We all know what happened with Excel, the most popular user-generated application on the planet. Every organization has hundreds, or even thousands of copies floating around, with no control or coordination. Is this what is happening with mashups, user-generated applications that may start to rival Excel in out-of-control proliferation?
Perhaps its time to provide some kind of governance around mashups. However, with mashups being very Enterprise 2.0-ish, the governance for mashup creation and reuse -- yes, reuse -- needs to be a highly collaborative exercise.
Mike Ogrinz, author of the recently published book Mashup Patterns, says it's time to look at ways to make mashups available for reuse across the enterprise, while still maintaining corporate standards. Mike, whose day job is enterprise architect at a large bank, recently provided his insights on the role of mashups over at JackBe's Enterprise Web 2.0 blog.
He talks about “the virtuous circle of mashups," which entails the process whereby mashups can be perpetually recycled and enhanced to build "even more useful solutions." What makes mashups different from other consumers of reusable code is the fact that the consumers themselves (the mashups) are reusable, Mike explains. Why keep assets locked within IT?
Citing the Excel example, Ogrinz cautions that there are risks with empowering end-users to build their own solutions:
"I have seen end-users create Excel-powered solutions that sidestepped all of the best practices IT has painstakingly developed over the years. New versions are passed (and changed) from one user to another with little or no regression testing or auditing. Often, the same solution will be implemented many times over as coworkers re-work the same problems (unaware that a solution already exists). For mashups to succeed in the enterprise, they can’t just accelerate the mistakes of the past."
To address this, Ogrinz proposes the creation of a centralized mashup hub or repository, "where the community of builders can share, tag, and rate one another’s solutions.... A central hub will give your enterprise mashup environment some of the advantages of crowdsourcing, even if two employees never work on the same solution. The benefit of cooperative tagging and rating activity helps ensure that only the best (quickest, most stable, etc) solutions are remixed as the basis for new ones."