10. Web Services: Software as building blocks just like Lego which can be assembled together for mirroring business processes: this is the promise of web services. Integrating disparate enterprise applications and their information bases is one of the big challenges in the modern enterprise. Even though small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) may not be directly impacted by web services, they have the opportunity to use applications which use web services to get past the application and information integration issues that require the bigger enterprises to spend huge amounts of money on consultants and patchwork software.
11. Business Process Automation: The enterprise is increasingly being viewed as less a cluster of functional departments and more as a collection of business processes. This is giving rise to business process management and automation software, and standards like ebXML and RosettaNet which promise to simplify information exchange between enterprises.
12. RFIDs: Radio Frequency Identification is now coming to the fore. These miniature electronic tags have fallen in cost enough to make businesses consider using them in products to track them digitally. RFIDs can change the way retail business is done. For SMEs, the potential is that RFIDs can make for efficient supply chains with reduced inventory levels and less capital being wasted because of lack of information. Wal-marts recent decision to get it suppliers to start using RFIDs has given a big boost to this nascent technology.
13. Utility Computing: There are various names being used to define the promise of computer power and applications delivered on a need-basis over the Internet: grid or utility computing, on-demand computing, adaptive enterprise. The promise is the same: organizations do not need to invest in and manage their own technology infrastructure, and can rent out the IT they need on a pay-per-use basis from utility providers just like they do for their electricity and telecom needs. The first utility providers are already there in the form of the hosted application service providers (ASPs) like Salesforce.com and NetSuite.
14. Social Networking Sites: This is an interesting trend that has come to the fore recently with sites like Friendster, Ryze, LinkedIn and Tribe.net. While dating and job-hunting drive these social connectivity sites, it is not hard to imagine that electronic information marketplaces can help connect SMEs to other SMEs, just as they do with individuals now.
This new world of technology holds promise and pitfalls for SMEs. The promise is that SMEs can now adopt many of the same technologies that the big boys have used for long, to improve their business processes and productivity. The pitfall is that, unlike the larger companies, SMEs are largely on their own as they make the technology decisions on what to deploy. This is where there is a need for defining a reference IT architecture for SMEs to simplify their decision-making. This IT architecture should provide a framework for hardware, software, connectivity and support decisions, products and services for SMEs. The SME IT value chain is in for a upheaval. Affordability, Utility and Standardisation will be the defining watchwords for their solutions.
Tomorrow: The Need for Reference Architectures
TECH TALK SMEs and Technology+T