iphone-with-apps

A Bag Full of Phones

Remember when we all had flip phones? It was only a few years ago, but it seems like a different age. Movies and old TV shows can be “carbon-dated” by the cellular technology they use. Even if the actors wear modern hairstyles and clothing, it’s easy to tell the show is “pre-iPhone” by observing their cell phones.

I remember dreaming about a “convergence device”. At the time, a Blackberry was the best example. It combined your email, phone, and pager. It had a crude browser, but it wasn’t very good. Somewhere around summer of 2007, my flip phone died and I decided to look at the much-hyped iPhone. I went to an AT&T store, picked up the device and could not believe how incredible the experience was. I immediately dumped Verizon and became an AT&T customer. It was that good.

The reason Apple was so successful with the iPhone is because they created a platform (OS) and an App Store that developers could fill with a never-ending stream of useful applications. Before long, you could retire your GPS, your camera, your MP3 player, and a myriad of other single-purpose devices.

Recently, I’ve been comparing this experience to the current state-of-the-art software offerings for enterprises. If you are an IT manager in a typical life sciences company, you’re expected to build a slew of single-purpose IT systems sporting catchy acronyms such as ERP, LIMS, CRM, ELN, CAPA, LMS, EDMS, and on and on. All these systems are composed of the same basic components; a database, a middleware layer, and an application server. But we’ve been conditioned to think that standing up single-purpose computer systems is state-of-the-art.

When you build single-purpose systems, you waste resources by creating redundant technology stacks. But more insidiously, you strand information. Or even worse, you replicate information in silos.

Wouldn’t it be great if your company could invest in a multi-purpose platform that addressed a wide variety of information management needs? How about being able to select applications from a catalogue? This will become the new state-of-the-art in the next few years. Just as the mobile phone market was upended by Apple, there will be a similar upheaval in enterprise computing once the advantages are better understood.

In the near future, IT departments won’t build dozens of technology stacks; all devoted to single purpose functions. That makes as much sense as asking you to carry around a bag full of phones.

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