In today’s world of digital transformation, enterprises find themselves transforming their business processes and workflows from paper-based manual labor to computerized and automated systems. While it is only a natural and healthy trend, it requires long-term vision, planning, and continuous iterations to guarantee success.

The Problem

A large number of organizations use digital solutions for enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), product lifecycle management (PLM), and others as a system of record (SOR). Companies like SAP, Microsoft, and Salesforce sell these products as a packaged solution or software-as-a-service (SaaS). Business units inside these organizations may use additional, low-cost, commercial off-the-shelve (COTS) products for their business functions. These COTS product becomes a system of record (SOR) for the business unit.

Too many companies were saddled with technical and data debt, hampered by existing organizational silos, required to allocate more resources to the core tech stack…

Forrester Predictions 2020. Forrester Research, Inc.

Over time, organizations find themselves using numerous SORs within the enterprise. These SORs store company data in various, often disconnected, locations. Compiling data for business intelligence and other data-driven activities become challenging.

Where is the data? How does it relate? Is the latest version of the data? What story is it telling?

SORs tightly coupled with business functions limit experiences that can be offered to the users. It causes vendor lock-ins since switching SORs without major hindrance to business continuity becomes impossible. Consequently, users adopt means to overcome these limitations by devising “shadow systems” to get their work done. The shadow systems and tools circumvent the system as a workaround for a gap in the functionality. These systems generally consist of spreadsheets, document copies stored on a physical or shared drive, paper copies, email threads, phone calls, etc. Any activity outside of the main enterprise system generally lacks tracking and monitoring leading to more frustration for the users.

A Solution

To make enterprise system performant, scalable, and robust, it can be divided into logical tiers/layers. Engagement, Integration, and Data layers. This post will explore the 3-tier approach that ChaiOne recommends and has implemented for several of our Fortune 500 clients.

With a purpose-built layer structure, the organization can centralize and gain control over the user experience and data orchestration. The data layer consists of all the data sources in the organization, including all the SORs in use. This can include the database servers the SORs use, any REST APIs the SORs may expose, etc.

The integration layer uses API gateways to pull information from multiple sources and presents a holistic picture. These APIs can also pull integrate and pull data from other APIs, cloud sources, etc. Furthermore, APIs can enforce business rules for the applications in the engagement layer.

The engagement layer consists of apps that users can use to pull data from various sources. It allows the enterprise to offer solutions to users to get the true story from their data and simplify decision making. This layer also bridges the gap between business users and IT.

The boundaries between what is IT and what is the business are already fading to reveal a much more powerful and fluid IT capability.

Forrester Predictions 2020. Forrester Research, Inc.

As a side-effect of this separation, swapping out SORs becomes possible and less challenging.

The solution, albeit simple, can be daunting to implement in a single attempt. Therefore, a phased approach should be taken when making the switch. In the next part, we will go over a phased approach to pragmatic solutions for the organization.