On Bankervision, I read this great post Using people as glue. It is often the case, when you move from a legacy system to a new system that you have to face the struggle of moving your data and user experience from one to the other. As described by James Gardner:
You know that, even if you mandate a new systems approach, you’re always going to have to spend piles of money doing legacy integration, because that’s where the data is. It is data on which the business relies, so it has to be available, and, obviously, the job of moving it all, and the business rules and all the rest, to a new system in one go is far to large and politically charged.
And then, you wake up one morning and realize on top of everything, you have the "die or retire problem". Everyone who knows the guts of legacy is either dead or about to retire.
You have to do something about legacy, so you sigh, and sign up for truck loads of integration anyway. (emphasis added)
Gardner proposal is to use people to do these tasks instead:
What about, for example, using people as glue? Why can’t they look up data in both systems and perform appropriate updates?
Now, I’m not suggesting that anyone put people back into systems permanently. But as temporary, good enough, solution while something better is worked out, surely it makes sense to at least consider the option.
Aardvark is a social search engine (recently acquired by Google) which can find the best persons willing to answer your questions and send their answers back to you. Ask a question on Photography and someone online who listed photography as a center of interest is proposed your question and can answer it.
What’s interesting about Aardvark is that they started creating their product using people instead of building an automated back end from the beginning. Basically, they “faked” being able to route automatically queries during 6 months by having people do that for them. In the mean time, they were able to attract funds by showing the concept was working and to take the time to build the actual routing engine.
From people to automation (people in black / system in blue)
Looking back at Gardner’s proposal, I believe this strategy could be applied to banks when transitioning from one system to another. Instead of spending a lot on integration, fake that you can actually transfer in an automated way from one system to the other until you are fully on the new platform or you built a successful interface if the legacy system has to be kept longer.
I included the presentation from Aardvark, as a whole, it’s a very interesting presentation on entrepreneurship, building companies and products. (specific part on automation starts at 12:35)