Organisations often end up with jumbled systems, with islands of data and convoluted access for individuals and teams. The answer is to have a common engine to support multiple processes, says Clive Longbottom.
Each of the elements that makes up a building has its own needs. For example, lights have to be replaced and air-conditioning systems must be regularly checked and serviced. You can buy commercial, off-the-shelf software to help manage the resources required to carry out such tasks.
Now, let's take human resources. An organisation has to pay staff, manage their holidays and record punctuality and performance. Again, software is available.
At a customer level, an organisation has to have a full view of what is going on, from the sales leads brought in through marketing campaigns, calls being made by sales staff to the orders being placed and items delivered on time. Of course, packaged software is available.
But as a result of having all these individual systems, organisations end up with a range of software that ultimately fails to support the business. Islands of disconnected data prevent individuals from seeing enough of the information across the business to make sound decisions.
Human involvement is the common factor in all these issues, even if people's interactions end up being with an inanimate object, such as a light bulb. If the starting point was that everything is an entity, then a different approach could be taken.
Group of assembled entities
Entities can be wonderful things. For example, Europe is an entity, even if it doesn't behave like one most of the time. However, it is made up of a group of other entities - the countries that constitute the broader entity. There are cities, buildings, people - each has a set of descriptors that makes them what they are, and these descriptors can be used across a range of other entities.
So why is this important? An entity engine can underpin the needs of an organisation. The individuals who make up a sales function need to view information that has historically been spread across multiple systems. The marketing function has the same issue - as does HR, finance, contractors, the board and so on.
In short, many individuals and groups need access to a panoramic view of what's happening.
Now take one of these individuals. Apply a set of descriptors to him or her. Is he or she an employee, part of a larger group, possessing specific security clearance to see things others in the same groups can't see?
Simple connectors from a master database
Then take the data and information. Existing information can be aggregated in an effective manner not by creating a massive data warehouse but by applying simple connectors from a master database to existing systems, and then we start to see a picture emerging.
If the existing data can be described in an entity metaphor, then matrices can be built up that match the various business needs.
Through visualising these matrices in a flexible manner, the relationships between entities can be mined and presented to different users in different ways to provide business value. To perform this operation across a full range of data and object types requires...
Clive Longbottom is the founder of user-facing analyst house Quocirca. As an industry analyst, his primary coverage area is business process facilitation.