No man is an island, entire of itself
Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main . . .
Thus starts the famous meditation by poet John Donne. The point Donne is making is that all of us are interrelated, connected and dependent upon each other.
Connectedness and Collaboration are the Catalysts of Economic Growth
This need to be connected pervades 21st century society. It has in fact become the foundation of new business models, entirely new value chains, and much higher expectations from customers as a result. From social networks that operate on a 24/7 basis to enterprise-wide order management and supply chain systems that manage millions of transactions a day, collaboration is the new economic accelerator of growth.
Studies from AMR Research, Gartner Group, Forrester and others all show that collaboration, not just short-term cross-functional teams, lead to challenging goals being attained. The tighter the collaboration, the greater the ability to reach levels of company-wide performance not possible before. Scale that out to global supply chain and manufacturing networks, and business models not possible before suddenly become achievable and profitable.
No One Makes It Alone Anymore
People working together toward a common goal are far more effective over the long run than the “lone wolf” or “cowboys” of the world. Combining intelligence and effort through collaboration and shared data, the most complex and challenging goals of any company are being achieved. While the “lone wolf” and “cowboys” of the world are often celebrated, they often do more harm than good when it comes to a company attaining its most difficult goals. Lack of collaboration often leads to short-term gains at the price of long-term pain. Examples of this include the following:
• We got the sale! But, the discount exceeded our built in margin.
• We save 10% more using this new supplier! But, we lost our discount for the other products our old supplier still sells to us.
• We’ve doubled our production of widgets! But, we only need half the widgets we make.
• We’ve slashed our headcount by 40%! But, we can’t meet our production goals due to staffing shortages.
Organizations that collaborate don’t make these mistakes. However, collaboration has to be more than people sharing information and trying to work together. Collaboration needs to extend beyond the human component.
Collaboration must extend into three high level areas.
- Roles – What functions they fulfill
- Responsibilities – What deliverables do they guarantee?
- Tasks – What are their daily activities?
- Finance – AR, AP, Ledger, standards compliance, SEC compliance
- Engineering – Product design, configuration, product performance
- Sales – Moving product into the user community
- Manufacturing – Inventory management, production processes
- IT – Maintaining data, information and hardware infrastructure and systems
- Human Resources – Assuring human assets are available
- Marketing – Crafting and delivering messaging to prospects and users
- ERP – Back office systems
- CRM – Customer care and front office apps
- SCM – Maintenance of relationship with suppliers
- PLM – Maintenance of the product lifecycle
- HR – Support human resources activities
- Other – Apps and systems deployed throughout the enterprise
When we look at the “interconnectedness” of these elements, a couple of things become apparent.
First, the single solution or platform approach to managing the enterprise is going to be greatly challenged. When we look at the big system vendors, Oracle and SAP, recent moves by their management suggest some recognition of this reality. Executives in these companies are realizing that one size does not fit all in the ERP, supply chain, CRM, analytics, performance management, and role-based data management arenas. This is why Oracle specifically has been on an acquisition binge, seeking to capture the depth of functionality they lack in key application areas.
A recent AMR commentary on enterprise application strategies made the point that SAP’s Management changes had more to do with the difficulties SAP faced with keeping Net Weaver ahead of the curve as far as it’s place in the overall strategy within B2B architectures. Oracle’s acquisition of AmberPoint fits into this theory as well. Oracle has been on a bit of a tear in terms of acquiring technology and the need is there to facilitate better management between these functional units.
The second point is the fact that “infrastructure” is really where things are at. Making all of these applications operate like a single system, rather than a collection of tools, is where the true payoffs are. Again the AMR piece cites a couple of things which bear this out. The need for analytical capabilities that extend from data collection into job execution are manifested by facilities that deliver real time information to decision makers is a case in point. This is done in a way that drives effective and timely decision-making.
The need for more sophisticated user interfaces (UIs) that support and exploit these complexities also present an opportunity. Timely data, relevant to a pending action and the tools to execute that action must be coincidentally presented to the user.
Making Collaboration Strategic
To facilitate this type of integration, Cincom Systems has developed Environ. Environ, coupled with Microsoft’s SharePoint solution, provides a series of Web Services that enable real-time integration, role-based activity monitoring and event-driven execution of applications.
Environ is made up of four basic components which are briefly described below:
Environ Portal Framework Services (PFS)
PFS is a SharePoint based solution that provides web-based access between entities within and outside the four walls of an enterprise. PFS is used for managing supply chain, distribution and external partner integration at the process level. PFS also manages the UI of each portal, from suppliers, distribution, channel partners and management teams within an organization.
PFS drives the user experience and serves as the administrator over role based access to information, processes or other users.
Environ Workflow Services (WFS)
The function of WFS is to bring the people and process elements together.
Workflow processes, linking people, systems and data can be designed with cut and paste, drag and drop simplicity through the Business Oriented Designer. Internet, Intranet and Extranet accessibility parameters can be defined and built into each process. Templates are available to users that can serve as either a finished process or basic design for modification to spec for the enterprise.
This ease of use makes it possible for line-of-business users to define their own wor5kflows without having to rely on IT.
Environ Integration & Automation Services (IAS)
When people execute processes within complex organizations or enterprises, those processes usually access data and invoke systems from multiple sources. Apps from assorted ISVs, internally developed legacy apps, systems and data located within supplier or customer datacenters outside of the enterprise all must communicate with each other.
Built on BizTalk Server, IAS serves as a clearinghouse for all of the data that passes back and forth between these many systems. To the end user, it all appears like magic on the screen. Behind the scenes, IAS is very busy indeed facilitating the communication of all these disparate systems with each other. IAS maintains meta-data on all systems within the environment, this makes it possible to take data from one system and pass it to another system transparently.
IAS is in some ways analogous to the translator booth at the United Nations. A delegate from France addresses the body in French. Delegates from other countries hear that address in their native language as translators re-articulate the French message into Swahili, English, Mandarin, Arabic or any other language used by those in attendance.
Business Intelligence and Data Services (BIDS)
Maintaining huge amounts of data does no good for any enterprise if that data cannot be brought to the person requiring it to make good decisions related to the business. Decision-making requires information, which is the distilled product of data.
BIDS matches information to role and presents it to the user via dashboards. The dashboard is designed around the specific needs of the role using the data. Each role will have different KPIs and require access to different scorecards in order to be fully empowered as a decision-making entity within the enterprise.
BIDS is able to handle structured as well as unstructured data, which is critical since the vast majority of data in the world is in an unstructured format. Harnessing the power of SQL Server with the analytical and reporting services delivered via SSRS and SSAS functionality, BIDS is a powerhouse for handling data and turning it into actionable information.
Environ is really the backbone of the Control 2010 solution set. Collaboration always sounds like a wonderful goal, but without the Environ solution, Collaboration is likely to be no more than a goal, Cincom makes collaboration a reality.