and reliable, and the means of consuming both visible and so instinctive that there is now an active market for apps tuned to the interests of the under-twos.

In one 2009 column, Clouds obscure the platform, I argued that the real future commerce of the cloud will be in platforms because enterprises will be happier standing on platforms than on clouds.

The business launch at which I learnt of the talented 18-month-old was an interesting example of this principle in play and an illustrative case study of how the cloud is enabling the creative re-engineering of long established business models.

The consultant Oriac Solutions has deep expertise in a software systems set called TIA, a Danish-originated Policy Administration System widely used in the insurance industry.

In its new business model SaaSinsure, Oriac has re-engineered the TIA software to run as SaaS on the Amazon Elastic Cloud (AEC) and then developed a structured set of integrated services that draw on the CRM service capabilities of Salesforce.

The first thing to note is this exploitation of two platforms, side by side.

Salesforce’s platform, well tuned to the creation and delivery of web services, was apparently less well tuned to running the TIA legacy capability as a re-engineered SaaS. The AEC was better placed and so preferred.

The second thing to note is that, with two platforms in play, the delivery of the business model rests on services integration.

Services integration is the way of the future: a far less people-intensive business model, more agile than systems integration (a highly bums-on-seats business), rooted in a deep intimacy with the end market.

Oriac has that deep intimacy with the world of insurance, and the Salesforce CRM service set enables Oriac to build services that start with the client.

Thus the car salesman can offer a full insurance set integral to a car sale, approved and signed-off online at the point of sale, because the CRM service set includes the DocuSign capability.

The insurer can in turn offer a fully integrated service set that responds to a potential claim with a high degree of speedy and integrated real-time actions designed to keep the confidence of the client.

So here is the basic model for the transformation of the modus operandi of a given industry.

Highly automated computing platforms in the Cloud provide the foundation for flexible operations with low, competitive costs.

Particular platforms are tuned towards the technical standards and service formats relevant to specific markets.

Thus the App Store platform iPhones and iPads, and the Salesforce CRM platform here exploited by Oriac to build a strong client service capability inside the insurance industry on top of a long-established policy administration system now delivered as a SaaS on the AEC platform.

The new discipline of services integration allows the rapid assembly of capabilities rooted in a deep intimacy with the workings of a specific industry.

This is about competitive market- and client-requirement driven services.

The challenge is to bring these new business models into play in the face of the vested interests who have so much in stake in the old world.

I met recently with a specialist testing consultancy who have built on their deep experience in, and intimacy with, software testing to create both a specialist platform (Xappworks) for the delivery of services integral to software testing, and a related test management tool (TestWave).

Despite demonstrating their expertise at a recent third-sector client by identifying the root cause of a key systems failure that bigger competitors had failed to elucidate, they were not able to displace the incumbent, even though his solutions were measured in hundreds of thousands of pounds and the consultancy’s in tens of thousands.

An innate conservatism that sadly still rules OK.