Is Your ERP Ready for Digital Transformation?

Layered application architecture isn’t just a business tool, it is a key ingredient for digital transformation.

Amy Eager is Technical Solution Architect, North America, for IFS.

A 2016 Panorama Consulting Solutions study revealed that enterprise resource planning (ERP) projects took an average of 21 months to install, with 57 percent of these projects experiencing timeline overruns. A span of almost two years can be a long time when disruptive change comes in weeks or months rather than years. Any executive that has been around enterprise software implementations knows not only that new systems can take a long time to implement, but can take almost as long to change or update with new technologies.

Drivers of Change

Digital transformation is a broad term, covering every aspect of changing technology in a business. But the businesses that succeed are those that can keep up with accelerating change of processes enabled by new technologies.

Key enterprise software such as ERP, enterprise asset management (EAM) and asset performance management (APM), must evolve to address the need for digital transformation. The traditional monolithic enterprise solutions may have suited past business models, but are now often unable to implement new technologies quickly or support companies as they branch out into new geographies with different regulations to consider.

To help address this need, enterprise solutions a decade ago started to move to a more flexible service-oriented architecture (SOA) that can be developed and deployed in a modular fashion. One of the main strengths of a layered architecture is the ability to separate each function. For example, the presentation tier doesn’t need to pull information from, or store it in, the database or execute on the business logic, it just supports the various user interfaces accessed by end users. This makes it easier to develop, test and maintain the application as changes made in one layer do not directly affect any others.

Enter Layered Application Architecture

The next step after a move to service oriented architecture (SOA) is layered application architecture. This further increases enterprise agility and reduces the amount of time and resources enterprise software consumes--time and resources that can be better invested elsewhere.

With SOA, components within the structure are organized into layers, with each one performing a specific function--the presentation tier to present data to the end user, the business logic tier to process information, and the data storage tier to hold the information. But modern layered architecture takes this one step further by creating separate layers that can contain modifications to the code or customizations that users can make to how their application performs. This approach now makes the adoption of new business processes and technologies a lot easier.

With layered application architecture, companies can use powerful personalization and configuration features to tailor the enterprise solution to fit their specific work processes and routines as needed. For example, businesses can create user-defined fields and custom events to notify specific employees via pop up message on tablets or smartphones that a customer order just placed is below an approved margin. This can even be extended by providing a warning or even stopping a customer order, which previously would have to have been done via modifications.

Still Need to Modify Source Code?

Retiring modifications is where layered application architecture comes into its own. But in situations where there is no way around modifying the source code, layered architecture segregates these modifications into their own layers, they no longer need to be rewritten or uplifted. All that is required is simple testing, which takes a fraction of the previous time required.

Layered architecture also handles country- or region-specific localizations, meaning organizations can rapidly expand into new regions while region-specific functionality is implemented in each geographic area. By getting rid of the need for modifications, layered application architecture can help lower total cost of ownership (TCO) as remaining modifications can be easily moved over to new versions without being rewritten

Laying the Foundation for the Future

Layered application architecture isn’t just a business tool, it is a key ingredient for digital transformation. With this type of supporting software, waiting an age for the latest updates and functionalities that drive business change is a thing of the past. Only with agile enterprise software can businesses adjust without jeopardizing security and with minimal disruption. Companies can now take full advantage of smarter operations and better-informed decision making to keep up with whatever changes come their way in the future.

Opinions expressed in the article above do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Data Center Knowledge and Penton.

Industry Perspectives is a content channel at Data Center Knowledge highlighting thought leadership in the data center arena. See our guidelines and submission process for information on participating. View previously published Industry Perspectives in our Knowledge Library.
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