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Updated: December 5, 2010 12:49 IST

Model-driven approach to enterprise solutions

D. Murali
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There are two interesting aspects to Indian market for technology-enabled platforms, begins Venki Muthanna, CEO, AppPoint Software Solutions Pvt Ltd, Bangalore (http://bit.ly/F4TAppPoint).

On the one hand there is an enormous amount of maturity in terms of technology understanding, and on the other it is a highly value-driven market, he explains, during a recent interaction with Business Line.

“When a truly rich enterprise class technology platform aligns well with these, we see an increasing number of customers embracing the platform,” informs Venki. Our conversation continues over the email.

Excerpts from the interview.

How have business management solutions evolved over recent years?

Evolution of business management solutions and complexities associated with developing them closely relate to the evolution of standards, technology, and changes in industry dynamics.

For instance, evolution in technology such as mobile and the Internet have opened new doors for businesses to reach out to their customers and improve the value they deliver to their customers while also reducing the cost associated with it. At the same time, traditional business models can’t be ignored or written-off. This requires new business management solutions to be more agile, addressing diverse business needs in a unified way.

Similarly, with proven benefits associated with the adoption of cloud-based infrastructure, organisations might prefer to consider it as part of their IT strategy. Hence, the kind of business management solution developed or adopted needs to accommodate this new model as well as challenges which are posed by the new model, such as integration issues with applications deployed on-premise, or security issues or availability/ reliability issues, and so forth.

Every new technology or methodology introduced or improved requires certain amount of effort to adopt the same. The extent of this impact is dependent on where the organisation is today. Invariably a newcomer would always benefit from the latest and the greatest while an existing organisation with established systems built on older technology might have to reinvest on migration or adoption of the latest.

While business solutions have not changed from the perspective of the purpose they address, the approach to the development of these business management solutions has changed dramatically.

You speak of a ‘model-driven approach to build rich enterprise solutions.’ Can you describe it?

In today’s competitive age, organisations would require a rapid approach to change, in terms of how their business is managed, and also reducing the time, cost and risk associated with implementing this change. Model-driven approach is a proven methodology which offers high level of technology abstraction, eliminating complexity associated with developing business management solutions.

Model-driven approach helps in multiple ways:

1) Eliminating the dependency on highly skilled resources to develop the solutions – For instance, if you were to develop a solution which needs to be certified by the US FDA with rich security, auditing, and reporting capabilities, the traditional approach would have required a large team with expertise spanning multiple domains. On the other hand, model-driven approach enables a business user with a sound understanding of the solution to develop the same solution without having to know too much about underlying complexities.

2) Accelerating the process of developing the solutions – As there is no coding, and as testing is limited to functional testing, solutions can be developed and delivered in a matter of weeks as opposed to months and years in the traditional approach.

3) Enabling seamless transition – A well-architected solution enables seamless transition across various functional aspects of the solution, such as integration, security enforcement, process orchestration, reporting, etc., which traditionally would have required extensive amount of coding and added cost of maintenance.

Would you like to give a few examples of automated decision-making? In what areas does human workflow still have relevance?

Decision-making is specific to the solution and could vary anywhere from a simple automated leave approval/rejection based on corporate policy to automatically detecting fraudulent characteristics of credit card transaction based on past transaction history and blocking the card.

Human workflows and the extent of human workflow a solution supports is a function of maturity in terms of policies established. For instance, where an organisation does not have a well-documented leave policy, it might be the responsibility of the reporting manager to approve/reject a leave.

Another instance where manual workflow is necessary is where a review and approval process is involved. For instance, even though the compliance report is being automatically generated by a solution, it is necessary that the authorised person approves and digitally signs the document before it is despatched to concerned stakeholders.

What are your observations about the Indian market for technology-enabled platforms?

There are two interesting aspects to the Indian market –

1) There is an enormous amount of maturity in terms of technology understanding: Given the strong and informed technical resource pool we have in India, almost all of the organisations we have interacted with so far have a core team with a sound understanding of the latest technology as well as standards, benefits they offer to the business/organisation, complexities involved with its adoption, alternatives available, and so forth. This makes it a lot simpler for them to comprehend the capabilities enabled by a technology platform, drawbacks in the same, risks involved, and mitigation plans for these risks.

2) It is a highly value-driven market: Businesses today are greatly influenced by the uncertainties associated with the recent economic situation and now, more than ever, they are highly sensitive to the cost and risks associated with any change – be it about the way business is managed, or their IT infrastructure. Yet, almost everybody has seen the latest approach to leverage technology platforms or the new business models such as adoption of cloud-based infrastructure/ software positively.

A well-architected technology platform not only minimises the cost involved in considering and implementing a change, but also drastically reduces the associated risks with its rapid and agile approach.

For instance –

a) If we consider a business need to develop a management solution which is multi-tenant enabled, with high levels of configurable security models, auditing, monitoring, reporting, portal infrastructure, rules infrastructure, support for distributed teams, management of redundancy, and scalability, it would really be seen as an initiative which requires an enormous amount of planning and funding; and timelines to deliver might not even justify considering it. In these cases, a rich enterprise class technology platform would be an option which organisations can consider. This would enable them to address the need at a fraction of the cost and time.

b) In the case of a mature business where the risks are higher, these platforms enable the changes without disturbing the existing business, even while optimally leveraging the existing infrastructure and skills. This is called non-intrusive transformation.

Do you see a potential for cloud-based solutions in the mid-market and SMEs?

What could be missing are the true enterprise applications which are available on the cloud for ready adoption. Historically, adoption of cloud-based solution has been limited to certain areas such as CRM, and HR. This could be attributed to the complexity associated with the traditional approach in developing these solutions or the lack of solutions to some of the challenges cloud-based deployment posed. With the maturity of enterprise class technology platforms which enable development and delivery of solution in the cloud as well as standards governing some of the challenges such as process automation and integration, we should see more and more solutions being developed and delivered on the cloud.

Who drives the adoption of the newer technology platforms within organisations?

From our experience we have seen this to be influenced by people from multiple functional areas spanning across business users, technology specialists as well as infrastructure teams. Given the nature of adoption and the influence it would have on overall business, we have always seen commitment and buy-in from the management teams.

**

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