The Server Software can be thought of as comprising of three segments. What ties them all together is tight integration, such that data needs to be entered only once and is available to all other applications and the people who need to make the decision based on that information within the enterprise.
Communications Applications: Messaging is the critical application. Email must be available to everyone and at all times. By integrating an email server with instant messaging and an SMS server, information can be made available in real-time within the enterprise on the LAN or wherever the person is through a cellphone. This way, when an “alert” needs to be sent, the server can check if the recipient is online (through the Instant Messaging client presence). If so, then the message can be sent through the IM client. If not, then based on a list of pre-set filters, the message can be sent out via an SMS message to the user’s cellphone. The Communications Server also needs to add support for fax. In future, as IP phones become available, one can think of adding an IP-PABX capability. What all this does is to bring down the cost of communications. This is perhaps the single most important benefit of the Internet for enterprises, especially the SMEs.
Intranet Applications: The “Intranet” seems long forgotten – it was one of the original concepts talked about in the early days of the Internet. But, then as portals, b2b, b2c and eCommerce took hold, the Intranet has faded away somewhat in the background. Yet, for SMEs, it holds a lot of promise by allowing people to work together and share information within the enterprise.
Enterprise Applications: What SMEs need are a limited set of features from the various enterprise software verticals for finance, accounting, HR, sales, customer relationship management and supply chain management. Many of today’s applications create information silos, which require custom programming to make that information available to other applications. The key requirement is to have integration of the data model to ensure that information does not need to be entered multiple times.
Much of what has been discussed here may seem mundane and overly simplistic, but one needs to remember the target audience: SMEs in emerging markets. SMEs too have employees, customers and suppliers. They also need information. Most may not even be able to describe the applications they need, but will know them when they see them. The opportunity is to create an integrated suite of applications which takes care of most of the needs of the SMEs at a low price-point.