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Are enterprise applications up to the challenge of business transformation?

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An interesting discussion recently on Connie Moore's Forrester blog: Are enterprise applications up to the challenge of business transformation?

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  • "Do you think that big enterprise suites like CRM or ERP can empower customers, or do they automate the status quo? If they merely automate the status quo, how do you deliver business transformation?"

    What we have here is a bit of a leading question, because I don't see BPM listed as one of those enterprise apps, so there's a definite steer to suggest that a process related suite will be the target model.

    At the core of any business is information and data (lets think outside of process and customer for a minute because without an input there's little point in a process....don't believe me ? Make a cup of tea without water)

    There's a convergence (and it's been in the wings for some time now) within industry verticals (CRM, ERP, BPM, ECM, Social) but there's a desperate need to keep them apart for revenue sake.

    At the heart of transformation is data, and should be the desire to create a Master Data Management strategy which will power up an enterprise and it's application architecture with relevant and meaninful information and golden sources.

    It isn't so much are enterprise apps up to the challenge of transformation, it's whether your data is. From data you can create any transformation strategy you want and a set of applications to support your business vision and internal structure.

    The future isn't an enterprise suite of CRM, BPM et al apps, it's a mashup, a hybrid, a chimera of all of them.

    The more agile companies now are the greenfields and startups who think about engagement and experience more than legacy buzzwords from 20 years ago. If we want to truly transform business then we should be doing the same.

  • I also see data as a core element. Good data management is a prerequisite to successful transformation. Building on that, I believe enterprise apps are indeed currently transforming many businesses - unfortunately not always in the way we would like. ;-)

    I regularly see cases where we wish enterprise apps had a few more configuration options or "user exits." There never seems to be enough flexibility, and it's not a declining trend. On the plus side, enterprise apps are more open and exposed then they used to be. But on the negative side, having more exposed interfaces is not the same as more flexibility in the slicing and dicing and redesign of the overall processes.

  • Short answer - Nope

    Enterprise Apps weren't built for transformation. They create rigid structures - RDBMS schemas, BPMS flowcharts, Service interfaces - all implemented at design-time at great effort and cost. Static models preclude interaction context by design, limiting the ability for Enterprise Apps to respond to users and events. The result is, despite the success of automation, the worst internal process is change management. Ironically, it's the least automated. I'm with Theo - We need to re-think enterprise app for the 21st century.

    I wrote about this on Gary Hamel's Mix Exchange - http://www.managementexchange.com/hack/re-humanize-enterprise. Also, see the upcoming book from the Workflow Management Coalition (WfMC) - I've got a chapter on Social Collaboration + Lean Integration = Enterprise Agility - http://futstrat.com/books/eip11.php

  • Connie's post points out clearly that enterprise appliations are too constraining to allow for agile change. But she then steps on to say that BPM is the answer. however, BPM still represents a centralized command and control orientation: the people who create and publish the processes are separate from the people who use the processes. It is this separation that stands in the way of an organizational transform.

    You have to look to Enterprise 2.0 to see the kind of approach that will really enable organizations to leverage new forms of networking and to support knowledge workers.

    I ran across a good article today which covers some of this, see my summary at: http://social-biz.org/2011/09/15/social-business-doesnt-mean-what-you-think/

  • Can I say, "It depends"? If we're talking about ERP, I would say no, because transaction-based systems don't have the context required to make sense of the way data is moved around the organization. This is why Gartner is saying that ERP needs BPM for context and business orchestration. I talk about context in my post from earlier today:


  • I'd say not necessarily, too. All those good data management apps often bring with it a lot of promise but then people make the mistake that it will be successful even on its own that when the shine comes off, everyone is worse than when it began implementing these new apps. On the other hand, some just try to wither the storm until the new killer ERP or CRM comes along and they ride happily again to a hollow promise.

    Definitely not enabling business transformation the way we picture Enterprise 2.0 working.

  • I agree that traditional enterprise apps tend to freeze the enterprise status, instead of promoting evolution.
    One step in the direction of promoting the evolution is the adoption of model-driven development techniques, that reduce the time-to-deployment process through conceptual modeling, code generation, and so on.
    The next step is toward social enterprise, thus making users directly collaborate to the evolution.
    I think that the best scenario though is when BOTH model driven and social enterprise practices are applied together, because one can get the benefits of both.

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