Do you practice “Business @ The Speed of Thought?” Does your enterprise have a “Digital Nervous System?” If not, why?

Posted on April 5, 2008


Member Question:

Almost 10 years ago, Bill Gates of Microsoft wrote a book titled “Business @ The Speed of Thought” where he laid out his vision for how organizations should utilize technology to become more responsive, adaptive, agile, etc. Specifically he drew an analogy between an organization’s IT infrastructure and living beings Autonomic Nervous System. Now, reading this book over again, I’m struck by a perception that even now most organizations still do not have the level of IT integration that Gates speaks of. So my question(s) to you is this: Does your enterprise / organization have real-time reporting and notification of all important data? Are you able to react and adapt in a very agile way, thanks to your IT systems? Or are you actually constrained in your ability to adapt, by those very systems? Would you say your organization really has a “digital nervous system?”  I’m curious to see if my perception – that there will be a lot of “NO” answers here, is really valid.  Additionally, where answers are “no,” I’d be interested to hear about the reasons why.

My Response:

I recently answered a question regarding the “future of enterprise software modeling” which relates to the core elements of your question.

Here is an excerpt from that answer.

What you are really talking about are the differences between agent-based and equation-based modeling. The latter has been the traditional model used by software developers because it attempts to quantify and therefore confine multiple strands (re attributes) of diverse stakeholders into a single, definable “static” stream or process . . . outside of finance, equation-based modeling does not translate to other more dynamic areas of an enterprise such as an organization’s procurement or supply chain practice.

Agent-based modeling, which has been around for approximately 15 years, first seeks to understand the unique operating attributes of diverse stakeholders.  Once understood, it then attempts to link these seemingly disparate attributes through the utilization of advanced algorithms to produce a reliable, real-world “collaborative” outcome that results in a tangible benefit on a real-time basis.

To a degree, Web 2.0 represents the natural evolution of the agent-based model (development efforts are well under way in terms of defining a viable Web 4.0 model).

However, because the majority of vendors such as Oracle, SAP and Ariba have made a substantial investment in their equation-based models, their efforts are more focused on confining what you refer to as the digital nervous system to bridging the synchronization chasm through the introduction of the somewhat passive SOA architectures.

Even Oracle’s Larry Ellison admits that the best they can hope to achieve is a “near real-time” capability through this strategy.  And near real-time is not indicative of the true synchronized architectural requirements of a dynamic, agile enterprise.

For this reason many organizations that have themselves made an equally substantial investment in their current ERP platforms are “stuck” in terms of working within what is quickly becoming an antiquated framework.  And for this reason more organizations than not would unfortunately have to answer no to your question.

I have included links to a number of articles I have written on this subject that I think you will find useful.