There are remarkable shifts going on in the world that are changing the way business is done. When we see disruption happening and it isn’t about an emerging market, it is about this very shift. Before we go into the ‘what’, let’s look at the ‘why.’
When we began to computerize, we did it to solve very specific problems, starting with accounting. Pretty soon, integration became the way to connect many problem-solving solutions, and it was quite messy and terribly point-to-point. This was the golden age of IT departments as any application functionality and any integration between systems flowed throw their hands. It launched the role of the CIO as the same level as the COO with all of the political ramifications that followed.
Big platforms like ERP and CRM came along as the way to ‘tie together’ all of those point solutions but, in the process, created the monolithic systems that everyone loves to hate. The single, big database became an important source for enterprise information. Speed mattered less than resilience and centralization.
That brings us to today.
Managing the checkbook
Maintaining these systems takes an enormous share of the IT budget. This ‘legacy bill’ is the harsh reality of the years of building things in inefficient ways. The answer? The best enterprises have or are shifting to an information bus architecture that allows for a single ‘highway’ of information across the enterprise into which every other system connects. This simplification by itself is just a cost savings, but there’s much, much more that comes because of this change.
River of information
This bus contains the most important information in the business. It is the information that often has multiple sources and multiple customers. Marketing information, customer data, orders and inventory are all information that some other system needs to know. Making it visible to the enterprise is a first key step, but simply connecting databases isn’t enough…
Disk is the new tape
Databases are great for storing things. The 21st century, however, is not about what we can store. It is about what we can decide and how quickly we can reach that decision. Imagine a stock broker needing to look in a cabinet and open a file before each buy or sell. It wouldn’t fundamentally work for the timeframes that exist in the trading world. That stock trader’s world is now the norm for the business world.
Enter the need for in-memory computing. The new business environment involves too much data, moving too quickly for the traditional database model to work. It is simply too slow and relies on mostly knowing what we’re looking for in advance. The good news? That enormous (and growing) pool of information, put into RAM (‘in-memory’), can be read 10,000 times faster and this fact changes everything. The database has now replaced tape as the way to perform backup and retrieval. It is no longer the way to make critical decisions in real time.
Pushing the needle into the red
Thanks to this technology shift, we can perform analysis on that large pool of information, allowing for real-time correlations. Those correlations become the patterns that we care the most about. They’re how we spot DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks and fraud, how we do complex pricing on the fly that makes our offerings more competitive. They’re often called events and are the way the best business will be run. An event matters much more in the moment than as a historical fact.
This means getting used to operating with the needle in the red. It is a an uncomfortable place for traditional management, but the reality for those who want to be in front of disruption and not a victim of those who can decide and move more quickly. It is the reality of operating a 21st-century enterprise.