by Rob Karel.

Information-as-a-service (IaaS) — the ability to deliver critical business information services in real-time, and in context of an existing business process — is piquing the interest of many enterprise architects and information and knowledge managers.  Enabling this capability could close in on those big hairy audacious goals that SOA infrastructure, Web service technologies, and other middleware offerings have promised.  (For more info on IaaS, check out the latest piece from Mike Gilpin and Noel Yuhanna “Information-As-A-Service: What’s Behind This Hot New Trend?

I have noticed there is something strangely familiar with the hype and IT-driven excitement around IaaS: it seems to parallel the enthusiasm witnessed in the mid-to late 1990’s around enterprise data warehousing and business intelligence reporting tools.  Back then, organizations spent millions of dollars to consolidate data from disparate systems into huge data warehouses, and then rolled out colorful and attractive BI reporting and analysis tools to business stakeholders across the company.   And then what happened?  The business did not trust the information delivered.  They still used spreadsheets to manually review information, and the ROI on the huge investment was not realized.

Data warehousing and BI initiatives remain extremely popular, but a few things have changed in the past 5 years or so to improve business usage. These include the better-late-than-never adoption of data quality software within ETL or DW environments to cleanse, standardize, enrich, match, and merge source data, and the more active participation of business stakeholders playing data stewardship roles. The introduction of technology focusing on data quality, and the organizational engagement of business stakeholders earlier on in the requirements process has led to greater confidence in DW/BI solutions.

I’m worried that IaaS may be heading down the same windy road; everyone in IT is so excited to build out SOA infrastructures and deliver information-as-a-service, but who is asking the question “will it be trusted-information-as-a-service”?  What information will be accessed by these services, and what are the guarantees the business will consider this information clean and useful?  My recommendation is to engage business stakeholders now to ask these questions, and incorporate whatever data governance and stewardship processes are necessary for your company to get the most value from your information services investment.