by C.G. Lynch

Why Enterprises Can’t Handle Streaming Apps (Yet)

Jun 03, 20092 mins
Enterprise Applications

As Facebook, Google and Twitter change the design of applications, enterprises will be slow to follow.

As Facebook, Twitter and Google change the way we process and organize information as consumers, the enterprise will be slow to catch up with the design of its applications.

The three aforementioned companies have adapted their products to accommodate a revolution that has occurred on the Web: Because we must consume so much information on a given day, the notion of putting it into folders, bins, and other structured forms is pointless and inefficient. Traditional information structures, as we knew them on the desktop, require several clicks to discover information.

As an alternative, Facebook and Twitter popularized streaming applications — the idea that new information show flow down your screen in real-time rather than require you to click on a sequence of buttons to find it. You see it on the Facebook News Feed and a Twitter home page. This represents a massive departure from your Windows Desktop, where everything, even the new stuff, is foldered away.

Now, Google will get involved with this evolution of streaming apps with Google Wave, a collaboration tool that integrates the principles of flow-based applications with the traditional form of e-mail.

Unfortunately, enterprises will take forever to embrace streaming apps. The first excuse will be security, but that will be defeated. Vendors who make streaming apps for the enterprise will show they can safely secure the data just as easily as an MS Office file.

The real issue: Enterprise IT will have difficulty wrapping its head around this design concept. From their perspective, it lacks control and order when stacked up to a traditional document management system like SharePoint. Streaming apps look like a rally marching down main street; SharePoint looks like the book stacks in a library.

The second excuse will be compliance, which, while more legitimate, can also be overcome. The idea that you can’t secure streaming apps, or not make them suitable for regulatory compliance, is false. It’s an issue of perception rather than technical reality.

Search — not some overpriced, poorly designed Business Intelligence (BI) tools — will become our discovery mechanism for streaming apps in the enterprise. We also set up filters — ways in which you view bits of information from specific sources, like we do on Facebook or TweetDeck — to find things faster.

Archiving will change. The electronic filing cabinet will become untenable. And just as wikis and IM pervaded the enterprise when IT resisted, so too will streaming apps.