Current market trends, global competition, and technological innovations are driving enterprises to adopt the practices of Real Time Enterprises. Real Time Enterprises are organizations that enable automation of processes spanning different systems, media, and enterprise boundaries. Real Time Enterprises provide real time information to employees, customers, suppliers, and partners and implement processes to ensure that all information is current and consistent across all systems, minimizing batch and manual processes related to information. To achieve this, systems for a Real Time Enterprise must be “adaptable” to change and accept “change as the process”.
Any business process within the enterprise, including relevant processes in use by its trading partners (the extended enterprise), must be instantaneously reflected in all enterprise systems. In other words, all INFORMATION is “real time” within a “real time enterprise”. All manual or batch processes related to information in an enterprise are inefficiencies in the delivery of products and services – unless the manual and batch mode processes (as in process industries) are required as part of the business nature. For example,
- In a Real Time Enterprise all the systems everywhere could recognize the new product entered in a catalog system so that billing and customer service can be done right from the moment that product becomes available.
- A wireless carrier could activate a wireless phone as soon as the credit card payment is processed with out any time loss or manual intervention.
- A credit card company could improve customer loyalty by automating the dispute notifications starting with the customer, and extending to the credit card company, themerchant’s bank, and all the way back to the merchant.
- Last year, Lexmark had $1 million worth of nonconforming material returned to one of its plants in a single lot. Investigation revealed that providing engineers with adequate information online and in real time3 could avoid this situation and future inefficiencies.
- Citibank, to avoid heavy call volume in Poland around paydays, introduced cellular text messaging (SMS) to inform all customers of any changes in their bank balances instantaneously on their cell phone.
Today’s business practices and models demand an operational environment acting as a virtual enterprise, with insight into the status of customers, partners, and suppliers on a real time basis while lowering SG&A costs. Cisco and Dell, with better service and higher revenue per employee than their direct competitors, are great examples of leading technology adopters who have leveraged some of these capabilities. At the same time, companies like Lexmark3 and Cutler-Hammer7 have realized similar benefits through automation. Still, automation of an end- to-end value chain has not been widely adopted or fully achieved. Even though technologically this has been possible for some time, only now has it become realistic with the advent of Internet-driven standardization. This has led to orders-of-magnitude cost reductions plus the elimination of debate regarding the technical infrastructure to be used. With the advent of Internet technologies such as HTTP, HTML, standardization initiatives around XML, Web services, UDDI, and SOAP, it is now possible. Lexmark leveraged Internet and thin client technology to enable their engineers to monitor production processes at their suppliers in real- time, from anywhere in the world and put defective product on hold at the source. Dylan Tweney in his column states, “Web services will enable companies to link up their enterprise systems with the production processes, bringing executives ever closer to the ideal of ‘real- time enterprise computing,’ and in turn will make companies better able to respond rapidly to changing market conditions”. We agree.