Extended enterprise

As the CTO of divine Inc., Robert “Buck” Flannigan is out to change the way people think about CM (content management) and the way that applications interact with one another across organizational boundaries. In recent months, divine has merged with or acquired the assets of 19 different companies, including Open Market Inc., Delano Technology Corp., Eprise Corp., eshare communications, Intira, SageMaker Inc. and Viant Corp., as part of a plan to become a service provider for extended enterprise applications. In an interview with InfoWorld (US) Editor-in-Chief Michael Vizard, Flannigan talks about how software-as-a-service application models based on Web services will enable a new class of enterprise applications for business.

InfoWorld: How do you define divine’s mission?

Flannigan: The high-level mission is to lead the industry in what we’re calling extended enterprise solutions. Extended enterprise systems are ones that really go beyond the edge of an organizational boundary and stretch out into the entire value chain. We feel the next major area of growth within the IT industry revolves around providing the software, the professional services, and the managed services to help folks extend their enterprise systems.

InfoWorld: At a high level, this has always been a major challenge for any IT organization. So why is this more attainable today?

Flannigan: The comfort level today comes from ubiquity of standards and the infrastructure that is in place. Everybody is agreed that XML is a good thing and it provides the common semantic to mark up data. You also have the transport around the first generation and second generation Web infrastructures in place and the third generation Internet is coming up, which is much more service-oriented and much more extensible. Today you can blur firewalls from a technological standpoint, which was difficult – if not impossible – to do in the past when companies previously tried to build an agile extended enterprise infrastructure.

InfoWorld: How is the deployment of enterprise applications changing in the wake of B2B e-commerce?

Flannigan: Typically, in the decades that preceded this decade that we’re embarking on now, the intended end-user of systems that IT professionals put together was an employee of a company. Within the context of extended enterprise systems, the end consumer of applications many times is not an employee of that line of business or even that company. And many times it’s not even a human being at all, but it’s another system or a software agent that’s taking part in what divine calls the composite application or an extended enterprise system. Application development is going to be marked over the next decade by interoperable solutions and a focus on excellence of integration much more than on just raw coding.

InfoWorld: How do Web services fit into the vision?

Flannigan: I’ve been a frothy-mouthed zealot around this probably even before the Web services moniker was coined. We just used to call them XML APIs. My take on Web services is that it’s a good thing and it’s an evolutionary step toward enabling the extended enterprise. CTOs being leaders and pragmatic disrupters around companies right now [also] really need to be very zealous and vigilant around standards. Web services are an enabling technology, but there’s too much focus on the “how” right now and not the “what.” Most of our thought processes over the last year have really gone from being early adopters and on the cutting edge of Web services into building some business solutions that are going to meet our customers’ needs now and grow with them in the future.


Robert “Buck” Flannigan, divine