Lowering The Cost Of Entry To The Intelligent Integrated Enterprise

The intelligent integrated enterprise offers a smarter way of dealing with decisions based on the mounting volumes of data that companies acquire every second of every day. It holds out the promise of automated decision-making; elimination of unnecessary manual intervention; consistent, smooth workflow; and a high quality response to business events. The outcome is an agile business that can bend and flex more easily in response to internal and external change.

However, proprietary solutions for creating an intelligent integrated enterprise come with massive licence fees. The requirement to earmark large, open-ended budgets means that many businesses may be missing out on the potential benefits.

What’s more, the upfront cost of purchasing the software is only the beginning. Whatever the sales hype, anyone promoting an out-of-the-box solution is spinning a line. Business rules platforms are extremely powerful tools that can transformation the enterprise, but they cannot be adopted overnight. To be truly effective and map onto your business, any solution will need to be precisely tailored to your processes. The professional services required to engineer proprietary solutions into the enterprise are usually accompanied by a high price tag.

Over-blown proprietary solutions on the market with a one size fits all approach usually comprise unnecessarily sophisticated functionality, with customers paying extra for features that they rarely use. In contrast, lean open source solutions are readily available that efficiently and effectively align with business requirements.

Intelligent Design

An organic approach to building the intelligent integrated enterprise allows change to be initiated by business need, rather than imposed top down. Red Hat encourages customers to begin by addressing a specific challenge in a line of business. Let’s take a recent example, where an internal analyst team makes decisions based on spreadsheets that are updated daily.

With better integration and a business rules engine, the team now work with fresher data and are able to automate the decisions based on that data, while retaining the freedom to rapidly change the automated decisions. The competitive edge of better data and faster decision-making are huge. They are, in short, working smarter.

With a step-by-step approach, both the business and IT teams become more agile and can react more swiftly to a continually changing operating environment. Innovation thrives as new solutions can be developed incrementally without huge IT investment – and the fear of making expensive mistakes that can lead to organisational paralysis.

A transport operator preventing fraudulent use of its travel cards; a global distribution company managing deliveries; a retailer adjusting pricing based on supply chain data…these are all real-world examples of leading companies who are using open source solutions to develop an intelligent integrated enterprise. They have built systems for complex environment processing that recognise and correlate different events to make quicker, smarter business decisions. Not only do they harness their own corporate data; they have the option to feed in data from other sources, such as from media streams.

Bridging The Divide

Any investment should focus on cultivating the internal skill sets required to leverage your new business rules platform. Collaboration is built into the DNA of open source. It starts with a commitment to collaboration with worldwide communities and manifests in a commitment to effective knowledge transfer.

Business rules projects sometime fail as a result of technology teams delivering overly contrived solutions that are not accessible to the intended business users. When the IT team is willing to collaborate with business users and analysts, especially at the prototyping and concepts stages, this avoids ‘not invented here’ syndrome and leads to greater user acceptability. Ultimately, the quality of outcomes improves, with a closer fit to purpose.

Business rules development is a multi-faceted discipline requiring an acute understanding of both technology and business domains. This often presents itself as a hurdle to IT teams when they first start delivering business rules solutions. The natural inclination for a technical team is to model a solution based on procedural programming and the underlying technical representation of the business model; this is rarely a recipe for success.

Effective consulting can mentor your development and IT teams to become agents of enterprise change, thinking more about business and less about nuts and bolts logic. Your technical teams become equipped to engage the active participation of business analysts and/or business users, who will then understand and be more comfortable with the system they’ll be using on a daily basis.

Similarly, mentoring can help you to develop the in-depth expertise that all business rules platforms require, a senior champion (or champions) within the organisation who can nurture and guide initial projects. The champion’s role is to engage the whole organisation over time to roll out the concept and practice of the intelligent integrated enterprise into other areas and integrate new solutions with the systems already in place.

To sum up, businesses today operate against a backdrop of fluctuating market conditions, and enterprises need to be adaptable and agile to meet rising customer expectations and counter aggressive competition. I believe that you should be investing your budget in the innovative technology and expert advice that will improve your business, your people and your processes, not in prohibitively priced licences.

Intelligent integrated enterprise solutions, founded on open source software and backed by enterprise-class support and expert consultancy services, decimate the total cost of ownership associated with implementing business rules platform projects; in some instances costs could fall as low as one thirtieth of competitive proprietary solutions.

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As the Director of Red Hat’s Middleware Consulting Practice for the UK, Alan Hale runs an organisation involving over 100 people primarily focused on technical delivery for Red Hat clients. Currently based in London, Hale joined the Red Hat Middleware consulting practice through the acquisition of Amentra in 2008 where he was responsible for the Washington DC area and later took responsibility for the Western US. Prior to that Alan was an architect and lead developer on a number of projects across a variety of verticals and technologies.