model driven revolution

…and it is going to turn the IT world upside down and the put business world back in charge.

It all started for me in the very early 90s when I asked what the strange looking computer with the larger than normal monitor was standing, mostly idle, in the my employer’s group IT building, next to all the WYSE dumb terminals.

“That’s a workstation, like a small server.” replied my work colleague, “for Oracle CASE*Designer”… and I was intrigued by this slice of architectural magic. This was in the days of Oracle 5…The DEC corporation (remember them!) made the best servers and had a fabulous operating system (VAX VMS). Oracle PL/SQL hadn’t even arrived yet on the scene, only SQL…The PC and Windows was just taking off and MS Word was actually being used to write letters and not the stupidity of today’s “design is a document” mentality. Java didn’t even exist for almost another decade!….never mind The Internet, Smart Phones and Public Cloud!

But here was a tool that, given a visual model of a relational data structure and a bit of functional stuff…could generate out, at least, a good starting point of a working application in a day or two. This was incredible stuff! So why was nobody using it?

Well, possibly it arrived too early, because many of the things we take for granted today, fast networks, huge storage, web browsers etc…just didn’t exist at the time…and if these things has been there at the time, model driven design tools would have developed…and we would all be in a very different place right now.

But no, the IT industry became application and code centric instead for many reasons, mostly commercial. Hard data silo boundaries emerged and a whole new industry (Integrations and Systems Integrators) sprang up to try and bring it all together, getting more and more sophisticated, making the wrong things easier and quicker…parallel technologies like Enterprise Workflow were attempted, but the application + integration centric mindset had become entrenched as it still is today…

This, I feel, was the point where IT became self-serving and business just started to follow the hype cycles and lose the plot. The IT and business consulting industry now preserve the status quo…and why wouldn’t they, it’s worth trillions of dollars every year….technology churn and business disconnection is their business.

More recently, data-centricity and data-driven movements have tried to fix the problem from the data space, a valiant effort but like fixing half a puncture hole and expecting the tyre to not keep deflating…

Big Data, AI and ML are just feeding this with dreams of data heaven and false promises of insights without the hard work of business understanding more about their data…

Agile has proposed that we just need to develop more software more quickly and see how it all goes, just plain stupid.

All, in many ways, miss the point…IT and/or Data Strategy can not fix this in isolation. This takes a holistic view, this is a people and business problem. Business has forgotten what IT is actually for, it is a business tool.

So back to Oracle CASE*Designer and let’s start painting a picture of what MIGHT have been if it had been invested in…

By the end of 1990s, modelling techniques and approaches of information and business flows would have started to converge, a role and discipline of business systems designer would start to emerge as the architectural job of choice. CASE Tools and repositories would start generating richer and richer applications to the emerging PC desktop and existing client/server architecture. Internal IT departments would start to create small highly business compatible bespoke business systems that out-feature available commercial offerings…still an IT driven process, but business driven with a departmental focus.

Y2K, Business realises that all this modelled stuff was changed from YY to YYYY in seconds (an easy meta data update), regenerated and regression tested in hours…all the other stuff was painful and needed months of checking and redevelopment. Business Leaders start to question the application centric mindset, sales of ERP and large commercial application suites start to slip resulting from increased pain and cost of Y2K. The IT Industry starts to take note and invest in model driven capabilities, servers, development languages and databases that improve the time from model to working business system.

2000 to 2005. the model driven industry gets a boost from the internet, web browsers and Java. Model execution starts to become seamless with design, scope becomes more enterprise and supply chain. CASE tools become more and more expressive and featured due to increased commercial vendor competition in the space. Sales of ERP collapse and the integration industry never really get’s off the ground due to a diminishing silo mentality. Model driven starts to go global in scope. OOTB Industry executable models start to emerge based on the leading CASE tools which now also cover many aspects of BI and insight visualisation..Big Data never happens as the business benefits over model driven CASE is are not solid enough. Software development becomes a niche industry for bespoke capabilities not covered by CASE and languages emerge that focus on this need.

2005 to 2010, business hardware vendors focus on monitors, networked devices, global network, processor and memory rather than storage. Smart phones, laptops and tablets still emerge but are more browser based than app based. The desktop becomes a consumer only device and struggles against dedicated games consoles. A cut down version of Linux optimised only for networked browser devices replaces the desktop from pretty much all businesses. IT departments and costs shrink significantly, all development of business systems moves to the business architecture scope. Large scale transformation programmes pretty much disappear, replaced by localised and functional continuous delivery pipelines. Office productivity tools become virtually unused in a business scenario through lack of need. Home working is widespread, broadband arrives much quicker and faster with speeds. Many programming, Integration, BI, database and hardware technologies that exist now just never get invented because of a lack of need or problem to solve. Systems Integrators don’t exist, they are not needed. Business Architecture becomes primarily focused on cross enterprise semantics with a number of methods and standards emerging.

Now in 2010s, global executable workflows replace industry specific executable business models due to market demands for global interoperability. Technology hype cycles and lingo have pretty much disappeared. CASE tools and frameworks become so instant, complete, intuitive, business friendly and interoperable through global semantic services that businesses themselves start to blur their boundaries within their supply chains. IT costs are tiny, public cloud AWS, Azure never arrives but global semantic and CASE framework services exist in a kind of cloud architecture to support the huge demand. Business evolves new products and services pretty much continuously, time to market is vastly reduced.

2020s and beyond…business is only limited by its ambition, culture and ability to communicate its brand, products and values, IT limitations and constant technology change have been removed from the equation. Effective business systems are pretty much taken for granted. A large self employed global administrative workforce can be engaged on demand, employee headcount is flexible and workers regularly support multiple businesses. International business and administrative boundaries start to be challenged as global business flourishes regardless of geographic location. Business goes Global for the benefit of every person on this planet…

Food for thought, right? All the ingredients are already there to make this revolution happen…so maybe it’s time to give CASE and model driven business systems another go before it’s too late?

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About the author 

Robert Vane

Robert Vane is the co-founder of the Q6FSA Method for Global Information Management, a freelance full enterprise scope data architect with over 25 years experience of getting it all wrong, now dedicated to solving the foundational root causes of failure within the information management space and getting it all right.

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