Business leaders around the world have become increasingly more demanding with their IT departments. The time has come for IT to live up to its long-held promise to deliver radical operational and cost efficiencies, as well as improved business flexibility. Tired of ROI studies that looked good on paper but are often forgotten once the funding has been secured, chief executives are now keeping a close watch on IT investments to ensure the commensurate returns. In addition, there has been an onset of ‘e-business on demand’ – phase three of the e-business phenomenon. This is primarily characterised by change; not a one-off fundamental shift in structure, but a period of constantly evolving business requirements. Companies accustomed to planning for the next quarter in the short-term – and five to 10 years in the long-term – are now faced with a business environment demanding immediate response, flexibility and decisiveness.
An ‘on demand’ business is one where business processes – integrated end-to-end across the company with key partners, suppliers and customers – respond with speed to any customer demand, market opportunity or external threat.
Today, therefore, IT infrastructure needs to be open, dynamic, adaptive and integrated. The initial approach to integration often taken by organisations involves a ‘bottom up’ view, which focuses solely on data interchange, tackling each application separately.
But this ‘point-to-point’ connectivity approach ultimately ends up in spaghetti, with too many connections. The burden of maintenance prevents the addition of new applications, which leads to costly and unnecessary replacements of existing applications.
‘Hub and spoke’ integration
A more advanced approach is ‘hub and spoke’ integration, which addresses the challenge of connecting multiple applications. But while each application has only one physical connection, to the central hub, the application-to-application flow still requires a custom translation between the different application data models. Any change to an application data model requires changes in all integrations involving that application.
Consequently, neither of these breaks through the complexity of integrating across an organisation. To meet this challenge it is necessary to first define a common data model and then map the links between application specific data models and the common business data model. Any addition of a new application requires only the mapping between that application-specific data model and the common business model.
By providing a common business data model and isolating the business process from the underlying technology, organisations can benefit in two ways: The burden of application connectivity is minimised; and the business process is not dependent on specific underlying systems.
Separating business process logic from business process implementation provides process independence. This separation of the process function and how it is implemented enables the concept of business flow to be separated from the underlying organisational and IT resources.