Latency is the number one inhibitor to success in the enterprise.
That’s a pretty big statement, so let me try to unpack that a bit. As organisations grow in size, we get specialisation. This leads to individual business units, departments, roles and teams. The problem is worse for larger organisations; the increased size, the more disparate the specialisation that occurs.
This leads to multiple business processes that need to connect each organisation to the other throughout a value-chain.
Imagine you have a salesman selling a product. That product has a pricing process, a delivering process, a warehousing process, a shipping process, a manufacturing process, a procurement process, and so on.
There are two considerations to keep in mind:
- Efficiency through the organisation drives down cost, which means each of these processes are managed by assigned teams, managers, measurements and goals
- Reporting on these processes is facilitated through Information Technology, requiring additional work. Salesmen have to input customer, sales and order information into IT systems (CRM, ERP, Accounts etc.) to effectively help the business manage these processes.
It is also important to consider every process and system that’s impacted. This will avoid disparate BU’s and groups. Each group has multiple processes (many duplicate or somewhat overlapping), all with different information flowing through the business.
Most enterprises today manage their IT systems, and allow network access to these in their offices, warehouses and factories. For an increasing, yet limited number of people, they’ve allowed some remote access to some of these systems.
Here are some tangible examples of latency:
- Every individual that has a different location between where they work (client site, shop floor) and where they have to input information (home/corporate office, factory office) introduces latency. Latency occurs in the time between when a job gets done, and getting to the system to update the system.
- Every time there is more than one IT system that requires or provides information (e.g. inventory system, procurement system) introduces latency. Latency occurs in the time to receive information from one system, synthesise it and then put it into another system.
- Every BU with different systems has the same customer introduces latency in the time it takes to consolidate the information from these different systems.
Then there’s a whole bunch of information that is just never captured in the enterprise….
You might capture sales information, but you don’t capture consumer sentiment. Sales are measured according to history, budget or competitor products. But none of this information indicates whether your customers are delighted or disenfranchised.
So we introduce more latency. Latency is added between say, declining sales figures and product development; or latency between employee satisfaction and productivity.
Real Time Intelligence Removes Latency
CEOs need to know, in close to real time, how an investment decision will affect a market or key metrics in the business (e.g. OP). Sales professionals need to understand in real time the inventory status, well-selling products or customer interaction with every part of the business. This real-time knowledge drives agility, differentiation, better customer experience and more success for the organisation.
3 Inputs to Deliver Real Time Intelligence
There are three areas where CIO’s can influence to reduce latency, and get close to real-time intelligence for the business:
- Social Analytics
1. Provide Mobile Access to enterprise systems
The obvious way to reduce latency is to move the tools from where information is accessed and updated to the place where the work happens. This enables a salesman to update orders on his phone/tablet at the point of sale, without having to drive back to a desktop PC (or even a laptop at home). A delivery is scanned as it leaves the warehouse, without needing admin staff to input paper dockets at the end of the day.
Every system in the value chain can benefit from mobility. By providing mobile access your enterprise can:
- Free HR people from their desks to have career development conversations
- Free finance accountants from their desks to discuss what if scenarios with the business
- Free retail sales people from a POS terminal to sell to customers on floor (Apple does this brilliantly)
- Free customers from having to queue at a POS terminal
2. Expand Traditional BI to include Social Analytics
Traditional Business Intelligence has “failed” or rather is less than fully successful. Traditional BI counts the things that can be counted (transactions, historical trends etc.) but entirely misses the things that can’t or rather couldn’t be counted.
But people’s purchasing behaviour - their likes, sentiments and even their relationships can all now be counted. The question is, how can Enterprise IT deliver this to the business?
3. Architect IT Delivery to SOA, Utility and Cloud Platforms
These first 2 initiatives drive cloud. If your applications are moving off expensive, fixed PC’s in the office, onto mobile devices out in the field; you change the fundamental principles about delivery architecture. From authentication to security, there is less need for the expense of fixed assets in company owned premises.
As your architecture is modified to Services Oriented, you gain opportunities to shift workloads onto leveraged systems. You can shift either internally with Private Cloud, or externally to Cloud Providers.
Look at Social Analytics and the explosion of data that modern smart devices will engender. You need an affordable way to provide manage information, storage, disaster recovery and massive compute requirements.
All of these requirements are met through cloud principles.
Enterprise IT and the CIO, have a big opportunity. IT can shift from being a cost centre, with a focus on systems efficiency and cost reductions, to using technology to radically enabling the business. The path involves the removal of latency from the organisation, improving supply chain efficiencies and driving value chain differentiation.
Implemented effectively, Real Time Intelligence is set to transform the enterprises of today, to the successful leaders of tomorrow.
However, we no longer need size to provide economies of scale. Indeed the diseconomies of scale now outweigh these economies. Small companies, empowered through Mobile, Social and Cloud Technologies will have a head start and will increasingly outperform enterprise organisations that can’t or won’t adapt.