Elegant, Easy to Read, Good Primer for Managers,
If you are a manager to whom information technologists report, or a manager that employs technical advisors who in turn help oversee varied IT procurements and implementations, then this book is an ideal primer. It can also be scary, because I will wager than in 7 out of 10 cases, the technical experts are not pursuing the enterprise integration fundamentals that this book outlines.
Both authors are strong in their own right. The book bring together Bill Ruh, former MITRE, MITRETEK, and Concepts 5 guru, today the global manager for CISCO AONS, who is updating his 2000 book on the topic, with Beth Gold-Bernstein, who has consulted, lectured, and written on this topic, and has her own book titled “Enterprise Integration: A Practical Approach.”
I regard the book, and the topic, as a watershed between the old days of configuration management and a focus on data that was largely within internal custody, and today, when real-time data integration and exploitation is required across both all internal points (i.e. including the 85% that is in emails and hard drives) and external points–not just the web, but supplier, buyer, regulatory, and other databases.
I recommend this book for managers in part because the book itself is quite clear on the fact that information technology by itself, no matter how much money is thrown at it, will not achieve enterprise information integration. Management mind-sets, management metrics, management enforcement of standards and compliance with the strategic direction implied by enterprise integration, are all required.
Early in the book there are important references to both scale and speed, with the key difference between the 1990’s and today being that instead of humans accessing the data, there now much more machine to machine communication and sharing, and this requires hyper-speed. There is also much more focus on event-driven information actions, with Delta Airlines being cited as a very good case study–the system must be able to take many autonomous actions triggered by an event (e.g. an airplane more than 15 minutes late, with repercussions across gate management, luggage management, connections management, catering management, etc.). Zero latency, real-time enterprise, and event-driven information transactions are among the buzz words.
The case study of CISCO on page 6 grabbed me early on–my primary focus is on the Global War on Terror (GWOT), and reading about CISCO’s move to real-time metrics (this book is *very* strong on metrics, which I take to be a very good thing) and real-time decision making and course corrections, I was thinking to myself that CISCO is to information as special operations are to terror. So when CISCO doubled productivity, cut costs by 30%, and made daily reporting the norm, I say to myself: okay, now let’s see that in GWOT….this book is Ref A in answering that challenge. Another case study, on FedEx using hand-held devices as both points of data entry in the field, and end points for data value to the field, also struck me as relevant to GWOT.
Throughout the book, one of its own phrases: “people are the most expensive part of any system,” keeps resonating, because everything in here is about either increasing productivity or reducing the time-cost of information transactions. This book also has a very healthy focus on information sharing across all boundaries, with appropriate security, privacy, and legal attributes for each transaction.
Standards receive heavy emphasis throughout.
The book is slightly dated on the topic of automated metastandards and semantic data definitions, but I know the authors to be personally very engaged in the very latest developments surrounding semantic web and synthetic information architectures and other related automated assignments of meaning, so I take this to be primarily an issue of timing–the book had to be put to bed.
The chapters on Information Integration Architecture and on Information Integration, the ones I was most looking forward to reading, strike me as the least developed among the many excellent parts of this book. In part this is because Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is just coming of age, and truly scalable solutions to the challenge of managing global multi-media multi-lingual unstructured information data (Cf. InfoSphere AB in Sweden) are just now coming into being. This chapter does provide an important itemization of key organizations responsible for metadata standards, and lays out a framework for establishing “who needs to know what when” as part of the manager’s contribution to the over-all enterprise integration planning process. These two chapters excel in pointing out that information management is about ensuring long-term data value, allowing for reachback over time and space.
In its conclusion the book makes reference to turf wars, training, reducing redundancy, reducing reliance on proprietary technologies with lock-in costs, finding a return on assets, and creating a culture of reuse. The last hundred pages of the book, and the CD-ROM, provide templates that any manager could reasonably demand of their technical advisors. I opened these up and found them very useful, to the point of being worth at least a week if not more of man-time, and hence easily repaying the price of the book many times over.
The bibliography is good and the index has been thoughtfully developed. I recommend this book to anyone who deals with global information in any form, but especially to managers who might be wondering if their IT people have any clue as to where they are taking the enterprise and its information. This book also strikes me a superb textbook, both for undergraduates as a primer, and for graduates as a foundation for a more nuanced discussion. For myself, it was “just enough, just in time” information, exactly what I wanted and needed in my specific context.