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:
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
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
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 Â£75,000 in modular content management projects,
while 10% said they were considering big-ticket implementations worth up to Â£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.