Part 3: IT4IT as a reference architecture
In January 2014, as an AT&T executive assigned to Target, I made the case I should attend the National Retail Federation’s big party (ahem, convention) in New York, at the Javits Center. I re-connected with the Association for Retail Technology Standards, and was envious of the success they’d achieved: a large booth on prime expo floor real estate, in the center of the action at the Javits Center, with satellite booths from Oracle and Teradata and others (who had their own big pavilions).
This shows the success of the ARTS leadership in promoting their standard as the basis of interoperability in the retail space. I’ve seen the ARTS data model; it’s enormous and comprehensive and continues to expand its reach as the basis for retail architecture. (My old boss at Target was a participant, as long ago as 2000. These things do take time.)
The governance model
This brings us to the governance question: how is the standard created and maintained?
Well... In the past few years we’ve seen a number of attempts to develop crowdsourced/volunteer IT management standards. None has gained traction. A consortium model requires that parties have “skin in the game.” And, there is a roughly egalitarian model, in that a small organization has one vote, just like an IBM or Oracle. Could this be abused and lead to manipulation or other bad outcomes? Theoretically, yes, but this is where The Open Group’s capabilities and deep experience kick in. It’s a balanced system, proven over years of practice.
The final product is free to the interested individual. You don’t have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to actually see the standard, a monetization approach I have always found objectionable. IT4IT is online. And if you are truly passionate about some aspect of the standard, but can’t or don’t want to formally join, there are other avenues of influence: LinkedIn, attending an Open Group conference, engaging an IT4IT member company as a proxy, and so forth.
Furthermore, while it may be “pay to play,” the essential operating model is a non-profit core surrounded by a profitable ecosystem. This business model has been proven by numerous other reference model efforts. You don’t want to commit to something without a proven model for long term support, do you?
What’s in it for me and my staff?
So, how can you participate in IT4IT? To have a direct seat at the table, your company needs to join. You’re a company of one? No problem. You get a vote, just like IBM. We are consensus-seeking, not some Robert’s Rules of Order voting process.
Why would your company pay for this, if you are not an IT product provider? Consider the following:
The primary value of the standard is in helping you avoid vendor lock in. You can get this benefit, however, without paying a cent. Just download the free spec and use it internally.
AND… you may find you or your staff have particular opinions about how the spec could be much better. Great! This is an open platform. Yes, you need to buy into the consortium. But consider:
- From a personal perspective, standards development is a form of professional development. Therefore it can be funded through those budgets. Standards work is a notable differentiator on a resume.
- It is especially valuable for senior staff who tire of large-event conferences and passive classroom training.
- It provides a channel for networking with colleagues, vendors, and prospective customers who are deeply interested in the most difficult, emergent problems in a professional area.
- You gain vendor leverage. Your vendor should be sending top product (not sales) people to the sessions. (If they aren't... ask why not!)
- The total costs can be comparable to regular training and conferences. The membership may seem a bit pricey for non-IT product companies, but the Open Group working sessions are very cheap relative to other forms of training (~ $800 registration). Even for a large company with the higher membership fee, if they involve 2 people, it's reasonable.
In closing, briefly:
- IT4IT is a platform as much or more than a product
- It follows a well proven path for defining an industry reference model
- You can participate and have a real influence.
I hope to see you at some future IT4IT event!
Disclaimer reiterated: this post represents my personal views only.