Systems Integration Advances, But More Work Remains

Opinion: Help for constructing the real-time enterprise makes progress, but there's still a long way to go.

How much gasoline did your company use last week? What will be the effect of rising gasoline prices on your companys bottom line? By the time your financial analysts have performed an analysis, the price per gallon will have changed.

The reason I bring up the changing prices at the pumps isnt because Im wearing out my credit card filling my cars gas tank. Gas prices, product prices and inventories all change on an hourly basis—or faster—at most companies. Meanwhile, despite continued investment in technology, most corporate systems are unable to create a true picture of what is happening to a company on anything approaching a real-time basis.

This week as eWEEK announces the winners of the fifth annual Excellence Awards program, Im impressed by how far the technology industry has come in creating products and services for building a real-time enterprise. Im also reminded of how far we have to go to create the technology underpinnings that modern corporations require. The unmet needs also suggest the opportunities that continue to exist in corporate technology development.

The products that passed our rigorous panel of Labs analysts and Corporate Partner Advisory Board members this year tend to approach the problem of tying together systems and creating new ways to present and act upon corporate data. For example, Composite Softwares Composite Information Server 3.0 takes real-time data, analytics and reporting tools out of the back office and puts that powerful information into the hands of front-line managers. This movement to provide information to the people who can act on it is one of the most powerful trends taking place in corporations.

Sun Microsystems Java Studio Enterprise 7 is one of the most complete development systems we have seen that bridges modeling and code development. Any time you can lower the wall between project developers and application developers, youre going to achieve new levels of corporate software efficiency.

Unifys NXJ 10.5 business integration systems environment tries, and accomplishes, one of the most difficult tasks in business process management. The system is sufficiently simple to model the integrated systems that modern corporations require but also powerful enough to make the leap from model to actual systems integration.

There are many other examples of systems integration among the ranks of our award winners. Siemens Communications HiPath OpenScape, Epiphanys Interaction Advisor E6, Mercury Interactives Business Process Testing and Onaros SANscreen, for example, can all be used to build real-time, robust business systems.

But the list of award-winning products, while impressive, does not indicate that all the hard work is done. Corporate executives realize that the technology silos created in the past may bring new efficiencies to those applications, but they do not help the company overall. The thrust of technology strategy this year is a grand unification of those silos with the expectation of a new round of increased productivity once the unification is complete.

While this is a worthy pursuit, the big productivity improvements will come from bringing new segments of the corporation into the technology infrastructure. Production, inventory and shipping systems, which often receive scant attention in technology budgets, are prime targets for systems integration. Human resources, security and sales management systems often act in isolation rather than in concert.

This years Excellence Awards winners are to be commended for spearheading the development of corporate technologies that truly are strategic and integral in fulfilling a new set of corporate technology requirements. But while these companies are leading the way, there is a great deal of work to be done. While I applaud this years winners, I also look forward to next years Excellence competition to see what progress those entrants make in reducing the list of enterprise tech needs. Maybe the price of a gallon of gas will also be lower a year from now.

Editor in Chief Eric Lundquist can be reached at


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