Cover Story: Enterprise Applications
Towards the extended enterprise
In 2004 enterprises will leverage technologies such as SMS,
XML, chat and Web-enablement, to foster a collaborative work environment with
mobile employees, customers, suppliers and other partners.
Until a year ago, whenever anyone spoke about Enterprise Applications, one
usually meant CRM, ERP, SCM or some other vertical application. But organizations
that have already 'been there' and 'done that' want to take this a step further.
In 2004, the emphasis will be on a collaborative work environment involving
business associates and employees who are beyond the boundaries of the enterprise.
Pranav Kumar, Research Director, Asia Pacific, Enterprise Application Software,
Gartner, said, "Those who have deployed applications are considering enhancements
that address the mobile work force--to provide system access from various places.
Others are looking at collaboration across the value chain, with partners and
suppliers. This will enable them to share certain information (like production
schedules, planning & forecasting info) with suppliers and other business
Sanjay Govil, Director & CIO, Eicher Group said, "Enterprise Automation
will move out of the enterprise into the domain of partners outside the organization.
Traditional Enterprise Applications like SCM, CRM, and ERP will be Web-enabled
thereby allowing people to work in a more collaborative manner."
At a higher level, enterprises are also integrating its systems with those of
its business partners. This will give both parties direct access to systems
and facilitate quicker transaction data exchange.
These predictions are closer to reality, for Indian enterprises are now conducting
pilot trials for enhancements made to its enterprise applications. Let's review
The Birla Sun Life Distribution Company is already using SMS and has Web-enabled
its applications. The Company is using Web-enabled applications for tracking
investments on a daily basis, and to analyze market movements and returns. It's
using SMS for updating summaries.
SRL Ranbaxy, Asia's largest clinical testing lab, has done backward and forward
integration of its ERP. By forward integration, they mean Web-enabling the application
to enable its patients, doctors, and sales force to access the system through
a browser interface.
The Eicher Group has already integrated its ERP with its business partners using
XML. Its dealers, suppliers and distributors can now access its systems via
the Net. It is also moving into CRM and further integrating the supply chain.
Things to come
It seems that familiar mantra of 'do more with less' is possible
through the use of the latest technologies. Costs may be the impeding factor
here, but many enterprises are willing to take the plunge knowing business benefits
will come immediately.
Take SRL Ranbaxy labs for instance. It has invested in 'virtual chat' technology
and is seriously considering replacing its bar code system with hi-tech RFID
"We are seriously thinking about replacing bar code with RFID. The technology
is expensive so we will introduce it for clinical trials, and later extend it
to other areas," said G. Radhakrishnan Pillai, Head-Information Technology,
Presently, samples collected through sales offices and collection centers around
the country are bar coded. Once the samples arrive at the lab, the bar codes
are read and new bar code strips are attached. This helps in tracking the movement
of the sample through the lab.
Soon, collected samples will have RFID tags with patient records on the chip.
"This will help in logistics and distribution, and also in the test processes,"
With RFID all the requisite information for performing the analysis will be
stored on the chip attached to the sample. This will eliminate manual data entry
and save time in transmitting information between systems during the test processes.
Each RFID chip currently costs Rs 25 - 30. But with wider adoption, the cost
is expected to decrease in 2 - 3 year's time.
SRL Ranbaxy is also testing a Virtual Chat system for use between its lab, sales
offices and Customer Care Group (a call center).
"When the lab releases a test report, the doctor may not be able to interpret
it, especially if it is a new research area of medicine. So they may need to
discuss this with us, and thus we have developed a text-based chatting system
that is linked with the core application," said Pillai.
Executives at its Customer Care Group can also chat with personnel at the lab
to discuss technical matters.
SRL Ranbaxy is also integrating the tracking system of its logistics partner
with its own systems. This will enable it to have immediate information about
the movement of samples and reports, at the international level.
The Wireless Way
Enterprises that unsuccessfully attempted using WAP on mobile
phones, are now turning to SMS and other wireless technologies. It seems Sales
Force Automation can benefit the most from wireless technologies, but many business
transactions could be done through mobile phones in the next few years.
"There is no doubt that Sales Force Automation (SFA) is going the wireless
way," said B. G. Srinivas, Associate VP & Head, Enterprise Solutions,
Infosys. "SFA applications are a niche area but needs to be tied in seamlessly
with an organizations' CRM, SCM and Financial applications. The sales force
needs to make informed decisions and must have a single view of the organization
at all times. This is a package that will reach perfection by the end of 2004.
The new SFA solution will be function rich and will be the lifeline for any
organization's sales operations."
Indian enterprises have long acknowledged this and have already initiated projects
in this area.
Sony Music for instance, is planning to capture orders for its 20,000 plus product
catalog through SMS in six month's time.
"At present its sales force has to return to the office and log distributor
orders into the system. So a certain amount of time is lost and there is a risk
of losing the order," said Ishwar Jha, Senior Manager-IT, Sony Music.
SRL Ranbaxy plans to use SMS for feeding information to both patients and doctors.
Presently, patients are informed about the schedule for their next check-up
or test via e-mail. But this could be done more effectively through SMS.
"Doctors need information more quickly. We will be able to send them test
results for a particular patient via SMS, so that they may act more quickly,"
SMS and MMS would primarily be delivery mechanisms for information.
Kalyan Kumar, Technical Marketing Manager, Converged Networks Business Unit,
HCL Comnet, sees location based services integrating with SMS & MMS as the
next big thing.
"I personally believe that after e-mail, mobility is the next killer application.
I see a trend of SIP (Session Initiated Protocol) based devices being used along
with the mobile networks to provide location based information," said Kumar.
If Kumar's prediction comes true, many business transactions would be done through
In general, Indian enterprises are looking to make its systems
more proactive. That means applications will continuously monitor data, and
proactively alert or advise users on important business moves.
"In the next few years I foresee developments to enable the Real Time Enterprise.
Applications will move from passive mode to a more active mode. Multiple components
will enable this along with triggers like network agents," said Sanjay
Govil of the Eicher Group.
Gartner analyst Pranav Kumar couldn't agree more. "At an international
level, there is a move towards SODA (Service Oriented Development Architecture)
and Web services, which together will deliver the next generation of applications,
also called 'smart enterprise suites'. They will also drive enterprises' march
towards a Real Time Enterprise, which has minimum practicable (not minimum possible)
latency," he said.
The other major focus area will be simplification and optimization of the supply
Businesses are also looking at ways to improve information exchange with partners.
XML and its derivatives will be the integration tool or the mechanism for sharing
information. For instance, financial companies are adopting XBRL (eXtensible
Business Reporting Language).
XBRL is an XML-based standard for identifying and better communicating the complex
financial information in corporate business reports. XBRL makes the analysis
and exchange of corporate financial information easier and more reliable.
We can expect something similar for Automobiles and other industries.
Enterprises are not going to replace its legacy applications in the near future.
Rather, they will exploit tools and mechanisms like XML for enhancing existing
Enterprise Application Integration will also happen at the middleware level.
Applications will communicate with each other in real-time, and without user
intervention. All this will foster a more collaborative work environment between
businesses, partners, customers and employees.
Another trend happening around the world is that enterprises are trying to make
optimum use of infrastructure that's already deployed--rather than invest in
new technology. Hence the 'do more with less' mantra will also be chanted in
Indian enterprises in 2004.
Brian Pereira can be reached at email@example.com
|Here's what a few vendors and service providers have
to say about Enterprise Application trends in Indian Enterprises in 2004.
Srikant S Rao, Country Manager-India, BEA Systems
"What we'll probably see in 2004 is increased but smarter IT
investing by enterprises clued into the benefits of enterprise portals,
Web services, service-oriented architectures, component-based development,
business integration and Linux computing--all of which offer high value
at comfortable cost structures."
Kalyan Kumar, Technical Marketing Manager, Converged
Networks Business Unit, HCL Comnet
Sales Force Automation (SFA) is going to undergo a major transformation
with enterprises working hard on devising and improving its Customer Interaction
Management Strategy. SFA tools are today being used more as a contact
management/productivity tracker tool. But SFA will be transformed into
a sales enabler, giving the sales force quick access to relevant information
for enhancing their sales calls.
B.G. Srinivas, Associate VP & Head-Enterprise
Business Process Management (BPM) and Web Services will increasingly
be linked to enterprise applications. Organizations will benefit immensely
with increased employee productivity and revenues.
Sharad Sanghi, Managing Director, Netmagic Solutions
With further reduction in SMS rates, 2004 is going to see an
increase in the acceptance and recognition of SMS as a valuable Information
access and dispersal tool.
Dr. S R Bhot, Director (Business Operations -
eSolutions Group, Rolta India
"Applications like Sales Force Automation give enterprises the
ability to implement global e-commerce strategies, allowing their employees
the freedom to work anywhere at anytime on any device, regardless of connection
or network. This kind of flexibility is crucial to the success of companies
in the digital age."