Emergent Information Technologies: Agile Enablers


The Internet and its variants (Intranet, ExtraNet, Web 2.0, Internet Multimedia Services (IMS), and Web Services) (Murugesan, 2010) are all continuously put to use in enabling collaborations in business. In addition to organizational collaborations, even at a personal level, collaboration is facilitated by numerous Internet-based communications tools and technologies that include mobile gadgets, digital assistants and pods, instant messaging, and social media networks. "Customers want high-quality products at low prices, and they want them now" (Gates, 1999, from his discussion in Business @ The Speed of Thought). ICT has become a major contributor in enabling business to expand their offerings, reduce their overheads, and provide faster turnaround and higher quality.

These technologies can be used to enable organizations to shift their noncore activities to their collaborating partners—who have specific expertise in them. This ICT application frees up an organization to concentrate on its core competency. As a result, collaborating organizations become efficient, Lean, and Agile. Collaborations through the application of emergent ICT also widens the scope of offerings of a business, adding to its effectiveness.

Work in an IT project (or a program of work) makes use of the emergent IT to produce business value. IT work includes configuration (e.g., of packages), implementation (software application), integration (with other applications and systems), conversion (of data), deployment (especially of services), and maintenance. A CAMS-based project commences with formal requirements gathering. These requirements are grouped as functional, nonfunctional, interface, and infrastructure. The stability of the systems and solutions is achieved by due consideration to architecture, design, and quality. Following is a discussion on the emerging IT and their role in rendering a business Agile.

Cloud Computing
Cloud computing expands on the erstwhile provision of IT services over the Internet, having advantages in terms of Agile business. The cloud enables pooling of resources—hardware, software, and networks. This results in the shifting of these noncore and infrastructure-related activities outside the organization, thereby freeing up resources. The providers of services on the cloud have similar advantages. They can focus on the IT services in which they have expertise. They can offer these services to multiple vendors. Sharing of resources and services is a key offering of the cloud that enables organizations to become Lean and Agile.

Mobile Technologies
Mobile technologies (MT) are an important enabler of electronic collaborative businesses. MT enable location and time independence. The overall impact of mobility has been summarized by Unhelkar (2008, 2009). Mobility has had a significant impact on the quality of life for individuals. This impact is on the working and social lives of individuals. For example, location independence enables employees to strike an improved work–life balance. Mobile devices also change the way customers interact with business. For example, most banking and airline-ticketing activities can be easily carried out without standing in a queue. When it comes to Agile practices, mobile connectivity extends the ability of team members in ongoing participation in daily stand-up meetings and showcases (something they would have otherwise missed). While location-aware mobile connectivity has dramatically increased the ability of individuals to communicate, it is important to handle the challenges in terms of privacy and new social protocols.

Business Intelligence
BI is an important enabler of collaboration between systems and across an organization. Therefore, BI tools such as SAS, Informatica, Cognos, SAP, and Oracle BI can be used by not just one organization but a collaborating suite of organizations to share data–information–knowledge. With such increasing electronic collaborations and subsequent sharing, organizations are able to "shed" their extra "weight" around their noncore processes. Such shedding, in turn, creates opportunities for businesses to use each other's services in a collaborative manner, resulting in collaborative intelligence (CI).
CI would also enable a much better utilization of the BI tools mentioned earlier. For example, collaborations among businesses using the aforementioned BI tools will enable much better growth forecasts and accurate current states of the organization. The ability to tap into participating collaborators is the best way to ascertain reliable forecasting of growth figures. For example, the growth numbers of an organization will be tempered by the strategies of a collaborating partner. Similarly, the BI tool vendor's promises of executive dashboards can be extended to collaborative dashboards that take into account performances and growth of collaborating organizations.

Web Services and SOA
The technology of Web Services (WS) together with the concept of service-oriented architecture (SOA) enables the ability of organizations to offer and consume services. This leads to a collaborative approach in business. Owing to the use of available services from external service providers, there is significant opportunity for the organization to "trim down," be Lean, and hence Agile. Services can be understood as self-contained (and usually object-oriented) software components that have well-defined interfaces. SOA provides the architecture for information systems to offer and publish, as well as locate and consume services.

Agility and SOA are increasingly being discussed together (see Dooley, 2011 as also Allen). Agile organizations use collaborative information systems to assimilate software contents and corresponding software components from many different sources including internal and external contributors such as employees, customers, and users as well as the various regulatory governmental bodies. The ability of executable services being made available across different communication channels enhances an organization's ability to "source" rather than "build" its noncore services. This services-based approach also results in overall less software code, lower cost of developing and deploying software solutions, and increased standardization (Hazra, 2010).

Web Services have had a further significant impact on enabling the organization to function in a Lean and efficient manner. This is based on the ease of sharing and exposure of information with well-defined message formats to exchange data. The interaction and exchange of data and information of the business applications through the eXtensible Markup Language (XML) and further extending it through MT create significant opportunities for businesses to remove all their noncore processes from their mainstream. This also results in changes to the internal organizational structure as the need to carry out mundane, face-to-face supervision wanes, rendering that particular management activity and, eventually even that hierarchy, redundant. This is an essential ingredient of Agile enterprises.

Applications Integration
The Web Services technology adopted by Web 2.0 opens up doors for integrating applications. According to Murugesan (2007, 2010), Web 2.0 is a collection of technologies, business strategies, and social trends, more dynamic and interactive than its predecessor Web 1.0 technology. This results in the integration of business processes, internally as well as externally. Applications integration is further facilitated by the fact that Web 2.0 provides a platform for applications that can be accessed directly by users through their browser. Thus, this second generation of Web technology contributes to easy collaboration and integration of applications on the Internet. This integration provides an organization with the ability to streamline its processes and thereby become Lean and Agile.

Social Media
Social media networks started out as a means for individuals to collaborate in a social way (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter). The technologies of social media are now much more prominent in the creation and promotion of business. In fact, a business almost has its twin personality on the electronic media (e.g., see http://site.mycybertwin.com/). As a business tool gaining rapid prominence, social media have a significant role to play in enabling business Agility. Social media networks facilitate business Agility through collaborative content creation and its modification, dynamically relating to partnering businesses and individuals, and providing support to a cross section of customers and society that may itself not be Internet savvy. For example, see the discussions on application of social media networks beyond their top-end business applications and creation of social groups in "Social Media Networks for the Middle of the Pyramid" (www.sln4mop.org).

Taken from : The Art of Agile Practice: A Composite Approach for Projects and Organizations


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