E-FILES: Elegance a disguise for 'grannyware'

Elegant front ends are often a disguise for back-end dinosaurs, or 'grannyware' as it's known, says Wang's South Island manager Dave Tinkler.

www.wang.co.nz

Elegant front ends are often a disguise for back-end dinosaurs, or 'grannyware' as it's known, says Wang's South Island manager Dave Tinkler.

And that's one of the challenges of opening up a company structure to e-business, says Tinkler, who's also Wang's e-business manager.

Despite the risks, there are compelling reasons for e-business initiatives.

Companies' enthusiasm to bare all is being driven by competitive pressures, he says.

"There's a real willingness to provide the value to the clients and access to information because of competitive pressure."

There's also a considerable financial imperative says Tinkler, with business seeing real cost savings. But one of the biggest challenges to openness is showing up "the vagaries of your own back office", he says.

Many companies have enough problems providing information internally across multiple systems, let alone giving customers and suppliers a candid look.

"Their processes are often pretty flakey and their systems often not the greatest as well, so therefore there's a bit of inventory taken on what you're going to be willing to show people."

Tinkler says e-business systems have a fair share of smoke and mirrors.

"There's often some very glitzy, seemingly technologically sophisticated front ends. But behind that is a whole bunch of hidden back office processes that are very manual. A lot of companies don't want to show that."

Tinkler says there's a joke about a layer of technology called grannyware - "the frantic rekeying of information or data into systems so the front end receives it".

Wang's own attitude to e-business is anything but elderly. The company lays claim to the title "New Zealand's first and largest e-based Internet integration company" and employs 400 people throughout the country.

In April, the company launched Wang Portal, which delivers combined online procurement, project management and service management to its clients.

Its e-business venture started two years ago with the dual aims of productivity gains through tighter automation of supplier side functions and giving clients more value added services.

Development continues with mobile technology applications one consideration.

Generally speaking, Tinkler says trust is one of the biggest issues in e-business.

While some companies have a history of sharing information along the supply chain, others struggle with the major mindshift needed to conduct e-business.

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