Where AppFusions Fits – Connecting the Enterprise

Before we describe the place of AppFusions in the new world of Enterprise 2.0, it is useful to go back to look at the Enterprise 1.0 world which is still current for many.

Enterprise 1.0 – “A Single System For All”

In the Enterprise 1.0 world, large ERP systems claiming to be  a “single system for all” integrated many (if not all) departments and functions across a company into a single computer system.  They attempted to serve all the different department needs, running the business, successfully in some places, and not so successfully in others. These systems bridged the needs of products, customers, employees, and suppliers. (Below image from this excellent slideshare by Samuel Driessen.)

Credits: Samuel Driessen

For many years, this cross-functional single-uber-system was thought to be the ultimate glue to solve all problems: the silver bullet solution to propel corporations fast forward in their business success.

However, despite best intentions, these lofty goals were hard ones to meet in a single system, given many mixed audiences and purposes between departments.

  • Cross-functionally, departments wanted to control (customize) their workflow.
  • While ERP systems were configurable out of the box – to a point – in most cases, they required costly customization SLAs to develop or configure the workflow exactly how a department wanted it.
  • Data integrations to other systems were extremely expensive ($50K – $200K+), given the reliance on niche technical knowledge in closed systems.
  • All integrations were like “black magic”, requiring ongoing support and vendor reliance without a natural support path.
  • Integrations where time-consuming and costs could be as much five times the software fees.
  • Over time, specialty purpose-driven or “rogue” systems crept into organizations (large or small), as department heads rebelled against the rigid IT uber-system, and shopped for their own systems to meet their department needs.

For the companies that succeeded in their ERP deployments, they paid dearly in implementation costs, yet also they got bigger and faster with these large system infrastructures. For a while, they enjoyed a competitive edge in their locked-down systems.

Credits: Bertrand Duperrin

In such organizations [2], the general top-down management attitude was:

  • this is how it will be,
  • we do not really want to hear your opinion, and,
  • no, you cannot change the process or system (without an enormous amount of additional churn, cost, pain – to which we have no more money to expend).

Employees were forced to adopt the new inflexible systems, a change that often felt like steps back even from their slower, yet functional desktop processes.

Compounded with normal human resistance to change, the new systems were not always warmly received. People had to conform to rigid systems, rather than having flexible systems built around how people worked best.

The enormous level of cross-functional process coordination upfront, as well as the long term support for these systems, was often more crippling than helping. The systems had the potential to control corporate data in a better/faster way than previous manual ways, but it held employees hostage in so many other ways, and caused new problems organizationally.

Politics and internal fights evolved to ever high levels as employees felt duped when the new systems didn’t really do everything that they thought it would, and no customizations were allowed. If a department absolutely required customizations, they’d have to take the heavy cost hit in their departmental budget (not ITs), let alone the time-hit to implement (e.g., another 6 months often, assuming it got done before some other organizational crisis hit).

Companies would endure the growth of excessive politics, mistrust, and infighting causing systematic morale issues and lower productivity. Employee dissatisfaction grew at a higher than normal rate, as well as distrust for management who forced the new monster system on them in the first place (even if it was justified at the time given where technology was at).

In short – it was a vicious and often ugly cycle, especially for large corporations enduring these growing pains.

Outside the Enterprise 1.0 World, the Beginnings of Enterprise 2.0 Technology Moved Forward

Meanwhile, the open source movement had gained “officialness” in 1998 thanks to Netscape (Mozilla), and during the 2000s, the open source trend and collaborative engineering mindset grew more popular with the growth of Linux, further proving the value of both iterative agile engineering, open APIs, rapid development methodologies, and at the communications level – transparent collaboration.

Concurrently, the Internet was taking off well beyond the Silicon Valley, thanks to Yahoo! (1995), Google (1998) going big/global (as well as Microsoft with Internet Explorer). For the Enterprise, early pioneers Jive Software, SocialText, and Atlassian Software were founded in 2001 and 2002, respectively – three corps that would become pioneers in the Enterprise collaboration tools space in the years to come.

Atlassian also would become a leader in many of the open source stirred trends, namely agile development, ALM, engineering tools, and issue tracking, while boldly treading on common industries lead by big heavyweights like IBM, HP, and Microsoft, among others.

Overall – the timing of these new Enterprise collaboration businesses couldn’t have been better, overlapping with early social sites like MySpace (2003), Delicious (2003), Facebook (2004), Digg (2005), Twitter (2006), FriendFeed (2007), and a strong new-way-to-business Millenials culture pushing into industry with all their might.

The collective force was a perfect storm, landing down on a smug and controlling decades old proprietary industry and decades old command-and-control management styles.

By late 2009, open collaboration and social networking was no longer an idle idea.

It was a fast moving trend and way of the future, that had proven the beginnings of enormous business value for getting things done faster in the Enterprise. Concrete data began to emerge on the quantified value of these new approaches (see The Business Value of Application Connectors).

However, to be successful in the new world, people-centered Enterprise 2.0 apps need to connect with the old world transactional-centered Enterprise 1.0 systems. They needed to connect to each other to avoid establishing even more silos within organizations.

While AppFusions does not really believe in the legacy gigantic one-size-fits-all system ideal, at the same time we know that in most cases, these systems are largely not going away.

The new social systems of engagement still need to connect to the old world transaction systems to get work done.

AppFusions Bridges the Gap with Enterprise 2.0 Content Management Integration Connectors

We believe that business information and process management should be handled by a collection of systems that make up a whole. To make this happen, connectivity is the key driver. It is the glue that makes real work happen. It brings the benefits of social systems to work processes.

Modular system architectures in the Enterprise – from the same vendor or many vendors – provide greater flexibility, while also allowing organizations to pick and choose the best-of-breed systems for their purposes.

There are reasons for purpose-built systems, and a collection of many we feel is stronger than a single rigid system, especially if you can connect the strengths (data and workflows) of the different systems with common use case connectors vs. getting on an endless customization path.

Our integration connectors (current and future) bring together workflows, data files, and information between Enterprise systems for your collective purpose-built Enterprise 2.0 corporate solution of many systems. They allow companies to quickly and cost-effectuvely create the needed connectivity without going through the old-world pain of massive, costly, and time consuming integration efforts.

These connectors provide the means to close the gap between old and new, enabling the promise and opportunity within the capabilities of the new people-centered, social systems.

This blog will become the vehicle to tell this story and provide use cases demonstrating the essential nature of connectors.

Post by Ellen Feaheny, CEO of AppFusions

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