Cross Application: To Silo Or Not To

DQI Bureau
New Update

With technology, IT in particular, playing a major role in modern day

enterprise productivity and performance, the focus is largely on how business

data is captured and managed. As the amount of transactional data collected

within enterprises continues to rise, the number of places and ways it is stored

has also grown proportionately. This has led to a syndrome commonly called

'application silos', where the deployment of multiple IT systems-such as

enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), data

warehouses, customer portals and content management systems-are giving

business users incomplete and inconsistent pictures of corporate information. 


Application silos can either be created by the separation of data among

systems, different application sets with their own data set, or by a combination

thereof. Two different business units of an enterprise can have the same

application installed, however, their data separation can create silos that lead

to loss of business or lack of efficiency.

For example, an insurance provider enterprise which has two business

units, one concentrating on automobile insurance and other concentrating on home

insurance, may each use a CRM application to record information about their

customers.  However, if the CRM data

remains separated between these two systems, the insurance provider may not be

efficient in reaching out the customers of one unit only.

Applications that serve different purposes in an enterprise can create

application silos that can restrict the growth and success of enterprises.  The need to integrate multiple applications, including

various combinations of those, is large.  For

example, incompatibility among products being using simultaneously are stored in

a product catalog/product lifecycle Management system, use of this information

to a CRM/sales order entry system is critical, when customers procure new

products over a course of time.  Lack

of this information can lead to high customer dissatisfaction and result in

enterprise success.

Historically, systems have been developed in silos and are driven by

individual, isolated business needs. This has led to rigid architectures,

multiple technologies and difficult custom integration challenges among others. 


Utilizing Silo Data

As the business environment is getting more competitive, it is

putting pressure on enterprises to increase the utility of the information

stored in these application silos. As a result the organizational emphasis has

now shifted from making employees 'efficient to effective' by creating

business value from enterprise data. Being 'effective' means, firstly,

retrieving the information locked in sets of disparate transaction silos.

Secondly, delivering the information to users at all levels in the organization

and empowering them to make better business decisions. In a nutshell, the idea

is to bring transactional data closer to the point of business action-where

the real value of this information resides. 

Ironically, the information stored in the silos is specific to certain

applications or transactions and as such there is hardly any connect between the

data in each silo. As a result, many enterprises find it increasingly difficult

to reconcile, organize and integrate their disconnected application silos

thereby failing to get transactional data closer to the user. 

Issues with Disconnected Data

In this context, experts are of the opinion that individually accessing a

bunch of silos with different tools is not as good as having an integrated

information platform in place. This presents a single place where you can get

the data you need, when you need it, how you need it. In simple terms the whole

is definitely greater than the sum of the parts.


Cross Applications
  • Better utilization

    of enterprise data and resources

  • Make better

    decisions, based on real-time, accurate information

  • Reduced time

    horizon for formulating and implementing corporate strategy

  • Gain organizational

    efficiencies by unifying isolated data silos

  • Increase the

    overall value of enterprise IT infrastructure

Search for Solutions

Towards this endeavour, organizations these days are seeking to

standardise on information-oriented applications that can transform disparate

transactional data into information that is easily used by different types of

business users. These applications allow users to apply intelligent insights

derived from transactional information to daily business operations that help in


Opinions apart, the search is on for an information application platform that

is consistent with the evolving needs of organizations. In this discussion the

need is to transform transactional data into interactive and intuitive formats

of choice that are easily consumed by all types of users. 


The Possible Answer

As we discuss these things, technology has come up with something that is

seen as a possible solution to the problems faced by information users. Cross

applications as they are called, are already dubbed as the future of enterprise

application software. These applications cut across the silos of traditional ERP,

CRM, and SCM packages to respond to queries a single database cannot answer. In

other words, cross applications address a functionality need that isn't yet

fully automated.

Interestingly, cross applications are a well-established trend among major

vendors as an extension strategy for their mainstream applications. For

instance, SAP AG calls it xApps. Similarly, other vendors have their own

proprietary names to this information-oriented platform. 

Built on existing applications that reside within or across enterprise

boundaries, cross applications connect, automate, and improve specific business

processes to fuel business innovation. These composite applications leverage an

organization's existing IT infrastructure and help maximize the value of

strategic assets. However, the application's robustness and effectiveness is

dependant on the architecture it sits on. Ideally, the architecture should

provide an infrastructure that is independent of the underlying applications so

that the user can effectively create and execute entirely new cross-functional

processes from disparate, distributed data resources to support corporate



Creating Value

With an increasing focus being placed on creating value for the business

user, these information-oriented platforms are doing more than simply bridge the

gap between information islands. They also provide greater clarity to return on

investment by making it more transparent to the business. One of the best ways

to achieve demonstrable RoI is to deliver unquestionable benefits to business

users. This means making the information they need easily accessible to them.

Maximizing Returns

The best way to achieve this is to empower business users with tools and

technologies that unlock the potential of corporate information to make better

revenue-generating decisions.

Today, information held in transactional application silos holds the key to

understanding operational efficiency as well as operational effectiveness at all

levels in the enterprise. From the CEO to the shop floor worker everybody should

have quick, easy and consistent access to this information to unlock the

intelligence of these silos. Hence, it is apt to say that the future of

enterprise applications does not reside in individual silos but in making those

silos disappear.


Though enterprises have tried to solve the issue by having more analysis and

reporting tools, there has been mixed success. In such a scenario, a better

option is to have integrated information access and delivery architecture such

as cross applications that provides decision makers with information at the

critical point of business action.

Notice that as business requirements change, the nature of IT architecture is

also undergoing a change. In this case, the shift has been from application

silos to enterprise solutions.

Shekar Chandrasekaran

The author is vice president, International Operations at Bristlecone