It is clear that Information Applications have become an essential part of any organizations business and information strategy as I outlined in Information Applications: New Focus on Information Availability. IT organizations are beginning to realize that they must use enterprise and Internet class technologies or find themselves under the duress of complaints and never ending custom application development. To support the scale of these deployments and need for managing this strategic need is not best addressed through custom scripting an application for deployment in a web-browser or trying to make an internal business application extend to the Internet where the usability and interactivity was not designed for this need.
Under the hood, though, deploying the capability to satisfy a broad range of information needs both inside and outside of the enterprise requires that IT organizations put in place the technology and platforms that will be used to assemble and present the information with the right context but yet in a secure but personalized fashion. The platform that’s needed is one that can handle both the volume of information requests from individuals and the breadth of the needed content and data residing inside and outside the organization while maintaining acceptable performance and scalability. It must rank high in usability, offer flexibility in user interfaces, and be accessible from a breadth of applications, portals and mobile devices. In short, the platform must serve as an effective foundation element of the organization’s information architecture, supporting discovery, interactive and collaborative capabilities.
I have already seen where vendors like IBM who have begun to discuss this technology segment and Oracle who’s founder Larry Ellison has referenced it many times in past years have both identified where their application server and information technology products are capable of these requirements today. Event suppliers like Actuate and Information Builders who I recently reviewed have been providing high-scale information-centric applications for many years have dozens of customer examples. I have also been examining how information access and search platforms like that from Endeca and also a newer vendor called Exalead who is focused on simplifying access to information through their search technologies using semantic processing and indexing techniques. Capitalizing on standards like XML plays a critical role for Information Applications and a technology provider called Mark Logic has been playing an instrumental role in providing a simpler and more standard approach to accessing information through XML standards. There are many other technology providers supporting this new generation of information applications that go beyond this snapshot of the technologies empowering this technology segment. It is also an opportunity for technology vendors like Autonomy and their portfolio of technologies and Microsoft that might want to engage on this specific topic and have been investing into it as seen by their acquisition of FAST to boost their own search and information access technologies.
As the competency and maturity of consumers increase so will expectations on what business and government provide in the way of information availability. The viral adoption of business mobility and use of technology like Apple iPhone that make availability and interactivity of information much easier must be addressed in the strategy and design of Information Applications. Also the advancement of social media that provides information accessibility and collaboration through mechanisms like Facebook and Twitter are creating new expectations as they already have with business collaboration and networking that is occurring outside of business today and is a priority for them.
For now business and IT organizations will have to rethink their information strategies and most likely completely rethink their vendors and technologies to deliver Information Applications. This need goes beyond the conventional wisdom of application development strategies as the heavy use of the Internet and need for usability and interactivity on information is not something you code into the application but capabilities that you have to adapt and provide to individuals. It is also not about trying to make your BI technology work on the Internet as it is not an analysis and decision support need but an information and interactivity need. A close review of the right architecture and the level of manageability and reliability as the scale and operations will go well beyond your current types of enterprise applications you use for areas like ERP and CRM.
The technology for Information Applications will continue to evolve and become one of the fastest growing software categories that business and IT who will need to collaborate for ensuring they provide the right type of information availability inside and outside the organization.