The four key trends we discussed in the past few columns were:
- New markets (small and medium enterprises in emerging markets)
- Emerging standards for software and business processes
- The (near) real-time, extended enterprise
- A new technology infrastructure
There are four key ideas in thinking about enterprise software framework for small and medium enterprises in emerging markets.
- Software Components: We need to think in terms of how the microprocessor and the concomitant chips helped in standardising the design of the personal computer. Building software out of pre-fabricated components is not a new idea. So far, components have only met with limited success. Part of the problem lies in their definition, part in how to compensate the developers, and part in the desire for enterprises to build unique systems in a bid to gain competitive advantage. Enterprise software for SMEs offers a unique opportunity thanks to the emerging Web Services can solve the interfacing problem. Also, SMEs are less worried about uniqueness than about cost.
- Visual Business Programming Environment: Given a library of software components and business processes, how can these be put together? The best people to describe the flows in an enterprise are the ones who manage them. So far, theres been a disconnect between the business managers and the technologists. Whats needed is a bridge between the technologists need to provide the framework in which the managers can define whats best for their business. This is akin to what Visual Basic did for programming. Think of this as a Visual Biz-ic for business. What is going to facilitate adoption is the emerging set of standards for business processes, especially across enterprises.
- Digital Dashboard: This is the portal to the business. Just as the dashboard in the car (or the cockpit) provides all the information necessary for the driver (or the pilot), so is the case with the digital dashboard. Information in real-time enterprises is always on. The dashboard provides information customised to the individual, aggregated and filtered from various subscribed XML feeds. This is going to be the new desktop. Think of it as the One Screen to Rule Them All, with the screen being the one on the computer on the desk or the one on the cellphone.
- Whole Solution for USD 20 a month: In emerging market SMEs today, the penetration of computers is as low as one for every 10 people. The computer needs to become available for every person in the organisation. This is where there is a need for a revolution how can the entire solution (hardware, software, training and support) be delivered at no more than USD 20 per person per month. Compare this with the tens of thousands of dollars that software licences cost today. To achieve this price point and the resulting opening up of the SME mass markets needs a dramatic re-think of computing in the enterprise.
Even though the ideas may seem from the past, what is needed to take all these ideas together such that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The technologies of today and tomorrow are going to play a critical role in making this vision a reality. I will elaborate on each of these points in the coming columns.
Tomorrow: Software Components