Add-on applications pour down from clouds
Friday Fine-Tune: Going Beyond JBOD

ERP ecosystems now being fed by analysis

EcosystemThere's a rule that Sue Kiezel of the Support Group follows for her ERP clientele. Try not to let the IT department establish architecture for a replacement system. Consultants who have experience with business rules and structure are the best choice to arrange the parts and plan the new flow.

"IT is for infrastructure, and for development," she said while leading me on a tour of the new denizens inside the Kenandy ERP ecosystem. "Put your business experts on the team. You'll find someone to code it inside IT."

The issue to face while relying on the current generation of IT pros is that they no longer have broad views of how companies organize business processes. In the era when the 3000 was growing, the most dynamic beasts of the ecosystem were programmer analysts. The PAs were usually people who knew the business first and learned to program as a way to solve business problems. These days the development skills seem to wag the dog.

The IT department is essential to the success of any ERP ecosystem because that's the source of support. An ecosystem was the aspect of 3000 ownership in the biggest trouble. However, that diagnosis came from the days when outside vendors who sold apps and databases were considered the ecosystem. In some ways, the new ERP that the Support Group implements delivers a new generation of ecosystem: Kenandy's tools and modules, built with the Salesforce software that underpins it all. One surprise is that even the database has become a built-in, specialized choice. Dare we say it, proprietary, even.

The database is "Beyond Relational" according to the Kenandy field guide of software creatures. Instead of Structured Query Language, the Salesforce ecosystem uses Salesforce Object Query Language. SQL becomes SOQL, and the database itself is called the Force database. The architecture is evocative of the world of IMAGE inside of MPE, where a database was built to service the file system and the known programming universe, instead of being something that was built to serve a much wider world—but not nearly as easily or efficiently. Here's how Salesforce describes what you get right in the box to deploy data into apps.

The Force database provides not only a mechanism for creating persistent objects, but also a way of automatically generating a user interface around these objects. Reporting, tagging and much additional related functionality can also be added to applications, all out-of-the-box platform features.

You can create, configure and deploy persistent objects using the web-based Setup menu environment. However, database services are also tightly integrated with the Apex programming language, which has a dedicated syntax for invoking searches and iterating over results.

Kenandy's ecosystem is driven by the choices made by Salesforce, design that's been proven in cloud computing over a decade of field use. Programming for Salesforce has become the way to build out the ecosystem that drives Kenandy. Since the platform has become application software tied to services, it's Platform as a Service. TSG's Terry Floyd said that entering the new ecosystem can feel, at times, like relearning MANMAN, MPE, IMAGE and sometimes Fortran. Making that much change to a mission critical app like ERP calls for expertise to make the migration. This is trusted advice that comes more easily to the Support Group; a decade ago they were leading 3000 MANMAN sites to the IFS software platform. ERP based upon Kenandy is an ecosystem even more diverse .