Monday, September 17, 2007

Do we need business mashups?

I've been talking quite a bit about business mashups lately, and besides the standard, "What is a mashup?" and "Why did you have to call them that?" I've been asked whether we need business mashups. Aren't the mashups we already have good enough?

That's a good question, but to answer it I need to explain what other sorts of mashups are out there in the world. For simplicity's sake I will only talk about software mashups, not music mashups, video mashups or any other sort of mashup.

There are several types of software mashups, the most common being the consumer mashup, best exemplified by the many GoogleMap applications. GoogleMap applications range from calculating the distance of a lunchtime run to showing which hotels the stars frequent in Beverly Hills. Just to play around, I even created one myself, showing the good burrito joints near my office. If you're interested, you can take a look at many consumer mashups by visiting Programmable Web.

Other common types of mashup are “data mashups” and “enterprise mashups.” A data mashup combines multiple data sources into a new data source, such as combining the data from multiple RSS feeds into a single feed with a graphical front end. An enterprise mashup usually integrates data from internal and external sources. For example, it could create a market share report by combining an external list of all houses sold in the last week with internal data about which houses one agency sold.

Consumer and data mashups aren’t enough if you are trying to solve business problems. These problems generally have several things in common. They involve multiple stakeholders, they cross organizational boundaries, they interface with multiple back-end systems, and at the heart of every business problem is a process: a process for provisioning new employees, approving expense reports, or approving sales discounts.

Consumer and data mashups don’t provide the necessary capabilities to solve business problems. Business Mashups offer not only a unified experience, like consumer mashups, but have at their core a powerful process engine. This process engine lets you cross organizational boundaries and pull together stakeholders throughout your business. You get the right information to the right people at the right time so they can get the job done. No consumer or data mashup can do that.

So do we need another sort of mashup?

Oh, yes, we do.

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