The meeting comprised four panels: Business, Technical, Legal, and Social and Ethical, each of which featured an introduction of the issues and follow-up with an interactive discussion between the speakers and the audience. The aim was to capture and publish the issues discussed in order to raise the industry awareness of the benefits of Open Source.
Do you know the story of what Jack Welch did at GE? It’s called the Boundaryless Organization. What Jack was concerned about was the horizontal, vertical, and geographic barriers within organizations that prevented the organization from working. In today’s environment, where we have to react much more quickly to any situation, we don’t want things going in a departmental hands-off process. We want to get people together to attack problems quickly and efficiently. And that’s what we’ve been doing with cross-functional teams that come together specifically to solve a particular problem or set of problems.
When we started doing this, the big problem was the culture between the people in the different organizational stovepipes. They didn’t talk to each other. Hopefully, we’ve overcome that now in most of our organizations.
Having overcome the barrier between people, we’ve found that within those stovepipes or silos the IT systems were specifically built for the silos. They were all conceived individually and weren’t intended to work with others. But we’re not just going to throw away systems that have been built up over perhaps 20 or even 40 years. The challenge gets even more complex when we bring business partners into the picture.
To get a sense of the scope of this hurdle, we asked one of our customers two questions: “How many business partners do you have?” and “How many applications do you have?” They replied “Over a thousand,” and “We don’t know.”
Imagine trying to find information, putting it together, and then delivering it where it’s needed to cross-functional teams that are continuously forming and re-forming. You can’t just put in a new application for each team, because by the time you study their specific need and respond to it, the team has gone away and others have replaced it.
As Jack Welch called the vision for the whole enterprise the Boundaryless Organization, we focused on a vision of Boundaryless Information Flow—getting information to flow in a boundaryless way within the organization. And the added complication for these organizations is that they’re global and have to get interoperability working at a global level.
If we take a look at The Open Group’s vision statement, we see something that says, “Boundaryless Information Flow achieved through global interoperability”—but that’s not enough. Jack Welch himself said that boundarylessness does not mean having no boundaries. But what we must have are effective boundaries that are appropriate to the business need. What we don’t need are boundaries that disable business. We need boundaries to be permeable so they enable business.
Just as Jack Welch could not go out and buy a Boundaryless Organization, neither can The Open Group make a Boundaryless Information Flow package that you’ll go out and buy. It’s a continuous process. You have to work through all the variables, just as our different Forums are doing now.
What we do is bring customers and suppliers together to understand what the issues are, to understand what the pain is and what the requirements are. We aim to understand where we need standards, where we need tailored or other solutions and to enable the industry to deliver the standards and solutions. It’s important to make sure that we know what we’re getting.
One of the big issues with standards is that customers don’t necessarily see the benefit. They hear from a vendor, “My product complies with standards. Trust me—I’m a salesman.” And they know that doesn’t tell the whole story. The Open Group does certification of conformance to standards. It’s only by certification of conformance that customers know that the products will work according to a standard.