'Enterprise': It's All About Data
A typical EIS satisfies the two primary requirements of the senior executive: it delivers only the specific information that the executive needs in order to get the job done; and, the executive can call it up at a moment's notice.
The EIS is a stroke of genius. It is senior management's response to the accelerating pace of business and increasingly dynamic interactions between companies. But there's a problem. While it is a powerful tool and worthy of your best efforts to realize in your company, it is folly to assume such a tool is exclusively the province of senior management.
With vision, this level of functional intelligence can and should be made accessible to every employee, from the CEO down to the lowliest junior accountant.
And that is ultimately the point of enterprise.
Defining And Solving The Problem
Functional divisions between an organization's various departments have become barriers to data access in this 'on-demand' era, when performance must exceed all reasonable standards in order to remain competitive.
Your line managers and hands-on personnel no longer have time to request a report from across the hall. Unprecedented strategic planning and tactical process tuning are made possible when logistics and financials not only march in tandem but dynamically impact one another at the transaction level.
The best metaphor for describing the way enterprise will change the flow of data and, therefore, information, in your company is to imagine a lake, surrounded by villages and fed by mountain streams.
Each village sends villagers with buckets to the lake and they haul water back to their particular village. That's your company, pre-enterprise: the lake is your centralized database, the villages are your various departments, and the buckets are application programs.
Enterprise obliterates the lake in favor of aqueducts that interconnect and feed every village directly. Buckets are obsolete, and no one needs to waste time chasing water; the water now comes to them.To create such data aqueducts, here's what needs to happen:
The Beauty In The Beast
When you alter your database platform in these ways, you create a very different beast. Data storage ceases to be static and passive, becoming very communicative and, in a way, social. Database interface becomes less and less about applications pulling out records, and more about an increasing spectrum of dynamic events, to which your databases must dynamically respond. No more still waters; you've engineered flowing rivers.
It's important to note that you can achieve these modifications in a number of ways. Here are some of the scenarios open to you:
In today's market, all of these options are very doable, depending on your available resources and level of commitment. Whichever course you choose, remain true to the objectives above, and in particular, remain true to the central goal of placing comprehensive real-time data resources in the hands of all your employees.
The Really Big Idea
This next concept is the toughest, especially for those who sit in executive authority. This very high level of data integration, timeliness and access must be extended company-wide if you are to make the enterprise transition successfully. But, more importantly, you must begin extending it beyond your company's boundaries.
Your partnerships with other companies are increasingly dynamic, as you rely upon one another's performance to trim response times and increase product turns. Now consider how much tighter your operation can become if you begin sharing selective database access as though your partners were in-house users.
This is a very contextual, even situational proposition, and would have been unthinkable a decade ago. But increasingly sophisticated database technology, along with the unifying power of the internet, have made it possible for you to create selective but direct doorways into your company's informational storehouses.
Removing the time- and resource-consuming steps of transporting information out of your systems and into your partner's can give you a process-time savings that can increase your collective competitive edge considerably. This is a complex subject, and one we'll look at it in more depth in a future article. But it is a strategic possibility that you should seriously consider.
Once you've put together a plan for re-working your data storage, you need to put some thought into re-working access; and, by extension, the interfaces by which your users, applications, partners and customers communicate with your company. That's the subject of the final installment in this series.
Scott Robinson is an enterprise software and systems consultant with Quantumetrics, Inc., a consultant's collaborative. Robinson has worked with such well known organizations as the Dept. of Defense (DOD), Dept. of Energy (DOE), Wal-Mart, and Roche Pharmaceuticals. He is also a regular contributor to TechRebpublic and can be reached at (812) 989-8173, or by email at email@example.com.