How Many Enterprise Backbones Organization Needs?

Picture 51Interesting post drove my attention yesterday. Reading about the role of PLM as enterprise backbone, I wanted to raise a question – how many of such “e-bones” do we need? My experience shows that in every enterprise implementation, discussion magically came to the point of “what will serve as a company/organization/product/enterprise or whatever else backbone. And I have to say, that I always got mixed feeling about that. I will try to put my pros and cons in the way enterprise systems can be organized to serve product lifecycle and enterprise resource planning needs.

1. One vs. Many
Thinking about a dream situation when all systems in enterprise will be magically synchronized around a single system (or bone), I came to the conclusion that we need to keep it as a dream. However, practical approach, in my view shows that enterprise organization will continue to have multiple systems serving their needs.

2. Enterprise Platforms
The interoperability between enterprise systems is killing enterprise organizations. Company’s IT is normally trying to develop their strategies around various platforms, but even so, they can rarely reduce the amount of systems and functional needs drive to additional system deployment.

3. Master Data Record
This is another place where “discussion” between enterprise systems becomes critical. Who is controling data and serve as a master? The data synchronization is an expensive. However, decision about master data control comes again and again with each next step of enterprise system development on the functional level.

4. Role of SaaS
In my view, cloud services (or SaaS, if you will) is playing disruptive, but positive role in discussion related to enterprise architecture and various “enterprise bones”. The disruptive role of SaaS is to show to the organization, the reality of no-single system controlling all data and processes in enterprise.

I’m interested to discuss and listen about your experience? What is your opinion on that?
Best, Oleg


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  • Nawal

    Very complex topic. But, one question that always pops up in my mind.

    Wouldn’t this enterprise backbone be always one or two steps behind business needs. Business are changing continuosly, they generate newer data and newer ways of collaboration. How do you create a backbone which does not become obsolete.

    Go back 15-20 years ago. Product variations were not many, design cycle time were longer. So, the need to collaborate on product data across enterpise beyond drawing was not great. So, you already had an enterprise backbone – called ERP. Because, that was the only data, which need to be collaborated upon.

    Fast forward, product variations increased and cycle time got reduced drastically. You no longer could get away with only passing around drawings. You had for more sophisticated product data needs. Now suddenly, enterprise backbone – ERP – is no more an enterprise backbone. We need to add PLM to the mix.

    Okay, so what happens 10 years down the line? Can we have a solution that is purely technical for a problem that is ever changing business?

  • Vladimir

    Hello Oleg,

    very interesting topic and by my opinion it’s all about enterprise integration.
    My notes to your points:

    1. One vs. Many
    Nowadays PLM, ERP, SCM, CRM etc. products are integration enabled i.e. they should be enabled for plugin to enterprise service bus which in this case is any enterprise integration platform or enterprise backbone if you like and just one. There is always discussion which of these DM applications are more important. I would not preffer any of them, but of course it depends on the industry and enterprise business. Big role plays and will play SOA.

    2. Enterprise Platform
    Definitely I agree that this could be a killer if the integration strategy is very ambitious or expectation
    is too high. One of the key point here is how mature is implementation and usage of each DM apps through enterprise.
    I believe there are a few EAI platforms ready for this but the key are people and processes.

    3.Master Data Record
    This is quite complex too, but I always keep the rule (your “Who is controlling and serving as a master) that: primary source of data is who maintains the data. Maybe in some special case this doesn’t need to be always true but generally it can be valid.

    4. Role of SaaS

    I see SaaS a bit aside from what is discussed here. I don’t know any solution right now capable to cover enterprise “computing” in the scope of what we discuss here. Of course SaaS (cloud computing) has the ability but it’s not there yet.

  • Nawal, Agree. Complex one. Speed of changes in the organization is much faster, in comparison to what IT can deliver. Therefore, on-demand/saas options are growing. I’d expect an interesting trend in the next few years related to the backbone concept. Few years ago, SOA and ESB were promising, but I think it’s gone now… Best, Oleg

  • Vladimir, thank you for your comments and insight. Agree, almost on all points. Enterprise integration is very cumbersome and complex these days and relies mostly on consultancy and services. Them (services) are not always playing fair game with platforms (because of cost and complexity). Best, Oleg

  • Nawal


    Do you think if MDM is a solution to the problem? That is, can it be flexible to identify the new data needs and adopt its architect to sustain as a backbone.

    Can a pure on-demand/saas option be a backbone? I can see on-demand/saas providing piece of the puzzle – like component end of life data from suppliers or compliance data. But, the whole backbone?

  • Nawal, MDM (in the way it implemented today) is complex and expensive technology. I see it implemented only for the very big companies… what is your view? Best, Oleg

  • Vladimir

    Actually, MDM is just one of piece the enterprise “backbone” and cannot play this role. I agree it’s complex and expensive and it’s for large enterprise if they are able to find the motivation :-).

    SaaS or OnDemand resp. cloud computing for this purpose (enterprise computing) is not able to cover (today) all requirements, it’s still in “clouds”… 😉

  • Valdimir, What type of requirements SaaS is not able not cover today from your standpoint? I’m not talking about concerns – security and performance are probably top two ones. Thanks, Oleg

  • Vladimir


    I meant SaaS in role of enterprise backbone covering all business in enterprise computing. There are available CRM on demand, PLM on demand etc., but these are isolated isles…

  • Vladimir, in my view, the beauty of SaaS is that it should not come as enterprise backbone. It will come as services on demand (sounds like simple, but it is really not, in my view). The role of enterprise backbone will be changed then… What do you think about that? Thanks, Oleg

  • Vladimir

    Oleg, these kind of questions are really challenging. There is no simple answer. I believe SaaS model has potency for covering even enterprise computing but it’s not there yet based on many of aspects – you’ve mentioned security, performance I can add a few others like legal, business processes, reliability, complex infrastructure etc.
    I was just trying to discuss to the topic…
    Probably potential SaaS consumer doesn’t think over enterprise backbone…

  • Vladimir, I think you made really good point – SaaS customer think “internet” and not “backbone”… this is main difference in my view too. Thanks for discussion! Best, Oleg