Roger Federer, maybe the greatest men’s tennis player of all time.

Roger Federated Architectures

Roger Federer’s game is all around. He’s never relied on just one tool. Big serve? Sure. Deep slice? Why not? Inside-out forehand winner? Of course. Rush the net during your opponents second serve? You get the idea.

Throughout his career he’s often been able to find the right tool to beat a particular opponent. What’s even more special about Roger Federer is that as he’s aged he hasn’t found himself stuck with only a baseline game that his tired legs can no longer support or just a big serve that his shoulder can’t handle anymore. His last two big victories, The Australian Open and last nights win at Indian Wells, have come at the age of 35. (In the tennis world, 35 is Very Old.) His resilience, versatility, and timelessness are, I think, a result of this multi-tool approach.

When organizations deploy a wide variety of technologies, not only are they able to better meet the requirements of specific users, but also they’re able to avoid the dreaded technology “lock-in”… that feeling of being stuck on a sinking ship.

Vera Solutions is nearing our 200th client. Since 2010, when Zak, Karti, and I delivered our first successful project with a gender-based violence prevention program in South Africa, I have seen (and drawn) lots of flow charts depicting the movement of information around organizations. We (both OpenFn and Vera Solutions) are in the business of using technology to get important information where it needs to go so that organizations can make better decisions. Over the years, we’ve come to recognize a few patterns:

  1. Organizations have different groups of users.
  2. Those users have different needs.
  3. Shoehorning everyone onto the same platform, whether it’s developed “from the ground up” or in a “top-down” way, rarely works.

I’ve covered the flexibility aspect of this before—getting the right tools for the right users without making sacrifices—but watching Roger continue to win while more and more of his opponents succumb to age has made me think a lot about “lock-in”. When an organization invests in several smaller, more focused and less costly technologies for their different user groups or business functions, each individual investment is less costly and has a higher chance of success. They can swap out failed or failing technologies without disrupting the rest of their organization’s workflow and even prototype new technologies without having to re-build large portions of their information system.

This is what an integration platform offers. You can respect the different needs of your different user-groups (they are king!) and keep from putting all of your eggs in one basket. As your organization grows, it’s possible to automate important processes while still remaining flexible by adding or replacing tools as and when you need them without having to overhaul the entire system.

That’s it from me for now. Off to DC for NTEN’s 2017 Non-profit Technology Conference. Hope to see you there. Also, if the tennis got your more excited than the systems discussion, look out for my good friend Alberto Garrido C’s upcoming post on ATP World #1s and age.

Taylor

OpenFn Founder’s Blog

Written by

We’re building a fully customizable integration platform to make ICT4D work better. I’m Taylor. Stay tuned for OpenFn news and my own two cents on data systems.

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