Bosses want real-time intelligence

The latest PricewaterhouseCoopers Technology Forecast for 2003-2005 has identified two important trends that will steer the work...

The latest PricewaterhouseCoopers Technology Forecast for 2003-2005 has identified two important trends that will steer the work of IT leaders: companies are looking to make informed decisions; and there is a need for real-time responsiveness.

PricewaterhouseCoopers highlighted a number of technologies that have key roles to play in helping businesses meet these requirements:

CRM
The use of customer relationship management software will continue to grow but companies will pursue smaller and more focused implementations that deal with specific tasks. As a result, CRM functionality will take longer to deploy. Partner relationship management modules will be added to CRM suites to help enterprises automate the process of interacting with their distributors and resellers.

Business intelligence
Business intelligence software and analytics will increasingly become embedded in other applications and firms will integrate their business intelligence and collaborative applications. Analytics functions will be performed during, not before, transactions. Business intelligence applications that relay information to users, for example via digital dashboards, will become more common.

Collaborative computing
Sales of collaboration tools will continue to grow at double-digit rates and collaborative features will be included in more enterprise applications. Collaborative platforms aimed at specific sectors and business processes will emerge. However, the next major jump in collaborative systems will come through integration with enterprise resource planning systems. Hosted web-based collaboration services will also continue to grow and instant messaging will find increasing acceptance in the enterprise.

Enterprise application integration
Loosely coupled integration will be the preferred method of linking applications because it shields each participating application from the technical details of the others. This will evolve into wrapping existing applications in web services interfaces.

Web services are set to become an important part of the business integration toolkit, both internally and externally. More companies will offer public web services. However, web services standards and infrastructure must be supplemented with trading agreements and non-repudiation before web services can be widely used in B2B commerce.

Software architectures
Enterprises implementing software suites will tend to use bundled integration tools, and the falling cost of integrating modules from different suppliers will make it less attractive to deploy suites from single suppliers. Businesses will make increasing use of bundled online analytical processing capabilities, as opposed to standalone datawarehouses.

Application servers will be the primary execution environment for application development, deployment and integration, with Microsoft .net and J2EE remaining viable alternatives. XML web services have a significant role to play in moving data between different IT systems. However, it is unlikely that any currently proposed web services business process specifications will be widely accepted before 2004.

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