The Real (Time) Deal
At the close of 2002 DCI held its premier Real-Time Enterprise event in San Francisco, featuring several high- profile speakers in the CRM and general tech industries. Though many held different opinions on just where real-time business is going, all agreed on one thing: The real-time enterprise is not a passing fad, but here to stay.
Perhaps no one believes this more than Barton Goldenberg, president of ISM Inc. Goldenberg summed up the emergence of the real-time enterprise by saying: "The real-time enterprise is a natural progression [from CRM]. We're not going to stop it; it's where the world wants to go," adding that 90 percent of business will be operating in real-time by 2015.
Most speakers at the conference said the future of real-time lies in integration, wherein employees and customers will have instant access to disparate forms of information through a single user interface. And Web services seem to be the accepted architecture to facilitate integration. As James Hall, managing partner at Accenture, put it: "Web services are the foundation block to address the next generation of business applications."
Hall also said that Web services and other hosted models have the ability to breathe new life into older legacy systems. Since integration makes existing software work together more efficiently, there is no need to upgrade or purchase new products, Hall said.
Tom Siebel, CEO and chairman of Siebel Systems Inc., said in his keynote that integration will be championed by the Universal Application Network, which will act as the ultimate business adapter by allowing for integration of all sorts of enterprise suits and Web-services operating systems.
The skeptics were also in abundance, many of whom claim that real-time integration is impossible, because operating environments are too disparate and database fields too individualized to integrate flawlessly. Phrases like "semantic heterogeneity" were used as buzz words backing the impossibility of true real-time business operations.
However, many companies claim to have moved towards operating in real-time and shared their success stories with those in attendance. Mike Hill, vice president of logistics at Tyco Adhesives, discussed the company's real-time integration with its ERP system and customer-facing software. Hill said that Tyco was able to double the amount of shipments it sent in a day, and was able to reduce inventory by 35 percent, streamlining operations significantly.
Also, Hill said that by moving to real-time operations customers can see actual inventory information and track shipments through every stage at any given time, thus generating higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.