by Gary Beach

CIOs Should Think Horizontal, not Vertical for Stack Architecture

Jun 09, 2010
CIOEnterprise Architecture

CIO magazine publisher emeritus Gary Beach thinks changing governance rules to make horizontal silos makes better business sense.

It seems many things in our industry come in vertical stacks. We have vertical network stacks, we have vertical protocol stacks and now we have vertical cloud stacks.

From my recent conversations with CIOs, however, it seems the most competitive firms are moving away from vertical stack architectures when it comes to how they manage data—particularly in this era, when social media sites can often distribute information much faster than traditional corporate architectures can.

In the years since Sarbanes-Oxley, businesses have largely done good work in developing governance policies for data, with this caveat: It’s only true of information stored within the stack. Where they fall short is in implementing horizontal data-governance policies that allow data to be integrated and shared with employees and customers in an agile, horizontal manner.

Let me tell a story to explain the point.

The CIO of a major airline was sitting at a departure gate waiting for a delayed flight on his airline. As he waited, he noticed many of his fellow passengers feverishly working on their PDAs and then, en masse, about 20 of them got up and walked three gates down from the scheduled departure gate.

Ten minutes later, the gate agent announced to the remaining passengers that their delayed flight was now leaving from the gate where the PDA users had gone.

The CIO wondered: “I have a multibillion-dollar infrastructure supporting this airline. How did those other people get that information 10 minutes faster than my network delivered it to the gate attendant?”

His query led him to this conclusion: His data was held captive in vertical silos. After this experience, he committed himself to changing governance rules to make those silos horizontal rather than vertical.

Firms with horizontal master data-management governance approaches will win time and time again in the marketplace.

I assure you of this: The power of social media will tear down your vertical stacks, too. It’s only a matter of time. Or lost customers.

Gary Beach, Publisher Emeritus