Previously, we have discussed the reference architectures for thin client, thick server and systems software (including messaging and security, identity management and desktop computing). We continue the journey by looking at the other applications that small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) need: the information management and business applications layers.
The information divide is perhaps one of the most important factors for inefficiencies within SMEs. Whatever be the kind of information, getting it to the right person at the right time to support effective decision-making is very important. In most SMEs, the information in most cases may be missing it may be with a person may not be available, it may be in an email that is not immediately accessible, or it may just not have been captured electronically. SMEs too need to focus on becoming intelligent, real-time enterprises, and this is where the layer of information management applications is critical.
Bridging the information divide and putting the information plant in place is as important as setting up the manufacturing plant; in fact, it is the information plant which will provide the platform for sustainable competitive advantage.
The various components that make up this layer are: the Database, an Events Manager, RSS Aggregator, Personal Knowledge Manager, Group Knowledge Manager, Digital Dashboard and Microcontent Client. Taken together, they make up the information refinery for the SME.
The Database provides the repository of all information. There should be one integrated storehouse for all information. Even the business applications should use a single, common database. If this is not done, then the result will be information silos, and the need for multiple updates and copies of the same information. This must be avoided. The driving principle should be: only handle information once.
The Events Manager enables alerts and notifications based on information in the database, independent of the application which has updated the information. Users can define the queries that need to be run periodically on the database, and the output can be an event stream which can be sent to the user either by email, SMS (Short Message Service, on the cellphone) or via RSS (Rich Site Summary, an XML format for syndication).
The RSS Aggregator provides an RSS-to-IMAP service. It allows users to set up and manage subscriptions to RSS feeds. These RSS feeds can be from within the enterprise (created by the Events Manager) or those produced from external sources (like weblogs and news sites, as is happening already). The RSS Aggregator polls the various feeds periodically. Alternately, the feed providers can ping a web service whenever they are updated. Either way, it aggregates the RSS feeds, splits the feed into individual events and delivers them as email to IMAP mailboxes for the various users. The use of the IMAP mailbox allows users to read the feed items as part of their email client, and get a single, synchronised view of the mailbox from mail clients on different machines (at work and home, for example).
Tomorrow: Information Management Architecture (continued)