Making the most of IT

We've heard a tremendous amount in the past few years about aligning technology with business goals. What progress do you think has been made?

It's typical for fast-growing companies that their efforts in bringing their house in order and using IT to do so have been successful. The question that's more important is, what are they doing with that technology? Their ERP systems, for example, are barely leveraged. Name me any companies that use all the functionalities they pay for. The answer will be, unfortunately, very disappointing. And that relates to management issues -- to what extent did you plan ahead to use the functions, to leverage the functionality of all the applications that you buy? That's the alignment we're talking about. Being successful in deploying systems and re-engineering processes is OK. But fully leveraging the technology, that's where the success is still lacking.

That's why the emerging technologies of service oriented architectures and business process management come into play and fit into the solution now. They provide a chance to leverage further and in new ways all the functionality sitting there, doing nothing, and tie it up together in properly redesigned business processes. Those companies that have succeeded at deploying basic enterprise systems need to leverage them better now.

So it's not the vendors lagging behind user needs? Vendors can't do more than what the end users are really prepared to do. What products should vendors come up with?

They're pretty much coming up with all we need so far. We have all the technology we need to accomplish, for example, a complete redesign of a multibillion-dollar company -- that's not an issue. We have everything we need to run this company from the ground to the top and make it a real-time enterprise. The question is, how do we want to leverage that technology, and are we prepared to leverage it? Right now, however angry senior management may be with the IT departments of this world, and to what extent IT departments are in turn angry with vendors, I think it's merely to hide something. This is just a game to point blame. Whenever we point blame to vendors, it's a false problem. The actual problem is leveraging technology. We have plenty of technology. We have plenty of vendor competition as well. In the SOA space, for example, we have plenty of large vendors, plenty of smaller vendors and plenty of risky adopters, who are ready to adopt the stuff early. The trick is to do it right.

The heterogeneous environment is generally acknowledged as a fact of life. Why isn't there more focus on integration issues, since those problems loom as large as they ever have?

Perhaps it's a problem with "integration" as a word. Technically, four or five years ago, we were still in the enterprise application integration era. EAI was merely a message-queuing technology allowing you to integrate systems with message-passing interfaces. Today, we see a new trend, leveraging component-level integration, with SOA especially, and BPM that rides on the SOA. The integration problems in companies have changed. It's no longer a matter of integrating applications and data. It's primarily now to redesign processes and leverage component services. The reason you don't hear as much about integration as you did in the past is because it's now being addressed by runtime platforms upfront; it's no longer a separate module like it was when you were buying MQSeries or Tibco. That may be the reason technically that we don't hear as much as before about integration projects. Now, 70 percent of new IT investment projects involve integration problems and most likely leverage some integration technologies in some ways.

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