ITXPO - Spontaneous consumption: The real-time enterprise

Ever wondered who's behind that incessant pressure on your team to do more with less, ever better, ever faster?

The answer, according to Gartner Inc.'s vice president of research, Andy Kyte, is you.

You the consumer, that is, for being too impatient to spend a minute longer than necessary in a supermarket check-out line, or a penny more than you feel you ought on a packet of cereal.

We live in an economy where there is freedom to choose, and since we have a choice, we will choose the cheapest, and since we can choose where we can get it, we will go where we get the best service. This has an impact on the people who serve us, and on the companies that serve them, and so on up the line and back to our employers, Kyte said in a panel presentation at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo conference here this week.

Being able to respond quickly to demanding customers is one of the marks of the real-time enterprise, one of the themes of this week's conference.

This doesn't mean we must all become slaves to the rhythm.

"We're not saying every business has to have zero latency in every process," Kyte said at a news conference after the presentation. "But a reduction in time in back office processes is something enterprises need to work more on."

Real-time enterprises compete by using "up-to-date information to progressively remove delays in the management and execution" of its critical processes, Research Director Mark Raskino said.

"It's interesting that Dell Computer Corp. continues to remove time from its manufacturing processes after many years in business," he said.

The difficulty, for most enterprises, is obtaining up-to-date information. The good news is that the technology to do it is already here: the bad news is that many companies are not set up to use it, according to Massimo Pezzini, vice president and research director at Gartner.

"From a technology standpoint, the real-time enterprise is about integrating applications with one another," he said.

The necessary integration technologies have been around for at least the last five years, and a whole wealth of manufacturers have emerged, he said, "So what's the problem?"

The problem, Pezzini said, is that most enterprise computer systems are still not designed to work online, leading to a network spaghetti architecture as attempts are made to link them together.

"Enterprises don't know it, but they are already spending a lot of money on network integration," he said. They are "already spending 35 percent of their budget on maintaining point-to-point links between applications and the business process is very poor" as a result. There are delays, and there is no visibility from one end of the process to the other.

The answer is to move towards a single "enterprise nervous system, not to connect business processes within an enterprise, but also with processes in other enterprises."

The difference between this and the operation of existing electronic marketplaces is that, in this vision, businesses define and negotiate their own enterprise architectures with their trading partners, whereas today's marketplaces impose the rules, Pezzini said.

Pezzini, Kyte and other Gartner analysts will elaborate on their view of the real-time enterprise and how to implement it throughout Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, which runs through Thursday at the Palais des Congrès in Cannes, France.

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