Business processes and data should not remain safe behind glass: they need to reach beyond the enterprise.

On a trip to Madrid this week I took the opportunity to tour the Royal Palace. After several rooms of the usual chandeliers, Goyas, tapestries and thrones I came Strad.jpgacross a room containing five priceless Stradivarius instruments: 2 violins, 1 viola and 2 cellos (one pictured here). Normally when coming across such iconic works of art, the reaction is joy and wonder, but I found the collection of mute instruments rather sad.

For sure, the curator had done a fine job. As you can see in the picture, the cello had a beautiful cabinet, and custom stand. There was a humidity controller, an alarm, a helpful label and all was safe behind glass.

But that is not what a musical instrument is for.

I wanted to hear a music student grab the cello and launch into Bach’s Cello Suite, and have the other four instruments handed out to a string quartet who would use them for what Antonio Stradivari made them for: to create music.

I sometimes think our IT systems have become mute. As IT specialists we have focused on keeping things “behind glass”. We focus on our internal business processes, our Master Data, the data of our enterprise: we keep “our stuff” safe and organised, just like the Museum curators.

Think Outside the Cabinet

The world is becoming more connected: more work is being outsourced, inventories are leaner, our customers want to communicate faster. Here are three areas where IT professionals need to think “outside the cabinet”.

  • Business process don’t stop at the edge of your company. You need to consider collaboration strategies with suppliers, customers and other intermediaries. EDI doesn’t cut it any more: Business Networks need to be collaborative and intelligent
  • Big Data gets really Big, and much more valuable when you reach out to data that has historically not been yours. Quality records from suppliers, inventory levels from customers, GPS data from external logistics companies. When designing Big Data value propositions don’t limit yourself to data that you own.
  • When considering Internet of Things, consider devices that are not yours but belong to a business partner such as a supplier or a customer: Things get interesting

Of course, considering the wider, intra-enterprise potential impact might be complex, risky or expensive. But that’s where the real value is. The viola is not much of an instrument by itself, but is designed to fit into a string quartet, to be combined with others.

We’ve been optimising the heck out of our Enterprises for a generation and we’ve done a good job. But our processes and data don’t want to remain in isolation: it is time to unlock the cabinet and join the orchestra.

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2 Comments

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  1. Mike Marino

    As usual James, you have a very good perspective on the importance of reaching outside the 4 walls of one’s organization to unlock the true value of inter-enterprise collaboration and information sharing and most importantly, what SAP is doing to help businesses do that in a simple, cost effective manner.

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  2. Sylvia Santelli

    Reminds me of the saying that a boat at bay is safe, but that is not why it was built.  Technology was built to be connected and that’s why the age of the internet of things is coming quickly.  Thanks for the perspective.

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