The fast pace of technical innovation has created a huge, amorphous mass that facilitates connectivity globally. Wireless, Internet, and mobile technologies are all converging and creating connectivity at the hardware and infrastructure levels, at the application level, and at the business level. Increased computing and communication power has led to the demand for intelligent products and services. Flexible frameworks/architectures tie all these products together.
The following is a vision often shared by Sun CEO Scott McNealy:
Imagine being in your car on the way to a meeting and you can't remember the location. You activate your wireless deviceyour mobile phone or Palm Pilot for instancesimply by speaking. No one else can activate your device because your voice has been authenticated. After a location search engine reports heavy traffic on the route you were going to take, it suggests an alternate path. You arrive at the meeting with time to spare and you could really use a cup of coffee. Your device directs you to the nearest coffee house and you make it back to the meeting feeling revived.7
While this may not be exactly what can happen, it shows the power of connectivity to enable a process and a business outcome. An important aspect of this connectivity is the creation of architectural frameworks that not only integrate Java-enabled handsets, Internet-based networks, and smart calendaring solutions, but older technologies like phone and fax.
This connectivity of infrastructures is forcing applications and business processes to integrate and align. Customer care, supply chain, and Internet markets (I-markets) are creating cross-organizational perspectives and forcing the creation of frameworks that can handle this whole fuzzy mass of "things."
The other aspect of this connectivity is the feasibility of creating new business models, new team-based and networked organizations, and cross-enterprise value chains. What this means in real terms is that technology has matured to the point that:
Anyone can connect anywhere, anytimeThis sounds like a clich , but this is really what is happening. Information technology (IT) organizations are working very hard to put infrastructures, applications, services, and processes together to make this happen. The connectivity needs are 24/7, 365 days a year. Response times must be within tolerable limits, and applications need to be reliable and consistent in their behavior. Service organizations are talking about continuous service, continuous capacity planning, and continuous software change control.
Global markets and servicesConnectivity is cutting down all barriers to entry on a global scale. It is also allowing customer service centers and IT operations centers to take advantage of the time differences between countries and provide 24/7 service. The other effect of this connectivity is transparency. Best-of-breed products, pricing, and services (pre- and post-sales) are available to almost anyone who is connected.
Need for systems, processes, and old-fashioned business backboneThe new Net Economy needs old disciplines. Data center processes are becoming increasingly important. Teaming and project management disciplines are being reinforced. Just as client/server systems co-exist with and leverage mainframe systems, so will the newer Web-based technologies and systems integrate and use even older disciplines. Most successful e-businesses deploy this mixed strategy of Old Economy, brick-and-mortar processes with digital processes, hence the phrase, "click in a brick."
Intranets/extranets/the Internet/wireless/mobileAll will merge into one big, amorphous mass and compartmentalization will become increasingly difficult. The whole e-world will become fuzzier than ever.
The "anywhere" aspect of the Internet has some interesting dimensions:
Access to the Internet allows almost anyone, anywhere to have a Web storefront and conduct business. So, essentially, any business can be global in nature. In that way, the Internet is a level playing field.
With barriers to entry reduced, capital investments are reduced because a Web storefront is not cost-prohibitive. However, any organization has to plan for these two aspects since the Internet can work as easily for the competition.
The other dimension is that physical connectivity to the Internet can be increasingly achieved from anywhere. People can connect to the Internet via any device (mobile, wireless, etc.) and from "anywhere"airport, home, office. These attributes form a fuzzy environment for business with extreme competitiveness on one hand, complex order-taking and delivery on the other, and a demand for goods and services in the marketplace that is quite unique. All aspects of business, people, process, and technology come into play. "Anywhere" is making the interactions between B2B and B2C much more complex.
Speed is at the core of the Internet revolution. New product introduction, time to market, ordering cycle times, and inventory cycles are all being challenged by faster and speedier requirements. Time is money, and reduced time means lower costs and greater customer satisfaction.
We know about JIT inventoryin the software marketplace, small releases are constantly being pushed via the Web as continuous and quick updates to existing products. JIT software releases are possible because of the Web.
Again, the speed gained by digital processes needs to go hand-in-hand with physical processes for the Web to be effective. That brings up the point that old-style process management and good overall process design are essential for both speed and productivity.
The marketplace and customers are converging (see Figure 110). With the advent of mobile and wireless technologiesembedded devices and the Internet as the backbonea global marketplace is converging into the Internet. Embedded devices in any productcars, airplanes, refrigeratorscan send alerts on possible product failures, the need for routine service, diagnostics, and so on.
Figure 1-10 Converging forces
Mobile workforces are being linked globally. PCs, TV, and telephony are all merging into the Internet. The possibilities are endless. The following scenario is often talked about:
A refrigerator, which can detect quantities of food, does an inventory check and sends a grocery list, via the Web, to the grocery store. The grocery store automatically replenishes the food and delivers it to the door. This can be further extended by allowing the home security company to know when the grocery van will arrive to allow the deliveryperson to get in for an allotted timeslot via some secured entry.
However, under certain circumstances and depending on peoples' cultures and ways of doing work, some may not adopt such a Web ordering and security scenario. But the fact remains that the Internet has become a technology backbone where other technologies are converging. This will force changes in business processes, work processes, and individual lifestyles and thought patterns. Converging technologies are forcing convergence in businesses, people, and processes in both our personal and professional lives.