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ECM: New buzzword or computing paradigm?

CIOs everywhere looking to integrate an array of business-to-business processes, applications, and services used to run their enterprises. According to analysts at Boston, Mass.-based AMR Research, such projects are leading to a new class of business computing made up of a multivendor assembly of applications that AMR calls Enterprise Commerce Management, or ECM.

The main parts of ECM, as AMR defines it, include: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP); Supply Chain Management (SCM); Customer Management (CM); Product Lifecycle Management (PLM); e-procurement; and Business-to-Business (B2B) commerce platforms.

According to AMR senior vice president John Bermudez, ECM is not just another name for ERP. ECM, he explains in a recent report, "more accurately captures what many corporations have been building the past several years as they supplemented ERP with other applications, such as Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) and CRM. ECM also describes the processes on which many of the new B2B commerce applications and services are based."

The ERP model, he says, is based on accounting transactions and order processing, and so doesn't address "...real business issues that require a mix of people, systems, and processes that have to be addressed without hurting a company's growth or profitability." Moreover, unlike ERP, ECM is not a single-vendor package decision. "It starts with ERP," he says, "perhaps includes e-procurement, with CRM, plus Supply Chain Management, and a [Private Trading Exchange] with a Consortium Trading Exchange thrown in for good measure."

The key concept here appears to be that ERP is in a state of transition, because forward-thinking CIOs are relying less on a huge, monolithic application as the hub of a custom corporate system. Instead, they are building their corporate systems around integration architectures that allow process-focused applications to be added or subtracted as required.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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