Cloud, Event Computing, Services: A new IT world

Business software shouldn't just be a slave to accountants. Why can't machines, people, systems and service firms all talk to each other. Can't systems do more than debits and credits? The answer is a resounding "yes".

Last week, I spoke at the American Accounting Association meeting in San Francisco. A key part of my remarks centered on the future of application software. I discussed how businesses rely too much on solutions designed:

- Primarily for accountants - For a bygone era (i.e., the Industrial Age, pre-Internet Age) - For an overly narrow set of constituents/users - Etc.

I used several examples in my talk about how new generation solutions will serve new users, in very new (often non-accounting) ways and provide an opportunity for business executives (not just data entry personnel) to really get value from them. Because I was constrained for time, I couldn’t give every example I wanted to share. But, here is the story of one solution I didn’t get a chance to cover at that event.

At a recent Salesforce.com event, service management firms were treated to a new kind of business solution. This solution involved a confluence of several cloud technologies that made a different kind of product available to field service firms. Specifically, the product utilized:

- Chatter from Salesforce.com - ServiceMax’s service management software - Axeda’s ability to help products (i.e., machines) to ‘talk’ to service firms and service professionals

What this combined solution offered was a product that can communicate real and potential service issues to a manufacturer or service firm in real time (or in some cases, pre-emptively). The underlying software relies on machine-to-machine communication (via Axeda). Information can be passed to a service organization notifying them that maintenance, restocking or some other care is required. Service workers can post solutions or request suggestions for repairs via Chatter. ServiceMax handles the field service functions, like dispatching. All of this occurs via the cloud.

What’s notable about all of this isn’t just the cloud. No, what’s important is that solutions that monitor ‘events’, like a potential out-of-stock situation in a vending machine, can trigger other business events. Some of these events have no immediate accounting impact but certainly are important from a customer service perspective. Additionally, these solutions use crowd-sourcing concepts to solicit new ideas, share other service suggestions, etc. This information may even originate outside the four-walls of the firm.

I also like that this solution takes latency out of business processes. The notification that service is needed is in real-time. The speed with which technicians can get hints, tips, etc. is sped up, too. Bad/Poor service is less likely in a real-time service environment.

The new world of software technology will be different. It won’t be singularly focused on a general ledger or on one group of users: internal accountants. It will be based on a less-limited technology environment and capable of crunching through massive amounts of non-accounting event information (e.g., real-time traffic or data/weather feeds). Sub-ledgers and charts of accounts won’t go away – they’ll just be a smaller part of much more powerful solutions that really solve an enterprise’s business needs.