Big software ' big decision

Big software ' big decision<@VM>By any definition, enterprise software can help you get control of your organization's disparate front-office applications

The right enterprise app can put the wind in your sails; the wrong one can leave you adrift


Say 'Enterprise software?' at a trade show and vendors will come rushing with their definitions of the phrase. Acronyms will fill the air: ERP, CRM, SFA.

But then ask for software that meets the needs of government agencies and the crowd will quickly thin. Only the largest enterprise software companies and a few dedicated smaller companies have built specialized systems for the government market. Others have only modified their business products to meet the distinct financial and organizational needs of government.

At first glance, some types of enterprise software wouldn't apply to the government market'at least, not unless you redefine the terms at hand.

The most obvious is sales force automation (SFA). Agencies don't have sales forces. But many do have large field staffs responsible for collecting data. The Census and Land Management bureaus, to name two, have data-intensive activities that match up with SFA. But not all agencies require extensive tie-ins to supply chain management systems and other businesslike back ends, and they might also require functions that don't exist in the commercial sector.

The same is true of enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer'or citizen'relationship management (CRM), purchasing and financial software packages. Unless they have government-specific versions, what's built for business doesn't always map cleanly to government requirements.

Even government versions might not work across the board because of the variations from one agency to another in operating requirements. You might have to do extensive work to adapt the packaged software to meet customers' requirements.

As a result, enterprise software installation often becomes a vehicle for consulting services and other expenses that aren't usually associated with the term off-the-shelf.

The late 1990s were the golden age of enterprise software'at least in sales. Companies and government agencies seeking to purge potential year 2000 problems from their human resources, purchasing and financial software turned to companies such as J.D. Edwards & Co., Oracle Corp., PeopleSoft Inc. and SAP America Inc. to make the problems go away. Using commercial products also helped prevent them from saddling their overworked programmers with creating custom-built systems.

To some degree, they succeeded. But it is a process fraught with peril. Just ask folks in Virginia familiar with the Commonwealth's Integrated Human Resources Information System project. Two years ago, the failure of its ERP software led to this headline in the Richmond Times-Dispatch: 'Taxpayers to Pay for $9.4M Goof.'

That software meltdown, like many enterprise software project failures before and since, had its roots in the very nature of the product. If you don't pick the enterprise software that suits the way your organization is structured, you have to change the software'or change your organization.

And when your organization's structure is dictated by legislation, changing it isn't an option. What at first appears to be a small ding in the software architecture can transform into a giant sucking sound of increasing magnitude as agency budgets are siphoned off to bridge the gaps with custom-built code, systems integration consulting and software sleight-of-hand.

The Lowdown

' What is ERP? Enterprise resource planning software encompasses most traditional back-office applications, such as accounting, financial planning, procurement, human resources management and other operational management functions. With the growth of electronic-business and electronic-government initiatives, it has also begun to integrate with online procurement systems and marketplaces in addition to traditional electronic data interchange systems.

' What's CRM? Customer relationship management'with 'customer' usually changed to 'citizen' for government programs'is the outward-facing component of e-government software. It gives outside users access to essential information and guides them through the processes of the organization or agency. Often, CRM integrates with self-service applications and might plug into ERP systems as part of electronic-commerce applications.

' What's an enterprise portal? The latest trend in enterprise software is to integrate enterprise software features into a personalized, browser-accessible workspace for each user. This approach can be taken within an organization or by an application service provider.

' What do you need to run these programs? Typically, these applications require large-scale databases and the hardware to run them on the back end. They run as application servers, buffering users from dealing directly with the databases through prebuilt forms on client applications or through Web browser applications.

' What's the list price? It depends on the scope of the deployment. Some relatively small-scale products list prices such as $35,000 for a core module suite or $120,000 for an enterprise system, but large-scale ERP rollouts can run into the tens of millions of dollars.

Build it your way

Those hazards have tipped the build-or-buy scales for many managers further toward building their own. Eventually, Virginia deployed a system it built on top of WebLogic application server from BEA Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., and tools from SAS Institute Inc. of Cary, N.C., for a fraction of the cost of the original, failed packaged software.

Customizing software will ensure that it meets your organization's needs, but you can meet those needs more cost-effectively with packaged software if it suits your organization. And if your agency doesn't have the organic software development resources required for a project of that scope, you're back to Square 1 anyway.

Enterprise software that fits

Fortunately, enterprise software has become more flexible and easier to customize over the past few years. The advent of Web and other application integration tools have eased the burden of making the square peg of business software fit the round hole of government needs.

Still, the key to a long-term government enterprise software project is to look beyond the feature set and make sure there's a flexible and extendible architecture behind it.

There are even more incentives for picking enterprise software that supports emerging Internet standards beyond having the ability to extend the software internally. For example, at the General Services Administration, electronic procurement exchanges often can be integrated directly into enterprise software systems through software hooks, or through software such as Microsoft BizTalk or other electronic-commerce application servers.

But the real goal of a flexible enterprise software architecture is to conquer something basic: fear of the unknown.

As the demand for electronic government services expands, the demand on the infrastructure of agency applications will increase in ways unforeseen by developers.

And with the costs of these systems running into the tens of millions of dollars per installation, government information technology professionals won't be able to justify ripping out and replacing them on a regular basis.

For that reason, having an infrastructure that can be easily extended and adapted is perhaps the most important feature any enterprise software system can offer. Support today for protocols such as the Simple Object Access Protocol and other Extensible Markup Language interfaces means that these packages will meet the distributed computing demands of the increasingly complex world of e-government.

Kevin Jonah, a Maryland network manager, writes frequently about computer technology.

Company Product General description Database support Mainframe and legacy integration Interfaces supported Security Web security Platforms


Control:2001 Modules include customer order processing, shipping and invoicing; configuration management, document management, design engineering, process engineering and engineering change management; master scheduling, materials management, capacity planning, production control, inventory control and manufacturing execution; supplier sourcing, requisitioning, quotations, purchase order processing, receiving and inspection, and payment authorization; production inventory and cost accounting; optional component suites include financial management, program management, quality management and collaboration management Oracle8i Via Microsoft BizTalk Server Web browser client; company plans to add Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) and XML-Remote Procedure Call (RPC) via Microsoft BizTalk Integrates with NT authentication Designed as an intranet and extranet application for internal business processes and connection via Microsoft BizTalk for external collaboration within these processes or public processes HP-UX 11, Oracle8i; NT, Win 2000, Win9x, ME, Microsoft Internet Information Server; Microsoft Internet Explorer (platform depends on server in use)
Computer Associates

International Inc.

Islandia, N.Y.

Unicenter TNG Object-oriented, integrated policy-based infrastructure for distributed systems management; monitors and manages systems, networks, databases and applications; uses 3-D animation and virtual reality technology; allows managers and agents to be deployed in any configuration, with many-to-many relationships CICS, Datacom, IBM DB2, IDMS, Informix, Ingres, Jasmine, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, Sybase ODBC, standard and proprietary APIs Java NT authentication, audit trails and access control Secure HTTP, password protected NT; Novell NetWare; OS/2; IBM AS/400, RS/6000/AIX and OS/400; HP-UX; Solaris, SunOS; DEC Digital Unix; SCO UnixWare, other Unix
ManageIT Suite Provides a broad range of OS, database, messaging and application coverage with a common look and feel; suite includes ManageIT Database Administration, ManageIT SQL-Station, ManageIT Performance, ManageIT Log Analyzer, ManageIT Fast Unload, ManageIT Database Analyzer and ManageIT TS Reorg IBM DB2 UDB for Windows/Unix, DB2 for OS/390, Informix, Oracle 7.x through 8i, SQL Server, Sybase None Java, Component Object Model (COM)/Distributed COM (DCOM) Some modules use NT authentication, others use internal database privileges None NT; Novell NetWare; OS/2; IBM AS/400, RS/6000/AIX and OS/400; HP-UX; Solaris,SunOS; DEC Digital Unix; SCO UnixWare, other Unix
J.D. Edwards & Co.


OneWorld Xe Includes ERP; supply chain planning; supply chain execution; asset management; knowledge management; customer, employee and buyer self-service; the OneWorld portal; and XPI integration; all come with support services and training IBM DB2, Oracle, SQL Server J.D. Edwards' Extended Process Integration (XPI) and Extended Business Processes (XBP) Web browser client, SOAP, RPC, Java Remote Method Invocation (RMI), Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA), COM/DCOM Internal access control list Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and S-HTTP Software: Unix, NT, OS/400, Solaris, HP-UX, AIX; hardware: IBM X, P, I and Z Series eServers, and Compaq and Hewlett-Packard systems
Navision Software US Inc.

Duluth, Ga.

Navision Financial Base application includes general ledger, cash management, sales and receivables, purchases and payables, fixed assets, inventory, resource management, job cost, payroll and human resources, contact management, foreign trade, customer care, online analytical processing (OLAP), WebShop, manufacturing, advanced distribution; vertical-market applications available include governmental accounting and not-for-profit functionality Microsoft SQL Server 7 or 2000; Navision Server Database also available Using Open Database Connectivity or file import/export Web browser client, SOAP, XML-RPC, OLE and OLE Control Extension (OCX) Built-in security based on roles that can be integrated with Active Directory SSL, S-HTTP Win98, Win 2000, NT, Unix
Navision Axapta Base application includes general ledger, cash management, sales and receivables, purchases and payables, inventory, resource management, human resources and knowledge management, customer relationship management (CRM), telemarketing, foreign trade, OLAP, project management, material requirements planning (MRP), Web publishing, Web deployment and N-tier architecture; vertical-market applications also available Microsoft SQL Server 7 or 2000; Oracle Using ODBC or file import/export Web browser client, SOAP, XML-RPC, OLE, OCX and OLAP Built-in security based on roles that can be integrated with Active Directory SSL, S-HTTP Win98, Win 2000, NT
PeopleSoft Inc.

Pleasanton, Calif.

PeopleSoft 8 for the Public Sector Includes CRM, customer information system for public enterprises, property tax management, electronic procurement and marketplace, financial management for education and government, supply chain management, human resources management, learning systems, enterprise performance management, and PeopleSoft Communities; company also provides eCenter, an application service provider version; specific federal versions available, including PeopleSoft Human Resources for US Federal Government and Government Portal Oracle, IBM DB2, Microsoft SQL Server Real-time integration to mainframe system with a component interface API used in conjunction with the included BEA Weblogic Java Servlet engine with a Customer Information Control System connector; near real-time or batch integration with Application Messaging or Application Engine Web browser, SOAP, XML-RPC, Java RMI, CORBA, Application Messaging API PeopleSoft Internet Architecture directory server integration API for TopSecret, Kerberos, Radius and others SSL, S-HTTP Web servers: NT, Win 2000, IBM AIX, HP-UX, Sun Solaris, Linux; application and database servers: NT, Win 2000, IBM AIX, Compaq

Unix, HP-UX, Solaris, Sequent, IBM S/390
Oracle Corp.

Redwood Shores, Calif.

Oracle E-Business Suite for Government Provides a suite of e-business applications for government organizations at the federal, state and local levels, in areas such as customer or citizen relationships, manufacturing and supply chain, financial operations, project management and human resources; suite is grouped in four categories: customer relationship management, business-to-business, e-business inside, and applications hosting and online services Oracle8i or higher version and Oracle Internet Application Server for self-service components Standard APIs and interface tables included for typical transactional synchronization or migration from external systems Web browser client, XML, Java RMI, CORBA (through Internet Application Server); EDI Gateway standards as well as specialized interfaces required for inter-actions with Treasury electronic transfer TopSecret, Kerberos, Radius; Internet Application Server Portal Security framework will be extended to include other authentication schemes SSL, S-HTTP and other encryption NT, Win 2000, Unix
SAP America Inc.

Newtown Square, Pa.

610-661-1000 for Public Sector Based on the R/3 Standard System, supplemented for public-sector applications; includes complementary components from software partners, financial accounting applications for public administration, functions for public budget planning, management of appropriations, cash accounting and annual budgeting in public sectors based on Financial Accounting and Controlling applications; modules are available for human resources, logistics, property and facility management, project systems, workflow and treasury; extends SAP applications to Internet and allows integration of both SAP and non-SAP products; can be customized Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server, DB2, Informix SAP business APIs; any application that can transfer data via an ASCII or EBCDIC delimited file, object linking and embedding or Distributed Component Object Model, Extensible Markup Language, external C calls or TCP/IP will be able to share information with the system Web browser client, SOAP, XML-RPC, Java, CORBA via third-party software, ActiveX/DCOM Access control lists, app server
security, Kerberos, third-party PKI, Entrust, Secude
SSL, S-HTTP NT, OS/390, OS/400, HP-UX, Digital Unix, Solaris, AIX, Sinix, ReliantUnix, Linux


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