XML Tage Berlin or why users are from Venus and IT staff from Mars


I have a speaker engagement at the XML Tage in Berlin. OK, this time it is only a 20 minute plus 10 minute discussion thing but since I said to Uwe once that every topic can be broken down so it fits in any time span I have to deliver that ;-)

The idea – as the conference name suggests – is to talk about XML and its recent usage. OK, this is easy because not only was Microsoft involved in the definition of XML but drives it usage quite a bit. So once again the story of the eXtreme Marketing Language, SOA and yeadi yeadi ya…

Hmm…not my style. I thought how could I make the trick to have the talk just before lunch and not do the always the same thing.

I posed my number one question: For whom are we doing this all? Regardless the technology for whom are we all – who is called the IT industry – working for? Yes, you get it: For the end user.

So what can an end user expect when we as the IT industry make use of XML? A perfect question I think.

My idea is to pose several theses. Number one is: The end user must not see XML! OK, that one is easy…

Second one: IT staff is from Mars, end users are from Venus ;-) OK, not true on all respect but it has a deeper explanation.

There is a historic misunderstanding between those two which evolved over the years to a real enmity. Traditionally the IT owned the data and its store. In good old Host days it was in their will what a user could do with the system. If you as Joe User wanted a new feature or function, wanted to see the data in a different way you had to ask for it (some say to pledge). What was the typical answer? It will take at least 6 months, we are totally under right now… such alike. There have been other users like CEOs who certainly did not hear such answers.
It was not that the IT department did not want to help but what seemed so easy for the user is in the end hard work that takes it time to be done. IT is not able to keep up with the ever changing processes and can supply only a tiny subset automated in a full blown application.

In between the PC shifted the gears and a new area started. And with the PC came the tool which revolutionized it all: The clipboard. Ups…Clipboard??
Yes, no it is possible to take out the data from the grand old big ones and drag it into little applications called spreadsheets or local databases. Users quickly found out that it is not necessary to wait for IT anymore since you can do it on your own. They did not do that because they wanted to hit back on IT (which by the way I would understand too) but to be more productive. The effect was that IT lost the ownership of the data because more and more of the day to day data is stored in various Excel-sheets or Access-databases (if you don’t use the Microsoft Office Suite changes the names accordingly and be sure to give it a try in the next few weeks ;-).

The IT department was cut down to deliver services like email which is the inter-clipboard connecting two clipboards on different machines.
If you do not believe in that go out and have a look at a company making use of a typical CRM system.

In my opinion there are three different solutions for this dilemma. But first of all I’ll have breakfast now ;-)