The Enterprise IT Crystal Ball

DQI Bureau
New Update

As the pace of business quickens, there is a growing importance of two

requirements for business today–the need to make informed decisions and the

need for real-time responsiveness. Companies must eliminate information lag and

make more timely and effective decisions. The PricewaterhouseCoopers Tech

Forecast 2003—05 identifies the key technologies that will go towards making

an intelligent real-time enterprise. Here are some major trends to be seen in

the given forecast period in some of these technologies and applications:


Business Intelligence

BI has evolved into comprehensive performance monitoring solutions that

enable real-time decision-making for all levels of employees within the

enterprise. To achieve success with this approach, companies need to identify

and set performance measurements for a small number of key performance

indicators (KPIs), for example, order fill rate, inventory turnover.

Businesses will be increasingly organized, managed and automated around sets

of processes–from production processes to sales and customer management

processes, and even supporting processes like accounting and HR. Business

intelligence capabilities will be increasingly built into applications that

automate these processes, as well as into specialty business intelligence tools

and applications.

The use of BI is also likely to shift–from traditional use over aggregated

high volumes of historical data, to use on data with varying degrees of latency

starting from real-time, and boiling down to even individual transactions.


Enterprise BI tools have gone beyond analyzing the data thrown by

transactional systems like ERP, SCM, to incorporating workflow design and other

business process improvement functionality. Centralized data warehousing continues to be essential for multidimensional

analysis and in-depth reporting.


CRM is becoming more than an internal system: partnership management tools

help extend customer marketing, sales and support through business partners, to

extend a company’s customer understanding and service efforts through those

other relationships. Unlike first-generation CRM applications that were purely

operational, today’s analytical CRM tools provide customer intelligence

capabilities. They evaluate customer data for patterns that help enterprises

with their marketing campaigns and sales pitches.

Mobile CRM applications are becoming more important for companies with active

field service areas, in which technicians and repair people are working outside

the office. In the forecast period, the CRM industry will witness significant

consolidation–reducing the range of vendor and platform choices.


CRM projects are getting smaller and more focused, and with better

partnership between IT and functional managers, they are experiencing higher

success rates. Many CRM vendors have begun to offer special applications for

vertical industries. The implementations are moving away from complex

customization and towards drag-and-drop configuration.


Collaborative features in applica-tions facilitate direct human interaction.

These capabilities are embedded in a variety of other enterprise applications,

as well as in specialty collaboration applications. Embedded collaboration is

used in business processes like collaborative design and engineering, supply

chain forecasting and channel partner or supplier collaboration.

Although e-mail remains the most widely used collaborative tool, instant

messaging is gaining a broad audience in business settings. New IM suites allow

mobile users to find each other online and do SMS. Some new collaboration suites

and platforms–that are still in early stages of adoption–combine presence

and messaging features with file sharing, calendaring and online meeting

functions. Examples are Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange groupware

applications and companion products.


Collaboration products have incorporated familiar features to make it

possible for project members to share the following in real time: whiteboards,

desktop applications and even complex engineering, logistics and CRM tools.

A 2002 IDC survey of 400 companies in Western Europe showed that over 80%

experienced an RoI in line with their expectations.

Knowledge Management and Content Management

The first generation of KM tools re-quired a great deal of employee

participation to maintain shared knowledge repositories and the employees had

little incentive to maintain these bases. But the newer products focus on what

can be maintained automatically or with the help of little customization. The

new innovations in knowledge management technologies have focused on capturing,

extracting and organizing the tacit knowledge that resides in shared

repositories like e-mail systems. Vendors have produced automatic tagging tools

to help extract information and classify it. These tools analyze text and

generate a hierarchy of relevant categories using a combination of predefined

semantic, syntactic and document format rules, that users can modify with their

own classification schemes.


There are also new expertise location applications, which analyze e-mail and

other text flows between individuals in an organization in order to build

dynamic expertise profiles of each person. These tools rank concepts in the text

according to relevance and frequency and build profiles based on the results of

the ranking.

While factors like lack of demonstrable RoI, inability to change

organizational culture and failure to integrate KM into everyday work practices

many have dampened enthusiasm for enterprise-wide KM projects, the newer

emphasis is on smaller, more focused projects that are easier to justify and

evaluate. The ECM represents a convergence of existing technologies for Web

content management, document and records management, and digital asset

management. A single comprehensive system performs internal document management

(coordinating creation, modification, use and storage of electronic and paper

documents through their lifecycle), updates and controls websites and manages


New advances in content syndication standards like business process modeling

language are being adapted to design complex workflows that span content

management among other e-business domains. WebDAV is an important standard that

can enable authors to work in a familiar environment before saving work back

into a managed repository. The benefits of ECM have been demonstrated and

accepted, and tools and methods are increasingly stable. A January 2003 study in

the UK by Dimension Data pointed out that approximately 40% of 500 large UK

companies plan to invest up to £75,000 in modular content management projects,

while 10% said they were considering big-ticket implementations worth up to £2




XBRML is an electronic format for sim-plifying the flow of financial statements,
performance reports, accounting records and other financial information between

software programs. This XML-based technology is slated to significantly change

business reporting in coming years. Until recently, there were no standards that

would allow financial information to be automatically communicated between

different applications. Companies had to manually assemble financial information

from different systems in order to prepare financial reports. XBRL defines a

consistent format for financial data and will streamline how companies prepare

and disseminate their financial data and how analysts, regulators and investors

review and interpret it.

Availability of quarterly and yearly financial reports in XBRL format will make

it significantly easier for analysts and investors to use and interpret that

data. In the longer term, XBRL could increase both the frequency of financial

reporting and the extent of the information that is reported to investors.

XML and Web Services

Extensible Markup Language provides a context in which applica-tions can

send and receive messages and documents, and which describe the nature of their

own content, in machine-readable form.


XML also provides the basis for Web services, which will eventually replace

the current model of the Web–people looking at webpages–with automated

communication between software programs, allowing information available on the

Web to be accessed and processed by applications on behalf of humans. For

example, Web services will allow company financial reports in XBRL format to be

automatically retrieved by a financial analysis program, eliminating the need

for an investor to first locate and download the information. One of the

important uses of Web services is expected to be integration between

applications based on the two major competing component frameworks (J2EE and


XML will provide the basis for developing specifications and standards for

automating business process within and between businesses. Web services will be

used for pairwise integration of applications as part of overall integration

between trusted business partners.

Web services will also allow desktop applications to access information from

the Internet without first locating and downloading it to their local file

system. However, before the use of Web services becomes widespread, the industry

must resolve some of the uncertainty caused by the competition between the

standards described above.