The 5 Most Common Mashup Mistakes

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I originally published this blog on Fast Company.  Since Joe McKendrick at ZDNet and Loraine Lawson at IT Business Edge deemed it worthy of commentary, I thought all of you might find it interesting reading too.  If so (or not), make sure you let me know what you think!

Mashups are a popular topic lately, in both IT and business circles. Gartner recently named them a ‘Top 10 IT Technology for 2009’. But if your organization is thinking about ‘getting mashy’, here are five common pitfalls that you can avoid with just a little education and forethought...

 

  • The ‘Fall for the Buzz’ Mistake: Misunderstanding what a ‘mashup’ is. Everyone wants to be associated with the hot buzzword and mashups are hot. Unfortunately, ‘mashup’ is a term that has also been used by vendors in areas like business process management, enterprise service bus (ESB), business intelligence (BI), and portals. So focus on the goal: mashups let you address just-in-time information needs by consuming and combining bite-size chunks of data, they run in ‘Internet time’ (i.e. seconds), they are usually relatively code-free, and they must make it easy to share with others. And there are, of course, a number of good independent software vendors that specialize in mashups.
  • The Self-Serve Mistake: Every few years we hear about tools that will turn users into developers. It ain’t true. Yes, users are becoming more technically savvy and self sufficient every day (we call them ‘Business User 2.0’). But we’ll need IT for a long time to come, acting it’s new role as ‘enabler’. In the case of mashups, IT will establish a secure, reliable, and robust mashup infrastructure through which end-users can get mashing. In non-technical terms, IT builds the mashup lab and the business gets to play mashup mad scientist without worrying about blowing up the building.
  • The SOA Mistake: Assuming you need an SOA before you adopt mashups. Sure, mashups put a business face on SOA, so to speak. And it’s easier for you to create mashups if there are a lot of ‘mashable’ (i.e. SOA-based) data sources. But the best mashup software can instantly turn databases and applications into mashable services.  So don’t wait for that 5-year SOA effort to be finished before you start the mashup rollout. Use mashups to help you define the optimal SOA.
  • The Silo Mistake: Mashups that aren’t reusable fall into the same ‘silo’ trap as legacy software. Mashups are their best when a community of like-minded users are building upon each other’s work. As we’ve written in the past, this kind of network effect does not happen automatically. Your mashup solution must have some kind of infrastructure to encourage reuse, such as a mashup ‘hub’, also often referred to as a ‘repository’ or ‘registry’. You (and your mashup software) have gotta have one. 
  • The ”Oops” Mistake: Thinking about security as an afterthought. Mashups can be based on business-critical data from your ERP system, your SFA system, your CRM system, etc. And, once created, they are often sent to many destinations (think portals, iPhone, and spreadsheets). You don’t want to find out your data has been compromised just because you assumed some kind of security was in place, do you? Your mashup solution must let mashup creators choose who they share with and the permissions. And the entire continuum of mashup inputs to mashup destinations need to be incorporated into your mashup plan. In technical terms, you need mashups that include LDAP integration and single sign-on support so they play nicely in your secure enterprise.

 

Understanding these common pitfalls can help your first (and your 50th!) mashup efforts be successful. Ignoring them will likely lead to mashup misery. Now get mashing.