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Skip to 0 minutes and 2 secondsA few years ago, I was attending lots of ERP-related conferences, and in the audience there were also lots of ERP people. And then I always offended them because I said that what is always said about all sorts of ERP systems is that they are modular and integrated. I said modular, fine. It works. You have finance module, you have logistics module, and so on. It is true. Integration does not work. And they obviously wanted to lynch me and so on, so they were perfectly unhappy with this. And I said OK, I can prove it to you. So which country you are coming from? And they told me where they are coming from. At the time, I lived in Hungary.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 secondsSo I said, OK, how many installations you have of your ERP system in that country? In Hungary, we had 200 sub-installations and we had about 50 Oracle installations. So in how many of these the production module works properly? So it means not only that there is a production module that doesn't make mistakes, but that there is an actual production which is done by the production model. Because very often, for example, the transportation was handled by the production model, but that's a much easier problem. Now, what is the point here?

Skip to 1 minute and 20 secondsThe point is that in Hungary we had three sub-installations out of 200 that had a properly working production module, and we had one single Oracle installation with a properly working production module at the time. Now, what this means, it means that there are very, very few where the integration was working. Why? Because the information systems were not integrated. The production module does not work without proper integration because it needs to work together with every other part of the organisation information system. Now, this does not mean that the integration cannot be done. It was done for these few organisations. However, it was enormously expensive, and it had to be on a one-by-one basis. So it had to be custom made. OK.

Skip to 2 minutes and 8 secondsNow it means that this kind of off-the-shelf level of integratedness still is not achieved. At least, it was not achieved a few years ago when I was more closely looking at it. There was a huge progress made in the mean time. And what is also becoming more and more clear is that you don't need a deep-level complete full integration of everything with everything. So, for example, if you have a browser-based portal solution in which you have some documents. You open the document. Your word application or your text editor, your spreadsheet editor, they don't need to run in your browser. They can, but they don't have to.

Skip to 2 minutes and 51 secondsAnd very often it is better when they don't because people can just press the back button, and what happens then is that we just lose everything that you have done. So, the integration has different levels. What is required with this type of user applications I call side-by-side operation. So, everything is OK. They don't need to exchange data. They don't need to collaborate in any way. They only need to not crash one another. That's sufficient. Then there are other solutions where they need to have a data exchange, and it means that one system is transferring some data to another system. And that is also working reasonably well.

Skip to 3 minutes and 34 secondsNow, this happens usually with different parts of the production information system, and, as it is also all about the data, it usually works relatively well. However, there are some parts where you do need the deep integration. And, for example, the production module of an ERP would require that type of deep integration, with the marketing, with the accounting, with the sales, and with all sorts of other things. Now, the really, really beautiful example is what is going to happen next, and it already works in some cases. Can be described you in the case of the corporate portals.

Skip to 4 minutes and 12 secondsA corporate portal is a single point of access, which means that if I have a portal I want to do everything within my portal. But you will have a portal as well, and you want to do everything in your portal. So how the two of us can work together if we both want to do our stuff in our own portal? It means that I will develop an app, which I will put into your portal. You will develop an app and put it into my portal, and these apps will actually-- so this app that you provided to me actually works in your system, but it appears in my portal and vice versa.

Skip to 4 minutes and 45 secondsAnd that way we can achieve deep integration between business partners. So that's really where we are heading tomorrow in terms of integration.

Integrated

Integration in the world of information systems always seems to be what comes last. ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems still do not really manage to get this appropriately done. But we may be quite close.

As a matter of fact, integration is not difficult only in information systems; any technology or technology-intensive product seems to have difficulties in producing integrated solutions. Just think of your car. As long as you don’t need to fix anything, it works fine. This is only as long as all the bits and pieces were manufactured together. A friend of mine purchased a car a few decades ago that did not have a built-in alarm. It was not compulsory then and there. However a year later, the built-in alarm became an official requirement. So this friend purchased quite an expensive alarm system and had it installed by a professional car electrician. The car was good, the alarm was good, the installation was good. Only the result was not good. It was impossible to set the sensitivity of the alarm right. It went off nearly every night waking up all the neighbours. My friend finally gave up and purchased another alarm system. To cut the long story short, only the fourth one worked properly. There was no problem with either of the components, it was the integration that did not work. Does this remind you of any computer experience? E.g. that your email client crashes after you have installed a new photo editing software?

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This video is from the free online course:

Understanding Information and Technology Today

University of Strathclyde

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