A solid foundation: Three key requirements for your enterprise app

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Fons Heijnsbroek/Flickr
Fons Heijnsbroek/Flickr

In my experience, organizations looking to invest in enterprise technology focus too much of their attention on the functionality at the expense of the underlying architecture. This is a mistake. Anyone can make a flashy demo, but if your new app does not have the right architecture, you’ll experience disappointing returns and have more problems in the long run than you anticipated. Better to do your due diligence now, I think, and get it right the first time. Technologies that were in their infancy just a decade ago have matured and advanced to the point that they can no longer be ignored. I advise you to “look under the hood” before making your next technology investment to ensure your 2015 Porsche 911 isn’t really a 1985 Pontiac Fiero! With that said, there are three key underlying architectural features that your next SCM investment should have. Keep in mind that the cloud is a key enabler of all three:

  1. Robust PaaS Offering. Apple and Google’s app stores have a staggering amount of apps, each well over a million. It would be nearly impossible for a single company to develop an app portfolio of the same depth and breadth in 4 years, even a company with the resources of an Apple or Google. And even assuming they could, the quality of innovation would almost certainly be lower. We can credit the abundance of options and innovation in the smart phone space for two reasons: first, these mobile platforms are open to third party developers, and second, these 3rd party developers have a large preexisting potential customer base that gives them the incentive to innovate and create an app (i.e. everyone who owns an iPhone or Android).  Believe it or not, a similar scenario exists for your SCM investment.  Organizations now have the ability to create your own applications or buy an application designed by a third-party that is not the platform provider. In the long run, robust PaaS offerings will provide you with solutions that are more innovative and flexible.
  2. Multi-Tenancy. This is fairly common knowledge already, but suffice it to say that multi-tenant applications are cheaper in both the short and long run, and there are too many advantages to multi-tenancy for you to treat this as optional.
  3. Network tenancy. This is the big one. What happens when two or more trading partners want to collaborate? Today the process requires costly upgrades and implementations for the multiple systems that are involved to properly “talk” to each other. That’s great for the software vendors and consultants but bad for business. This can be solved in part with network tenancy.

Very few enterprise applications are designed as network apps, and that’s a huge problem because today’s enterprise trading relationships are really best understood as networks. Think about it: most industries contain thousands of trading partners that share and withhold information from each other depending on the specific business relationship.  Furthermore, within industries there is a huge amount of overlap: retailers share the same logistics providers and suppliers, suppliers share the same raw material suppliers, and logistics providers often serve two competing companies, sometimes carrying their products on the same truck. A good analogy is Facebook or Linked in. There are certain pictures or information about yourself that you may not want your co-worker to see, but that you’re perfectly fine sharing with your mother. And there’s also a lot of overlap; your friends have the same friends, and so on. Is your enterprise software architected to reflect this underlying network?  Network tenancy does just this, providing all trading partners with a “single version of the truth” safely and securely.

The next generation of enterprise apps allow every trading partner in a particular business process—say a manufacturer, retailer, or logistics provider—to view the same information at the same time in the same instance of software. They will be network apps that better reflect the underlying relationships between trading partners—complex environments filled with public and private information that is constantly changing. What’s in it for you? A single version of the truth for all parties.  What do you think? Are there any basic architectural requirement s that I have missed?

Want to learn more? I would like to invite to you the upcoming webinar“The Power of PaaS”. In the webinar, you’ll learn how in 60 days a 3rd party developer used a cloud platform to build an application for the US Marine Corps that enabled better use of data, quicker decision-making, and unprecedented visibility. You’ll also learn how the same cloud platform is being used in healthcare to provide a holistic patient record with a “single version of the truth” for greater continuity in patient care.

You can view the the webinar here. Even if you can’t make the live viewing, you’ll receive a replay link after the event so that you can watch at your convenience.


Ranjit Notani
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