TECH TALK: Technology’s Next Markets: The Software Edge

Tech Talk: Let us now move on to software. What are your thoughts on what software is required for the next set of users in the worlds emerging markets and enterprises?

Deviant Entrepreneur: So far, weve talked of leveraging technologies and platforms which exist terminal-server computing, open-source software and WiFi. Of course, we are using them differently from their original purpose for example, using recycled PCs as desktops, using desktops as servers, using Linux not just on the server but on the desktop, and using WiFi not just for wireless LANs but also for bridging the last-mile connectivity gap.

Software is going to be a critical component of the offerings it is the interface between the computing infrastructure and the users. It is also where we can think differently, because the users we are planning to target have little or no legacy. There also have been some very interesting developments in recent times in the software world which can be leveraged.

The key ideas are as follows:

  • Web Services to build re-usable, standards-based software components
  • An integrated eBusiness suite to provide the platform for an event-driven, real-time enterprise
  • Weblogs to harness tacit knowledge among people
  • RSS to create two-way flow of information
  • Digital Dashboard to aggregate personal and enterprise information on a single screen
  • Information Visualisation techniques to create a better and more intuitive user interface
  • Support for Local Languages

    By itself, each idea is not new or revolutionary. But once again, taken together, these ideas can form the platform for an exciting new leapfrog platform.

    TT: Lets start with Web Services and the eBusiness software suite.

    DE: The objective is to create intelligent, real-time, event-driven enterprises. These enterprises need to have a unified database at the backend, with OHIO (only handle information once) as the guiding principle.

    Small and medium enterprises are the weak links in todays supply chains. They have less technology penetration than the big companies, and yet are critical to the information and document flow. They need cost-effective software solutions. This is where web services and the software suite come in.

    John Hagel, writing in his new book, Out of the Box: Strategies for Achieving Profits Today and Growth Tomorrow through Web Services, provides the rationale behind using web services:

    Automating the flow of information between a company and its business partners has always been difficult and expensive. Many interactions thus require human interventionfor instance, employees who key into corporate systems the data retrieved from business partners through faxes, telephone calls, or even lists printed out from the systems of other companiesa practice that leads to human error. Furthermore, many companies maintain larger stocks of inventory than they really need, because the flow of information among partners in the value chains of most sectors just isnt efficient enough. Since activities near the edge of businesses abound in inefficiency, the opportunities for creating near-term value from Web services are substantial there, which makes it likely that companies will apply them in this way before using them to knit together core internal systems.

    Until now, though, integrating the systems of one company with those of its partners has been less feasible than integrating internal systems. Web services promise to change that. Better connections among trading partners are going to mean that companies will be able not only to streamline their edge activities but also to collaborate on improving internal processes, such as product development.

    But the real long-term prize of business collaboration lies in mobilizing the assets of partners to deliver more value to their customers. When cooperation among different businesses resembles the activity of a network, they can increasingly focus on innovation in their core activities, and the network becomes more efficient and flexible in what it can offer.

    Such process networks are powerful tools for unleashing the potential of specialization. Emerging Web services technologies will play a crucial role in facilitating them.

    Web Services provide the ability to build out the Software Lego building blocks, which can be used to architect the eBusiness software suite. The foundation is built on an open-source database like SAP-DB or PostgreSQL. JBoss, which is also open-source, can be used as the EJB/J2EE application server.

    On top of this come the business logic components. These have the specific logic for accounting, payroll management, HR, CRM, sales force management, and other business functions. By using XML and SOAP, they can be integrated together, and also can be used by independent software vendors to create vertical solutions. An added value can come in from using business process standards like ebXML and RosettaNet.

    Tomorrow: The Software Edge (continued)

  • Published by

    Rajesh Jain

    An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.