Author's Note: This column is a non-technical extract from Chapter 1 of my next book, titled: Enterprise Architecture for Enterprise Integration: Methods and Technologies for Business Integration and Technology Integration. This book is due for electronic publication in early 2004, with hard-copy publication expected later in 2004.
This month's column is a change of pace. Earlier columns have separately addressed concepts of enterprise architecture and also of extensible markup language (XML) and Web services for enterprise integration. Last month's and this month's column bridge these topics but are not technical. They discuss the use of enterprise architecture for business integration. They step back from technology to reflect on the evolution of the 21st century enterprise.
Last month, we discussed the evolution of enterprises from the agricultural age to the industrial age, based on principles expounded in Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, published in 1776. We now continue with the transition to the information age.
Transition from the Industrial Age to the Information Age
Starting from the late 1950s through the '60s, '70s and right up to today we have seen manual processes being automated by computers. What was the result? The processes were automated, but we took the existing manual processes and then automated them essentially as-is, without much change. That is, the automated processes were being executed as the manual processes were, but faster and more accurately.
In so doing, we moved from manual chaos to automated chaos!
Enterprises tried to hide this automated chaos. Through to the mid-'90s, most enterprises could confine their automated chaos in the back office. They presented a calm, in-control, front-office appearance to the outside world. They tried to emulate the graceful swan, gliding effortlessly across the surface of a glass-like lake with no apparent effort. The furious paddling activity trying to keep up was hidden below the surface.
However, with rapid acceptance of the Internet in the second half of the '90s, the chaos moved from the back office onto the front doorstep of enterprises through their Web sites.
Customers could visit these enterprises by the click of a mouse, but they could just as quickly leave with the click of a mouse if they did not find what they needed!
They left not because of what the automated processes could do; they left because the processes did not provide what they needed. This was because redundant processes and redundant data, by their definition, are non-integrated. Another term for non-integration is dis-integration. That is, by automation, most enterprises had evolved from non-integrated manual processes to dis-integrated automated processes.
The problem is much worse than this! Most automated processes today assume that the technologies of the past still apply. The manual processes that they automate required paper-based forms that were mailed or later faxed. Therefore, their automated counterparts are based on forms that are also printed to be mailed or faxed. On receipt at their destination, the data in these forms is manually reentered into relevant systems with manual work, with extra staffing for the reentry, with delays, with errors and with associated costs.
In earlier columns, we saw that business forms printed by computer can be automatically converted into electronic forms using XML and then transmitted electronically to receiving applications within an enterprise or between enterprises. This is enterprise application integration (EAI). It replaces mail transmission and manual reentry, paper-based systems that were designed for completion over weeks or days. These are replaced instead with electronic systems that can inter-communicate within minutes or seconds anywhere in the world.
The problem is that automated systems that assume inter-communication with printed forms, and manual reentry over weeks and days does not work well when asked to inter-communicate with electronic forms that bypass the need for manual reentry and that complete in minutes or seconds. What is the basic reason for this dichotomy?
Today, we have 21st century enterprises that utilize 21st century technologies, yet most enterprises today still use 18th century dis-integrated business processes!
The business processes originally designed based on principles set by Adam Smith in 1776 have not evolved to take advantage of the technologies we have available today. This is a business problem, not a technology problem. It requires business decisions. It requires business expertise. These are the basic ingredients for business integration.
Past columns discussed how business integration is realized by enterprise architecture. However, the true architects of an enterprise are not found in its information technology (IT) department. This leads us to three important principles:
- Enterprise architects are the senior managers who set the directions for the future based on processes designed for that future and its technologies. The directions for the future cannot be based on 18th century business processes that no longer respond to the rapid change environment of today, and even greater change tomorrow.
- The future will be based on business processes that use the technologies of today and tomorrow to complete in minutes and seconds what previously took days and weeks, with strategic directions set by senior management and with business and IT experts working together in a design partnership.
- Based on strategic business plans defined by senior management for the future, business experts and IT staff then use enterprise engineering methods for rapid delivery of enterprise architecture to identify priority business areas that can be implemented and delivered rapidly into production using the technologies discussed in previous columns.
Using enterprise architecture and enterprise engineering together, business experts working with IT experts define integrated databases and identify reusable business activities reusable business processes for business integration. These take advantage of the latest technologies for technology integration: XML, EAI, enterprise portals and Web services. What is the result? Integrated 21st century enterprises with integrated 21st century processes!
Enterprise architecture and enterprise engineering achieve business integration in the enterprise for more effective technology integration. These methods and technologies are addressed in my forthcoming book: Enterprise Architecture for Enterprise Integration: Methods and Technologies for Business Integration and Technology Integration.
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