For decades, the purpose of information technology departments has been to acquire or build applications and implement them. Perhaps we do not stop long enough to think about what we are doing, but it would appear that we think of applications as machines. Once the machine has been built, it is turned over to its business owners and is expected to function, although it may require some maintenance. I think this analogy is only partially accurate, because it ignores the role of data. Furthermore, I think such a perspective is fundamentally dangerous.

Viewing an application as a machine makes some sense when the intent is to automate a manual process. For the first few decades of the Information Age, this is what applications did. More recently, there has been a shift in applications from a process-centric to a data-centric orientation. There is widespread recognition that data is a valuable resource and that the value needs to be unlocked from the data. Data integration and BI environments are being built to unlock this value. However, these data-centric applications are not like their process-centric forerunners. In particular, the data, which is the raw material the "machine" processes, needs as much attention as the machine itself. This was never really the case in process-centric applications.

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