Recently a company called Blue Prism and their product were brought to my attention. You can’t easily tell it from their website, but what they offer is basically an intelligent integration of systems… through their UIs. In other words, their software links systems by interacting with them as a human user would — clicking icons, typing commands & screen scraping the output then pasting it into another system (maybe after some internal processing). They say they noticed, that companies frequently use people (probably for the most part people in “offshoring centers” in poor countries) to link systems together into business processes, because… changing those systems and linking them properly is too hard, takes too much time and is too costly.
Not to criticize the clever guys at Blue Prism, but this is how the failure of our profession looks like. The Blue Prism product is the ultimate patch, the ultimate hack on business systems that are overdesigned, poorly built, laden with technical debt and maintained by dysfunctional, badly managed IT departments. It is sold to frustrated business users who want changes to react to the market and other changing requirements, but can’t get them through IT fast enough, so they turn to manual labor to get the job done. Blue Prism automates that labor — and I am pretty sure it will soon get competitors offering essentially the same solution, but this does not solve the original problem.
We know what it is and we know how to solve it, but even 16 years after the Agile Manifesto the impact we have on the profession and the way we work with business is clearly not sufficient. Apparently, “Agile Transformations” etc. are not achieving the goal of delivering what we call “business agility” — at least not in large, established companies and not on a large scale or fast enough. We need to work harder with our clients & students to help make products like this one a niche proposition.