TECH TALK: Rethinking Enterprise Software: Trend 3: The Real-Time, Extended Enterprise

As enterprises have connected their various offices and branches, the flow of information within the enterprise has improved. Efforts are now underway to take the flow to its logical conclusion real-time. As events happen, they are published on the information bus in the company, and available (via the corporate portal) to all who have subscribed to receive the event. If the person is not on the desk (presence can be sensed via the Instant Messenger), then the message can be routed to the persons cellphone via SMS. This is the basis for the creation of the Real-Time Enterprise. It has many other names: Event-driven, Intelligent, Agile, and in Gartners words, Business Activity Monitoring (BAM) enabled.

The other key development driving information flow is the breaking of corporate walls. Information is now expected to flow across the value chain to partners and customers, and not just to employees. As the Internet has dramatically reduced the transaction costs of communicating with other entities, companies are outsourcing more, making it even more important to share information with those outside the organisation. This is the Extended Enterprise, connecting all of its constituencies in a unified information network and integrated together in a web of collaborative commerce.

The Real-Time, Extended Enterprise becomes far more responsive, and will help in cutting out supply chain inefficiencies as demand-supply changes permeate through the extended enterprise. The speed and depth of information flow is what is increasingly going to distinguish winners and losers in the marketplace. Companies like Dell, Cisco and Walmart are excellent examples of this new generation of enterprises.

The new ROI stands for Return on Information. Writes James Champy in his book X-Engineering the Corporation:

X-Engineering argues that the company must now extend its processes outside hence the X, which stands for crossing boundaries between organizations. When an organizations processes are integrated with those of other companies, all the partners can pool their efforts and effectively become a new, multi-company enterprise, far stronger than its individual members could ever be on their own.In X-Engineering, the Internet is the central nervous system, the medium for sharing vital information and integrating disparate companies and their processes.

Information has always been powerful; the Internet makes it very nearly omnipotent. We can now gather, analyze, and share information with a speed and sophistication that dramatically raises organizational intelligence. In our new digital democracy, what used to be secrets that managers believed provided competitive advantage become common knowledge that farsighted companies disseminate to all hands. Transparency of information and processes becomes the norm.

Some of the important facets of the Real-Time, Extended Enterprise are:

Information Integration: Information has traditionally resided in silos. For example, in the case of SMEs, finance information is in accounting applications (like Tally in India and Quickbooks in the US), while much of the marketing and sales information is, for many companies, still in Microsoft Excel! Even in some of the larger companies, there are multiple instances of the same data. What companies now want is that data should be entered only once, and an integrated view of the information be presented. Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) does this. What is also emerging is the concept of an integrated eBusiness suite much like the way Microsoft Office is there on the desktop.

Unstructured Data Analysis: There is a lot of information which resides in email, documents created using word processors, spreadsheets and presentation packages. Email, in fact, has become the new writing environment. Much of this data cannot be analysed easily since it lacks structure. However, a lot of knowledge lies embedded in these documents.

Tomorrow: The Real-Time, Extended Enterprise (continued)

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.