The business automation revolution marches on—and after a bit of a lull brought on by the bursting of the dot-com bubble, the speed of change appears to be picking up again. It can be seen in the movement toward business process outsourcing, a growing business which is itself becoming increasingly automated by BPO service providers, both here and abroad, who are looking to cut their own costs to remain competitive, as columnist John Parkinson points out in this issue (see page 27). Yet it can also be seen in a variety of more subtle circumstances throughout the world of corporate IT. This issue of CIO Insight addresses several aspects of the revolution, from both a management and a technical point of view.
This month's research, on business intelligence technology, demonstrates the growing use of such systems to automate the analysis of corporate, customer and competitive data in hopes of making better business decisions. The history of such systems has been a checkered one, but the technology, judging by the results of the survey, is finally coming into its own: More than 80 percent of respondents say such systems are delivering measurable results to the bottom line. Still, CIOs must work harder to integrate BI with other enterprise systems, and to automate the creation and distribution of usable information generated by these systems.
Meanwhile, inside the guts of every company's IT infrastructure, the collection of automation technologies involved in creating a service-oriented architecture are beginning to ease the effort it takes to model and transform core business processes themselves. This month's Strategic Technology section analyzes the value of redesigning your architecture to allow for the flexibility to combine and reuse software in the process reengineering effort. It's tough going, but CIOs who have made the effort can attest to its value.
The goal of business automation, of course, is to increase the speed of business processes, and thus to boost productivity and cut costs. But it's not just about technology; it's about management as well. This month's case study (see page 50), on Precious Moments Inc., a smallish licenser of collectible figurines, demonstrates just how quickly an operating company—complete with ERP, CRM, logistics software, a call center and a brand-new warehouse—can be created out of nothing. Three months, to be exact, and that's a real compliment to just how automated all of our business processes have already become.
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