For nearly three decades most organizations around the globe have been deploying a host of IT systems as a means of improving their business operations. These systems range from the ubiquitous mail servers and enterprise applications (e.g., Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, Finance and Accounting systems, Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS), Production Control Systems) to very specialized systems for specific industries such as Energy Market Management Systems for the energy sector and Clinical Trials Management System (CTMS) for healthcare. In most cases the procurement and deployment of these IT platforms have been performed in an ad-hoc manner, either due to the need of fulfilling pressing business needs at given times or in order to keep up with the evolution of technology and regulations. As a result, most enterprises are nowadays faced with a great deal of systems which work in silos and rather messy IT architectures. These have become common sources of inefficiencies in business operations and also high-costs for maintenance and evolution.
As a result, organizations are striving to combine legacy systems in novel integrated platforms, which boost their flexibility and agility in an era of continuous change. This is sometimes coined as an “IT Singularity” discipline, which promises to increase the efficiency of both large organizations and SMBs (Small Medium Businesses). In practice organizations are making good progress in integrating enterprise applications, but they lag behind in terms of integration of other systems. It’s therefore important for managers and architects to understand the merits of Singularity, in order to start their respective projects on the right foot.
Systems working in isolation have several adverse implications, as they are associated with fragmentation of data, processes and technologies:
Integrating and reducing fragmentation can lead to tangible business benefits such as:
The value of integrating applications is already evident in a number of “cross-cutting” applications that are commonly deployed by different types of organizations:
The CRM, SCM and ERP examples are widely used regardless of company size and industry. However, the singularity concept is also relevant to the integration of sector specific IT systems. Some prominent examples can be found in the following sectors:
Given the importance of integrating the wealth of enterprise systems and data sources, organizations should embrace singularity as part of their business strategy. This involves exploring the right technologies and vendors, but also deciding the best approach for a smooth migration plan from the world of “silos” to the era of singularity. Another success factor is the ever important commitment and engagement of the senior management of the enterprise, which is a key to facing- reluctance to change and barriers stemming from internal policies. Likewise, involvement of key users and education of employees is an important function that can determine success of this move. Finally, organizations should bear in mind that singularity is a long-term strategic target, rather than an ad-hoc (on-off) project and for all the hard work it requires it also promises substantial long term benefits.
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