Can you sack your IT department?

But rather than building all the applications, the IT team will be providing and managing services that users can mash up themselves. And that means a change of attitude. "IT departments don't think like service providers and they really need to," says Burton.

"We've had this idea in the technology world for 30 years, that you should be able to assemble new apps from components of other ones. We've fumbled, we've floundered and for 30 years we've had no standards. At last we have a set of standards and the idea of assembling new stuff from old stuff is starting to become a reality. With client-server, the power user didn't have to be a programmer but all those silos couldn't connect together. At the end of the 90s we went back to programming but now we're realising we didn't get it all wrong. What we got wrong is we didn't have an architecture, and data is not always at the centre process is at the centre of things."

Another key piece of the puzzle is the Google gadget standard, which Burton sees as providing a user interface to build tools. He dismisses RSS feeds as "table stakes: they're not intelligent or smart, they're just raw bits of information," he said.

So what of the future for Serena? "Where we're going is intelligent gadgets, meaning that we attach some notion of structure to the gadget so we can pass information in and we can get information out," he said.

"It reminds me of 15 years ago when Microsoft created this great little thing called Visual Basic and you had VBX controls and OCX controls. The Google gadget is rapidly becoming a Web-based OCX that you can attach properties to, catch events from and recover information from."

Mary Branscombe

Mary is a freelance business technology journalist who has written for the likes of ITPro, CIO, ZDNet, TechRepublic, The New Stack, The Register, and many other online titles, as well as national publications like the Guardian and Financial Times. She has also held editor positions at AOL’s online technology channel, PC Plus, IT Expert, and Program Now. In her career spanning more than three decades, the Oxford University-educated journalist has seen and covered the development of the technology industry through many of its most significant stages.

Mary has experience in almost all areas of technology but specialises in all things Microsoft and has written two books on Windows 8. She also has extensive expertise in consumer hardware and cloud services - mobile phones to mainframes. Aside from reporting on the latest technology news and trends, and developing whitepapers for a range of industry clients, Mary also writes short technology mysteries and publishes them through Amazon.