The decision that technology supports and facilitates business has already been made. The issue is no longer what to computerize, but how to get the most competitive advantage from the technology that is already in place and what is planned for. Business pressure demands that organizations constantly strive for greater efficiency and responsiveness in the complex transformation process that delivers industry leading value for the successful organization. It is principally the relative success of this process in competition with others in a market that generates loyalty from the consumer. In his book “Competitive Advantage”, Michael E. Porter describes the business as a complex transformation process taking input and delivering output in the form of measurable value for a wide range of “customers”. These “customers” range from internal customers, employees to external “customers” including Component suppliers, Agents and Distributors, End user customers and shareholders. Porter points out that all of these customers play a crucial role in the “value chain” and all have different yet highly dependent needs, wants and desires. The common item that links all of these customers together and ensures the efficient delivery of value, satisfaction and loyalty, is information. The quest for Information has been described as the gold rush of the late 1990’s as information more than any other commodity fuels competitive advantage and success. Thus information is now widely regarded as the most valuable strategic resource needing to be managed carefully to ensure it is available for the right people at the right time, yet carefully controlled for accuracy and security.

Most corporate computing environments have grown up over time and are in a state of constant change and evolution. The business imperative is therefore how to manage this constant change while delivering a seamless, efficient and controlled delivery with empowerment for the user. So we come to the key challenges of Control, Efficiency and Empowerment. Taking these one by one as follows:

Control Information is like currency, it needs to be pure, flow freely upon request by its owners or keepers, yet be restricted in availability, highly demanded, easily converted and held securely. Given the myriad of computing and telecoms devices through which this information needs to flow, there is a need for consistent, yet flexible means of controlling yet empowering, without all the dogma of single hardware, single software, single database , single network solutions. Efficiency The army of people to design, develop, control, use and support your information systems are under pressure and are no longer able to apply the ad hoc. The pressure of the market demands the most efficient, pragmatic solutions with as much use of prepackaged applications and solutions as possible without throwing away what is already in place. Empowerment In the quest to empower all those involved in the business process while controlling and protecting the corporation and its information resources, information needs to be collected, processed and communicated to and from an increasingly diverse range of sources. This includes, internal databases, external market surveys, customer feedback, the Inernet, and numerous other sources. The competitive value creation/ delivery process dictates that advantage be increasingly derived from the successful synthesis of knowledge and its availability in a timely relevant and accessible form. This process is generally delivered by what is known as end user computing.

MDIS has created a product called PRO-IV that delivers Control, Efficiently while Empowering users, right across your enterprise, no matter what computer, what database or what end user tool.

Open Architecture and Enterprise Wide Platform Independent Deployment. Today’s computing environment is the result of evolutionary growth and migration of the computer systems and businesses. Frequent changes in computer technology coupled with numerous business acquisitions and divestitures has left Information technology professionals with an array of systems ranging from mainframes through UNIX to modern P.C. desktop systems. Managing such a diverse collection of hardware and software platforms into a single homogeneously functioning corporate wide Information Technology is the challenge of the modern IT professional. How does the IT professional faced with legacy systems and data, and the infectious spread of independent PC networks integrate the total corporate solution into this environment? The investments in legacy systems and data formats that would have to be thrown out in order to migrate to a new technology base is prohibitive, however continued investments in these legacy systems is investing in a known dead end. The sophisticated PC user has high expectations for Windows GUI applications and network and Internet connectivity, while the back office requires ever greater concurrent user count and transaction processing capabilities.

PRO-IV provides a single enterprise wide solution to these challenges. PRO-IV can access legacy data in its existing format, co-existing alongside the legacy systems, and bring their data into the mainstream of new corporate applications development. It provides the client server technology to bridge the gap between the PC users and the corporate infrastructure, and to provide Windows based user access to the corporate data as well as supporting the existing data entry shop’s high volume green screen data entry operators. Corporate Environments Define the Available IT Strategies Let’s look at the example of a successfully integrated IT environment based on a merger of two businesses who were operating independently prior to their acquisitions. The normal tendency would be to change either or both of them over to the corporate model, usually at great cost to the IT department performing the integration.

The first business is a DEC shop with a number of Micro VAX and ALPHA machines with applications running on the VAX, accessing RMS file formatted data and the Alpha using Oracle. Of course they have a number of PC’s connected by Novell running applications that access the Btrieve database. This business is a manufacturing operation that has a large number of dumb terminals spread around the facility to support shop floor and inventory transactions. The second business is based on a SUN Server with data stored in a SYBASE database. Their PC’s are networked together using Windows for Workgroups networked off of an NT server which supports SQL Server. This operation is a product distribution center which has a high volume of independent transactions, processing customer orders from around the world in response to telephone orders