After the first edition of the book The Elastic Enterprise the idea of connectors, one of the five dynamics we identified, took root in the business community. In the space of a couple of years new ideas around connectors emerged and developers, start-ups and not-so-young companies began creating new, friction-reducing products as part of the new business infrastructure. It also made me realize that is the real back story to the elastic enterprise: the creation of the new business infrastructure.
Identity is the new universal connector, the technology that is making seamless, friction-free business happen. It invites companies to become adaptive and nimble. Previous (and continuing) examples include RSS in content and APIs more generally.
But there is also another area, billing. I got talking recently to the folks at MetraTech whose billing solution is being used by airports like GRU in Brazil to stitch together new business models and incentive schemes for a broadening community of concessions. I’ll be writing about that soon for GigaOm research:
Without a billing partner that can help deploy a settlement system across the whole partner base, the airport (GRU) will have to rely on manual monthly transaction management – old ERP. In place of that it uses Metra Tech’s relationship billing system.
The billing system is in fact built on its own abstract or metadata model rather than being specifically designed for airports or any vertical. That makes it highly adaptive and explains why Metra Tech can function with a small organizational footprint. Vertical service integrators can quickly adapt the platform to a specific client in a specific sector.
Translated into an abstract operating model, the billing metadata model becomes the key connector, enabling a wide range of business relationships at variable settlement rates. It reduces friction, meaning none of the business partnerships needs to be managed on a day-to-day or month-to-month basis. And it enables the partnerships to maintain flexibility.
Enterprises can improve their performance and flexibility by adopting connector technologies. The context for that could be the idea of federation or simply universal access. Companies can federate services between multiple partners providing customers with one single signon. Or they can provide their own workforce and partners with single point of access to a wide variety of cloud services.
Either way the idea is to take pain and friction out of connection. Something similar happens when platforms like Apprenda provide customers with a way to migrate assets quickly to the Cloud. Sounds complex but it simply means providing enterprises with a way to unlock information silos by moving the assets into a space where they can be made accessible.
Connectors look like the unsung heroes of innovation. They are not glamorous but they are part of the new infrastructure of business, rapidly being constructed by companies like Ping, MetraTech and Apprenda. Do you have a connector strategy?