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Enterprise mashup user story: Knowing your data

At Pfizer, embracing mashups required a shift in culture but made software development faster and more collaborative. This is part 2 of 3 in a special report on enterprise mashups.

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has been using SOA and mashups to help bring products to market since about 2005. Research Fellow Michael Linhares said the company configures its own mashups and wouldn't have it any other way.

"We do it ourselves because it's more about knowing the information and the relationships of one piece of information to another," said Linhares. "Knowing the data is what's important. The technology isn't such a big hurdle anymore with all the tools out there."

Pfizer uses fairly straightforward technology for its infrastructure. They use Composite Software Information Server for data integration, BusinessObjects WEBi reports, Spotfire DecisionSite analytics, SharePoint Designer and simple ASP .net pages for presentation.

Linhares said the challenge in developing mashups was the same as in moving to a service-oriented architecture: culture. In an industry so rooted in scientific research, employees can get very attached to the data they generate. A cultural shift toward open data sharing had to take place.

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In the IT department, the culture shift was one of empowering the business users. With an advanced SOA sitting under fairly easy-to-use utilities, business users were better able to configure some of their own tools. But the IT department needed first to be persuaded that not all infrastructure tools are IT tools.

Once the culture was more open, Pfizer was able to bring about an attitude of experimentation in software development. Whenever they begin developing new tools, end users get to play with them well before they go into production.

"I think about doing software development in a very research-oriented way," said Linhares. "We've now gone to a model where we're working in at most three weeks to three months turnaround from starting a project to delivering it to the business."

In a lot of ways, working with enterprise mashups is a like working with SOA, only on a much smaller scale. There is no out-of-the box solution for everybody and it is an approach that matures through trial and tribulation.

Enterprise Mashups: A three-part special report.
Part 1: Tools build data integrations
Part 2: User story--Pfizer uses mashups to shape IT culture
Part 3: In search of mashup standards

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