The single vendor solution is dead

Mike Payne of Vitria Technology, believes enterprise wide ERP will be replaced by best of breed software, interfacing over an IT backbone.

The vision of one software solution to tackle all organisational needs is dead.

Something which appears so obviously beneficial on paper, as an all encompassing enterprise resource planning (ERP) system did, would not work in within most organisations. It is human nature to be irrational, to trust what you know, and refuse to be forced down a single track.

Most businesses are now so complex at a detailed level that to create solutions that support that complexity is highly unlikely. The reason behind that is that the processes and formula used to support every day workers represents many hundreds of man years of experience and knowledge. To think an application is capable of delivering that from day one is at best naïve and at worst could be a career limiting behaviour. There is also the fundamental fact that ‘big bang’ systems implementation is a game played by the unknowing led by the unwise. ERP vendors tried to be all things to all men, not without good intentions, but without enough forethought about the fact that they were dealing with people, who resist change. While many ERP vendors have been very successful in selling their applications to businesses, the reality is that most sales are not for the whole solution.

Vendors are repositioning themselves away from just traditional ERP because they have realised that companies want best-of-breed. The argument against this was that applications couldn’t talk to each other. Business processes, which traversed the enterprise like a spider spinning a web, needed applications to be able to converse and share information. In the manufacturing world automating business processes across the organisation meant tightening the supply chain, reducing costs and increasing efficiency.

Before end-to-end ERP, companies integrated and are still doing so. They have an integration backbone based around point to point interfaces. The next generation of backbones is based around open standards such as XML and supports the idea of a global transparent and highly scalable process driven messaging capability. The backbone is a layer within their IT infrastructure, that, along with what are called connectors, allows all systems within an organisation to communicate fully. It doesn’t matter if they are based on different technology platforms, use different databases or conform to different standards.

The integration backbone is not restricted to inside the organisation either; it enables collaborative commerce with and between partners and suppliers. All companies, even those that did adopt end-to-end ERP systems, have to collaborate in the internet age. To do so those companies now have to integrate their applications with the ERP systems and business applications belonging to their trading partners.

An integration solution that uses open internet standards like XML, allows you to transform data from the standards used by the sending application, into XML for communication, and then into the standards used by the receiving application.So the single vendor solution suite is dead. Long live variation and creativity in the framework of process driven business integration. Remember enterprise application integration is the first step on a journey to real world solutions.