Back in 2011, Geoffrey Moore coined the term Systems of Engagement (SoE) as he wished to distinguish a new class of IT systems from the traditional systems of records used in organizations.
The idea emerged from the evolution of the Enterprise IT context to embrace a new class of applications where retention of data is no longer permanent but transient. A context in which searchability is hard as it manages insights and interactions as opposed to facts and transactions. SoEs are conceived to capture engagement mechanisms in social network sites for Enterprise 2.0 applications, or social media intelligence services which consolidate and process continuous streams of public social media platforms and help brands produce insights.
SoEs are also a good way to think of Internet of Things or IoT services. Here, IoT represents an evolution from traditional Machine-to-Machine (M2M) from enterprise-focused objectives to wider marketplace opportunities; from B2B to B2B2C where horizontal integration based on open APIs matters as much as vertical solutions.
The tip of the iceberg for SoEs is the experience presented to the user. Imagine a supply chain SoE based on smart pallets and containers. Lines-of-business (LoB) could develop their own mobile applications integrating live sensor data, systems of records (including a plain old Excel model) and perhaps third-party SoEs. But getting to the state where enterprise IT augments its portfolio with a SoE presents some challenges – delivery models and platforms.
The sheer complexity of SoEs will require technical organizations to embrace architectures and delivery models which explicitly empower technical users of SoEs. The example above could be stretched from a LoB to consumers who will decide how to hack their mashup. The sense of control changes radically in these situations. Gartner acknowledged the challenge and advices to tap the cognitive surplus of the “citizen integrator” – something Bosch recognized already.
While the edge of the SoE architecture presents sufficient variety to absorb the diverse needs of citizen integrators and creative LoBs, the core of the platform will bring its own unique set of architecture decisions to be made: IoT protocols, how to authenticate and authorize a sensor to join the system, how to select a given sensor from the sets deployed in the field, how to aggregate data for consumption, how to perform firmware updates, or how much functionality to incorporate in field gateways?
The starting point will vary from enterprise to enterprise, but taking the right approach to what the overall solution will provide in terms of value will help drive these decisions and find where the focus will lie – experience engineering, data or platform. We are already involved in IoT pathfinding endeavors and will enjoy discussing your SoE plans for the future.