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The Importance of Being Adaptive

Organizations maturing beyond e-Business are no longer concerned about being on the bleeding edge, or being the latest and greatest. They are trying to be leaders in a world where their own competitors are also increasingly both agile and pragmatic. To support this capacity for change from an infrastructure perspective, you simply won't have time to reinvent the wheel or to rebuild your entire information technology (IT) infrastructure from scratch. Instead, you will have to learn how to adapt many of the infrastructure components you already have.

Assuming you don't have the time or resources to replace every system, integrating legacy systems will be a crucial strategy when trying to meet time-to-market deadlines. You must integrate applications with multiple points of interaction, such as Web browsers, interactive voice response units (IVRs), personal digital assistants (PDAs), and mobile phones, so that data is appropriately synchronized and so that various points of interaction represent your brand faithfully.

Early e-Business initiatives focused on the front-end—with applications such as online stock trading, online auctioning, and industry portals. Now, companies that are moving beyond e-Business apply these concepts across the front- and back-ends of enterprise processes.

Therefore, business-to-business (B2B) integration increasingly be-comes a key infrastructure solution. Companies are moving beyond electronic document interchange (EDI) and adopting solutions based on extensible markup language (XML) to facilitate the flow of transactions between business processes and across organizations. You will realize the benefits of a fully adaptive approach when your company can easily change business partners or processes without undue cost or conversion time.

What is Infrastructure?

What does the term "infrastructure" really mean? In the physical world, infrastructure often refers to public utilities, such as water, electricity, gas, sewage, and telephone services. Often, these utilities are layers of a total structure. As shown in Figure 1.2, that total structure includes e-Business infrastructure. Each layer has the following characteristics:

  • Shared by a larger audience than the structure it supports.

  • More static and permanent than the structures it supports.

  • Considered a service, including the people and processes involved in support, rather than just a physical structure or device.

  • Often physically connected to the structure it supports.

  • Distinct from the structures it supports in terms of its lifecycle (plan, build, run, change, exit).

  • Distinct from the structures it supports in terms of its ownership and the people who execute the lifecycle.

The notion of separate ownership and lifecycles is crucial to the concept of infrastructure. e-Business repeated many of the traditional battles over ownership of applications and infrastructure between line-of-business groups and central IT departments.

In many companies, marketing ran the e-Business function, but was not typically involved in the daily routine of system upgrades and maintenance. Instead, they asked IT to take over responsibility for keeping the applications running. In organizations that are maturing beyond e-Business, IT does more than just keep things running. They own the entire lifecycle and fix broken processes by applying IT best practices to make them better.

Figure 1.2 Understanding Infrastructure

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