This article is Part 5 in our Information Systems series.

Part 1: 6 Questions Executive Teams Should Be Asking About Their Information Systems

Part 2: Time To Reengineer IT – Again

Part 3: How Things Should Work

Part 4: New Approaches, New Attitudes

Part 5: Core And Edge (current)

Part 6: The Third Way

Part 7: Grapevine

Part 8: Better Methods At Work

Part 9: Toward A New Normal

Core and Edge

By Colby James

Over the past few years, we have witnessed an unprecedented stampede of information technology innovation. The confluence of social media, mobility, cloud computing, software as a service, and others is radically redefining the way that information technology drives and supports enterprises in every industry. Corporations must assess the uses and value of these tools.

A useful prism for viewing this issue is the core/edge dynamic and what it means for the way organizations innovate, deploy new information technology, and govern their IT assets.

  • By Core we mean the existing operations, processes, systems, technologies, governance model, and mindset that run the enterprise.
  • By Edge we mean any new process, tool, technology, or system that brings beneficial change or innovation into a company’s operations.

Growth through innovation is high on many a corporate agenda. But it’s extremely difficult to introduce innovation directly into the core, with its focus on managing scale, driving efficiencies, making incremental improvements, and ultimately lowering the cost of business operations. Innovation has to happen at the edge of the enterprise, where new ideas incubate and the business experiments to discover what’s possible. Too often core and edge are in conflict, both technologically and organizationally. The core is called unimaginative, the edge rogue. But they must work together.

Where does the edge get its resources? Experimenting happens in a standalone (often cloud-based) computing environment, but data and sometimes business logic need to be borrowed from the core. And what happens with successful innovations? They need to be scaled up and integrated into the core, or else run alongside it and become the new core.

Thus, core and edge are in a continual and sometimes intricate dance. What kind of computing platform serves not just core activities, and not just edge activities, but the dance itself – the interplay between core and edge? It’s a platform in which data and other assets can be extracted from the core without disruption, a platform that easily incorporates new technological components, and a platform that can put components working together in loosely coupled fashion. In other words, it’s a highly flexible platform configured on the principles of modularity, connectability, and scalability.

How can your organization harness that stampede of technology innovation to operate better, to innovate and then operationalize innovations, and to configure a truly flexible information systems and technology platform?

Up Next: The Third Way