As with paper and plastic, “reduce, reuse, recycle” works for software. Especially when you’re a small company in a cutthroat business, where squeezing as much life as you can out of an IT infrastructure can mean the difference between breathing easy and landing on the garbage heap.
Software reusability–in particular, applications built on service-oriented architecture–is helping music promotion firm Artis2Market run with big record companies. The company, which had $1.8 million in sales last year, has lured clients such as country star Dolly Parton, hard rocker Tommy Lee and heavy metal satirists Spinal Tap with customized services that help these artists promote their music in venues such as MySpace and Facebook.
“We had this idea to create a menu board of new services that the record labels didn’t offer, or only offered for high extra fees,” says Mike Skinner CIO of parent company Eurpac, an employee-owned provider of sales and marketing services. “SOA let us build those quickly and keep adding on to them and open them up to artists themselves. That’s our advantage.”
SOA makes it easier for companies to support new platforms, such as social networking and mobile computing, says Anne Thomas Manes, vice president and research director at Burton Group. To market products effectively, companies must have a presence–including applications for customers to use–in many online places. These include Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and various mobile platforms. SOA offers a streamlined way to adapt applications for these channels, just as it has provided a way for companies to more easily integrate and share internal applications. “We’re no longer just building a website to access via laptop,” says Thomas Manes. “You have to support a number of channels with your application.”
The Band Plugs In
Skinner wanted clients to access applications via the Web as well as mobile phones, but he didn’t want to hard-code the software for each platform. The components were built with Java tools and run mainly on Unix systems.
Spinal Tap, members of which include actors Harry Shearer, Michael McKean and Christopher Guest, is a quarter-century old, but the band knew that reaching a new crowd via social networking would be vital to the success of its “Unwigged and Unplugged” reunion tour this summer.
When it signed with Artist 2 Market, Spinal Tap got to choose which services to buy. Those included tools for creating and monitoring social networking fan sites as well as views into Artist 2 Market’s supply chain, so the band can track CD shipments of its new album, “Back from the Dead.” (Turn it up to 11!)
For example, the band, or its minions, can go to an Artist 2 Market website to see what consumers are saying online about the music. If the 25-year-old tune “Big Bottom” generates more enthusiastic comments than the brand-new “(Funky) Sex Farm” on MySpace and Twitter, Spinal Tap can modify its social networking promotions and even its concert playlist, accordingly. “They have passion for their art,” Skinner says, “but it’s also a business.”