Do you run an ERP software company?

Pieter Wisse

A: Thank you for taking some time for, well, frankly, for discussing a strategic shift in your own business orientation.

B: What might your interest be in us changing strategy?

A: You could apply what my company developed.

B: Whatís that?

A: Let me first argue the overall nature of change in managing information. We are experiencing a practically limitless scale of interconnectivity. Itís no longer sufficient to think inside-out. We have to shift to thinking, tooling and so on in an outside-in manner. You can of course ignore it at the peril of, when it comes, rapid business decline. Or you can recognize it, reaping benefits accordingly.

B: Alright, let me hear it.

A: My impression is that so far the continued, even increasing commercial success of your company has left the original conceptual framework largely intact. For you started from a centralized, even centralizing orientation at material resources planning (MRP). It was later renamed enterprise resources planning (ERP) but essentially the traditional framework remains unchanged. The major versions of your program therefore reflect strictly technological stages in development, i.e. from mainframe to client/server to web services.

B: So?

A: With every new version, an organization using your program could indeed extend connections. The current label is enterprise integration. The problem is that it doesnít really work, at least not when some critical threshold of scale is crossed. However, nobody seems to understand why.

B: And youíre saying you do?

A: Yes. It concerns changing perspective. Developing digital technology has been driving subsequent program versions. However, it takes the semantic perspective for granted. Please note, by the way, that your company is not alone in missing the point. Anyway, the underlying, usually hidden, assumption is that informationís meaning is standardized. When implementing your program elicits conflicts about meaning, as it inevitably does from widening the field of practical integration, the habitual response is standardization. That is, one meaning is favored at the expense of other meanings.

B: Whatís wrong with that?

A: Itís not realistic, period, thatís whatís fundamentally wrong. Youíve become so accustomed to servicing hierarchies with your program that it has become difficult, if not impossible, to recognize that society at large is not hierarchically organized as far as meanings go. In other words, there doesnít simply exist a mechanism to enforce semantic standards. Instead, variety rules. At my company Information Dynamics, weíve developed Metapattern to control real information variety.

B: Thatís precisely why weíve added brokers.

A: If you mean by broker that information may be translated, Iím afraid youíre still only addressing issues of form, rather that content or meaning. Youíre still aiming at standard meaning as the ideal. That not just illusory. Itís even dangerous because it suppresses competitive advantage, your own, too.

B: Youíve lost me.

A: I never said a fundamental change in strategy is easy. If it was, there also wouldnít be a competitive advantage to gain from it. During this short discussion, I can only attempt to hint at why explicitly including a semantic perspective has become essential. Sooner or later you have to do your own homework. Of course, Iím glad to help you.

B: I still donít see what I should need your help for.

A: I would already be happy when you go away from this discussion with the uneasy thought that integration does not necessarily involve uniformity. Ask yourself how people, working together, perform increasingly complex tasks. Itís certainly not because they are uniform. Instead, itís the coordination of differences thatís productive. Optimization of value chains requires precisely balanced differences, rather than enforced identity in the sense of similarity, uniformity etcetera. Throughout our developing information society, several important technological conditions for participating in adaptive information value chains are already being met. Whether you like it or not, thatís going to support a new order. It stands to undermine your current products, etcetera. I know, you may object that moving to web services optimally positions your company. I fully agree that youíre matching the technological evolution. Without bringing the differential semantic perspective into play, however, youíll nonetheless end up like the dinosaurs: extinct. Agility is going to be decided where so far youíve not positioned yourself at all.

B: I still canít say that I follow you. But you may have a point. What would you do in my place?

A: I suggest that you soon take the opportunity to look at our proof of concept. It should make the practical relevance clear of rigor in semantic integration through managing coordinated differences regardless of scale of value chains. Iím sorry, that must sound incomprehensible. Just look once for yourself, is what I want to suggest. Thereís a fully developed method for information modeling with explicit handling of context and time (Metapattern), plus its operational platform. Youíll see.

B: What if I just forget it?

A: We would lose the opportunity from collaboration. I would regret that. As the need for Metapattern is obvious from a changed strategic orientation, however, I am confident about other opportunities for my company.

B: When can you demonstrate it?

A: Now, that is, when youíre connected to the Internet.

 

 

Acknowledgement
Iíve written this text at the suggestion of a Gartner analyst who kindly spent some of his time discussing Metapattern. On that occasion, he asked me what I would say to the chief executive officer of a leading vendor of ERP software. For, because of its essentially innovative character, Metapattern is ďdifficult to move forwardĒ despite its ďsound approachĒ at addressing ďa real issue in the market place.Ē Of course, Iím solely responsible for what Iíve subsequently written.

 

 

July, 2006 © Pieter Wisse (Information Dynamics)

 

 

Afterword
No, I didnít get any reaction from the analyst. At the time an account manager contacted me, though, hinting that Gartner might be able to inform its clients about Metapattern when my company (also) took a paid subscription to their services. So much for independent analysis. (May, 2007)