Monday, January 14, 2008

Thinking outside The Map

Like everyone else, I'm waiting for the "killer app" that will finally make business mashups a household term. The problem is, I think folks are looking in the wrong places. Sure, Google Maps are way cool, but there are way more to mashups than figuring out where to find your favorite *insert your favorite whatever here* when you're on the road. I'm convinced that what I'm looking for is hiding in plain sight just waiting to be found ( just like this blog).

So where should we be looking? Well, where ever there is pain. There are business problems causing pain in every department of every business. Unfortunately most folks get so used to the pain they almost don't feel the hurt any more. Kind of like when you visit Greeley, CO. When you pull into town, the smells from the slaughterhouse are quite overwhelming, but after just a few hours, you almost don't notice it.

So take a look around your own business environment, and think back to the scene in Office Space where "The Bobs", in search of layoff candidates, are asking the individual employees to describe what their jobs are. Hopefully you have less issues with the description part than the poor bastards in the movie, so once you have defined your job think about how you are currently doing that job. Is it the best way? Is there a little (or big) something that would make your job easier to do or allow you to produce better results? Perhaps it's just additional information you need but it's hard to get to it when you need it and it's usually out of date. Now think of the perfect world scenario in which you can get that information when you need it and it's up to date and in a format that will allow you to do your job in the best possible way. Maybe there is a business mashup that exists or can be developed (by you!) that will get you that information when you need it, and just maybe it doesn't involve a map.

One example I like to use is one that just about everyone in the workforce encounters - tracking time off. This is frequently handled manually using spreadsheets and emails. Information is cut and pasted from one of these into some payroll program. It's prone to error and it's hard to find information past, current, and future requests. No maps here unless you want to attach a map showing the location of that remote resort you are relaxing at, but this is a real problem that most businesses need to solve. I've created my own solution to this problem using business mashups because I was tired of using emails and spreadsheets. Other departments saw it an wanted to use it too. Now all of Serena is using it, and I no longer have to maintain it because IT took it over. Everybody wins.

So, what's your killer app and when can I see it?