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Connected Enterprise Solutions

Published
  • October 01 1999, 1:00am EDT

In the July/August issue of DM Review, we introduced the concept of decision process management (DPM). DPM represents the necessary integration of process, technology and organizational enablers to create a strategic decisioning environment which will allow us to reach the expected value potential of an organization's information asset base. To amplify the importance of DPM, this month we'll examine decision process management within the broader enterprise context.

IT investments have traditionally been intended to integrate processing within a particular layer of the enterprise architecture. ERP systems serve to integrate the transaction processing engine of the enterprise, and data warehouses form the basis for integrated decision support applications. Achieving maximum competitive advantage from an organization's information asset, however, requires the organization to have information ­ and the corresponding decisions ­ cohesively managed throughout the enterprise. Decision making must be connected throughout the enterprise, in sync at all operational and strategic levels. This competitive reality drives us toward a connected enterprise architecture (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Connected Enterprise Architecture

We frequently hear of the importance of integrating the enterprise across functional silos. This horizontal integration is critical because the natural information flow within an organization typically cuts across departmental boundaries. Equally important, the connected enterprise architecture also recognizes ­ and enables ­ decision making which spans vertically through the enterprise, involving multiple levels of operational and strategic decision-makers. Too often, decisions made throughout the organization related to a specific desired outcome happen independently, with casual (if any) interdependency.

In most organizations, decision making has only the slightest tie-in to strategy. Little structure connects the decision making of managers at various levels with the organization's purpose. Senior mangers continue to complain that the lower levels of the organization "don't get" their strategic message. The lower levels of management believe senior managers "don't get" the problems they face in implementing what seem to be vague strategic ideas. For any strategic decision to be effectively operationalized, there must be transactional processes which carry the strategic direction into action on a daily basis. Strategic sourcing strategies, market share initiatives and customer loyalty programs, for example, all depend upon sound day-to-day execution at the points where the company's operations touch its suppliers and its customers. Decision process management at the enterprise level ­ with horizontal and vertical integration ­ will increase the effectiveness of the organization as it creates a new standard of partnership between senior, middle and lower management through a connected decision-making capability.

To further illuminate the importance of vertically linking decision making, consider most any transactional process. Ideally, there should be an analytical aspect which underpins it. Inventory management, production scheduling, customer service dispatching ­ virtually any transactional process ­ should be optimized through a corresponding analytical component. The analytical elements manipulate trend information, competitive and environmental data, performance history data, etc., to ensure the front-line operational decisions are efficient, effective and strategically aligned, not just expedient. In some leading companies this happens today, but in a highly manual and non-dynamic fashion. By explicitly linking the transactional processes with their analytical counterparts, decision process management can predictably guide front-line decision making by providing a foundation of analysis, insight and information that increases consistency and alignment with overall corporate priorities.

As information flows through the organization, it transitions between many decision-making cycles and applications which enable them. Connected enterprise solutions will force us to rethink traditional categorizations of applications. This has a direct impact on how we need to view our own space ­ data warehousing. The traditional characterization of data warehousing as an "informational" discipline and not an "operational" enabler is outmoded. The view of data warehousing as strictly informational has been fading with the emergence of closed-loop data warehousing. Clearly, the data warehouse will continue to serve as a staging, consolidation and provisioning hub to make data available for traditional analytical applications such as profitability analysis. But the data warehouse will also enable a diverse set of operational decisioning applications such as supply chain optimization, campaign management, call center management, field service and sales force automation. The data warehouse is positioned within the connected enterprise architecture as the key linking technology. The data warehouse infrastructure will ensure that a common, integrated base of corporate data drives decision making related to operational processes, analytical processes and informational processes ­ the entire enterprise decisioning environment.

It wasn't that long ago we had a quiet little space. Data warehousing was the domain of only those who understood the esoteric subtleties of star versus snowflake, and our days were filled with debates about data mart versus data warehouse. Today, it's clear that the data warehouse forms the nucleus for building connected enterprise solutions, maximizing the massive investments made in corporate America's management information infrastructure. It's time to step up to the challenge and complete the transformation of data warehousing solutions from a novelty to a primary corporate investment priority.


CONNECTED ENTERPRISE ARCHITECTURE

DECISION PROCESS MANAGEMENT
Information & Knowledge Delivery
Analytical Applications
Operational Process Optimization

Data Warehouse Infrastructure
Transaction Processing Infrastructure
IT Infrastructure
OPERATIONS FOUNDATION

 

 

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