By Balasubramanian Somasundram, Honeywell Technology Solutions Ltd.
Recently I came across an interesting announcement by an SaaS vendor NetSuite on two-tier ERP and an analyst’s observations on the same. The analyst mentioned that the industry is moving in cycles from multiple-ERP suites across the company locations, then flattening those differences by having a single corporate standard ERP and again multiple-ERP stack with the advent of SaaS options.
The crux of this phenomenon is how we manage the technology selection across a globally distributed organization with diversified complexities. I see it as an interesting challenge for the Enterprise Architecture practice to solve.
Enterprise Architecture, when governed from global/corporate headquarters of a company, needs to balance the needs of the global and local entities. Often, the needs are conflicting and it requires lots of experience and courage to balance the needs of both. The local needs of the Architecture are most often triggered by various factors such as:
- Cost – Need to have a cost-effective solution at an emerging region
- Size – Need to have a lightweight solution rather than a heavyweight (ERP)
- Regulatory/Compliance Requirements – Need to comply with local laws
- Business Processes – Need to accommodate business process variations or cater to different customer segments
In the event of choosing a local solution that is not a corporate standard, there is a need to govern those architecture exceptions including integration of two different solutions for a cohesive management. The two-tier ERP mentioned above is a typical example of this scenario.
If we visualize Enterprise Architecture as a series of layers – Business/Information/Technology/Application Architectures – the verticals/segments across those layers would define the organizational units/locations (Local Specific or Organizational Unit specific Enterprise Architectures).
The location verticals, when influenced by the above factors, could lead to new technology selections such as Cloud Computing and Software-as-a-Service. While this practice can improve the autonomy at the local level, if unmanaged, it could soon lead to sphegetti architectures. The most important side-effect of localized adoption of cloud computing or mobile would lead to increased fragmentation (of data/process/technology). And that would defeat the purpose of Enterprise Architecture.
In another constructive scenario, if these standalone solutions need to exchange information with corporate information systems, again EA has a role to play by arbitrating the integration by the use of standards and guidelines.
As Serge Thorn articulated few weeks ago in The Open Group blog, it’s time to review our EA practices and make amendments to the core frameworks and processes to face the challenges emerging from technology mega trends (Cloud/Mobile) and evolving business models (emerging markets).
Balasubramanian Somasundaram is an Enterprise Architect with Honeywell Technology Solutions Ltd, Bangalore, a division of Honeywell Inc, USA. Bala has been with Honeywell Technology Solutions for the past five years and contributed in several technology roles. His current responsibilities include Architecture/Technology Planning and Governance, Solution Architecture Definition for business-critical programs, and Technical oversight/Review for programs delivered from Honeywell IT India center. With more than 12 years of experience in the IT services industry, Bala has worked with variety of technologies with a focus on IT architecture practice. His current interests include Enterprise Architecture, Cloud Computing and Mobile Applications. He periodically writes about emerging technology trends that impact the Enterprise IT space on his blog. Bala holds a Master of Science in Computer Science from MKU University, India.