Pursuing the elusive real-time enterprise
- By John K. Waters
''Real-time enterprise'' (RTE) may sound like another buzzword, but according
to Thomas Siebel, chairman and CEO at Siebel Systems (http://www.siebel.com), the notion that
companies must integrate their IT infrastructures so thoroughly that management
has instant, accurate, up-to-the-second information at its fingertips anytime,
anywhere, is really a model of corporate survival.
''The number one problem facing every organization today is application
integration,'' Siebel said during his keynote address at last week's Creating the
Real-Time Enterprise conference in San Francisco. ''In two or three years, this
is all we'll be talking about.''
Siebel said companies will spend billions in pursuit of the elusive RTE,
which will blur the distinctions between CRM, ERP and supply-chain systems. The
San Mateo, Calif.-based CRM systems maker is one of several CRM vendors jumping
on the RTE bandwagon. PeopleSoft, for example, recently began running ads
claiming that it is leading the charge into the real-time enterprise.
RTE is more of a concept than a specific technology or strategy. In a
real-time enterprise, all company departments, customers, suppliers and partners
are electronically connected via internal and Internet applications. This kind
of cross application integration allows a company's IT systems to function like
a 24-hour nerve center, instantly alerting managers to changes in customer
demand, competitive situations, inventory, availability of supplies and
Call it business in an instant.
And it's not exactly a new idea. The basic concept is that what you don't
know in business can and will hurt you. But this conference underscored a new
urgency in informing people about the pursuit of real-time information for
critical business processes. Conference sponsors call RTE ''the new business
model for the next decade ... a fundamental paradigm shift in the way companies
analysts have long pushed the need for real-time capabilities in corporate IT
organizations. In November, speaking at the annual Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in
Cannes, France, Gartner declared that only organizations that can confidently
call themselves ''real-time enterprises'' will thrive in the coming
service-oriented economy. (Gartner calls it the ''now economy'' -- the successor
to the old New Economy.) And they expect companies to begin moving toward an RTE
orientation fairly quickly, with more than 20% of global enterprise CIOs citing
RTE as one of their top five investment areas by the end of 2003.
Siebel said he believes the RTE can be a realistic goal of IT because of
several ''RTE enablers,'' including the emergence of standards associated with
business process software, such as the Universal Application Network (UAN), and
Web services. Siebel characterized the UAN as ''the industry's first
standards-based, vendor-independent application integration solution.''
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached