This SOMETHING could be better machines, faster and reliable modes of communication, faster access to
organized data and reports, faster access to market intelligence, better trained and motivated human resource
and a host of other productivity, efficiency and cost reduction measures.
All this and much more can be achieved with the Help of IT. IT can lead to global economies and externalities.
IT can take various forms and shapes to do this. Almost all IT Solutions/Products can be categorized under the
personal/business issues/areas which they address to.
Some key areas where IT can make invaluable contributions are:
Service/Product Delivery and Procurement
Customer Sales and After Sales Service Support
Production Planning and Control
Human Resource Productivity and Training
Information Management and Data Exchange
Data Storage and presenting it in meaningful form
Analysis and Predictions
Process Monitoring and Evaluation
IT can take various avatars to address the above mentioned issues. Some popular Forms are:
Service Management Systems - Direct and Indirect Service Delivery Management Systems
Sales and Marketing Systems - Sales Force Management System
Vendor Management - Supply Chain Management System
Production Management - Inventory Control and Production Planning Systems
HR Management Systems - Payroll and HR Management Systems
Workflow Automation Systems
Data Warehousing and Mining
Data Interchange Systems
Communication Solutions - VoIP, e-Mail, BBS, Chatting
Analysis and Predictive Systems - Market Planning Systems
Business Intelligence Systems
Office Productivity Systems - Office Productivity Suites, Groupware
Knowledge Management Systems - Knowledge Indexing and Search Systems
These IT Solutions (Business Enablers) sit atop IT Infrastructure.
IT can be visualized as the Superstructure (credit for this term goes to Karl Marx) comprising:
IT Infrastructure itself consists of Hardware and Core Software which Drives the Hardware. On top of the Core
Software resides the Environmental Software. Environmental Software is the one which drives the Solutions.
So your ubiquitous Desktop Machine is Driven by the Operating System (for example Linux) and a plethora
of Drivers and Helping Software. However, to run your favorite Chat Applet you need to create a enabling
environment in the form of a Java Runtime Environment (courtesy Sun Microsystems).
Something which must be noted here is that IT when introduced into business creates its own set of Processes.
Any Organization with more than 10 Desktop Machines and a Mail Server would understand this. There has to
be a full time System Administrator on call, Data Protection, Security, System Updates, License Compliance
Protocols have to be created and followed for IT to be of any consequence in the Business. Thus, it would
suffice to say that IT brings along with it its own set of Processes and associates Costs. There is a recurring
Cost of Ownership associated with IT adoption in any form.
The secret of success lies in creating a Return on IT Investment (ROI) with exceeds the Investment itself (cost of Procurement of the IT Solution plus recurring maintenance and change costs)
IT Systems are created by so many Vendors. Every Vendor wants to produce the best according to its own
knowledge base and wisdom. Initially this created myriad systems each of which had its own standards and
protocols. Now thankfully, almost all processes and technologies have some globally acceptable standards
and protocols. For example regardless of the Database Vendor, every Database has to conform to ANSI
Standard prescribed for Structured Query Language (SQL)
Even though there are organizations like ANSI/ISO/Consortiums which prescribe Standards and Protocols,
Software and Systems are created using different Languages, Data Repositories and Architectures.
Given lack of planning, time lags in procurement, technological obsolescence, and human inertia, Businesses do
get straddled with often disparate software and systems. However, Data and Functional Commonality
is a Reality. Business Processes are such that Data and other Intelligence needs to be shared amongst various
functional areas of an Enterprise. Given the fact that most Businesses have invested huge sums of monies
varied systems which in most cases are CLOSED, even if quite efficient, make the task of data interchange
amongst them a diabolical anathema. This invariably causes Data Islands and consequent Data Duplication and
loss of Data Quality. Thus was born the discipline of Enterprise Application Integration. This dilemma gave
birth to the concept of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems - Integrated Software to handle most
common business functional areas/department and processes embedded therein.
Recent times have seen a rising cost of entry to IT Systems. This meant that small business entities could
not take advantage of the efficiency and productivity gains associated with IT. So was born the concept of
Service Oriented Architecture. For example Application Service Provides (ASP) provide access to System
functionality and its associated benefits at low cost rental basis without the Business having to invest huge
amounts in procuring IT Systems. Of course the underlying technologies of Networking and Internet have
made possible such IT Solutions Delivery and Business Models.
There is also the fact that most of the functionality embedded in similar Software are inherently the same.
For example the functionality of User Registration is almost common in all e-commerce sites. Similar Personal
Information and Address fields are required to be filled in by the Customer. Thus every e-commerce site has to
create a Customer Registration Functionality within its e-Commerce System/Software. Cost could be saved
if the e-Commerce application could use ready-made functionality without having to re-invent the wheel.
However, Technological variation did not permit such an approach and a globally acceptable common technology
which all the software vendor would use, is still a distant dream. Thus was born the Web Services Architecture
which enable a System to expose its functionality to other application by the use of XML. XML is language
neutral and so if applications could send and receive Data (as parameters) to intermediate XML Wrappers/Layers,
applications can interact even if they are on different technologically. This is the essence and reason' de tere
of Web Services Technology.