Harvard Business Review recently published a white paper titled “Making the Real Time Enterprise a Reality”, sponsored by SAP:


What I found especially interesting in this white paper is the conclusion on the largest barriers in realizing the Real Time Enterprise. The top barriers are resources and corporate culture. As barriers, they are perceived as much higher than technology and access to data.

Technological advancements such as SAP HANA show that this is reasonable: The technology is here. We can realize real time access to operational data more or less everywhere in a company. Availability of data is not a problem. The challenge is to use both technology and data wisely and to establish a corporate culture that leverages the possibilities with real time data. What is “real time” for us and what does it bring?
As an example, using in-memory technology such as SAP HANA can reduce the time to generate a complex report in an ERP or BW system from 3 hours to 3 seconds. That’s an amazing breakthrough, but if we’re just using that report once a month, does it really matter? What an aspiring Real Time Enterprise asks itself in this situation is: Can we use this technology to get rid of the report totally? Can we make decisions based on real time data instead of a report?

Real Time is not just about delivering data quickly, it’s about delivering the right information at the right time to the right people, information that enables and improves decisions.
An aspiring Real Time Enterprise needs to look beyond the speed the technology offers. Real Time should not just speed up the way we work, it must change the way we work!
Questions to address are: How can we work differently when we have access to real time information? Which corners can we cut? Which process steps in our business become obsolete or redundant? What happens when we can react instantly on a material shortage across our entire supply chain and how can our customers benefit from that? How can we change our business model and get ahead of our competition? How do we anticipate what is about to happen, instead of just reacting on what just happened?

Needless to say, finding the answers to these questions requires integration between business and IT that very often doesn’t exist. Building a Real Time Culture in an enterprise is a challenge and this is what the Harvard Business Review white paper exposes. The Real Time Enterprise needs a culture that lives and breathes information. That understands the difference between “data” and “information”.