Middleware As An Answer

by Ivor Soans    Aug 03, 2006

I’ve just come back from panel discussions consisting of leading Enterprise Leaders in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Pune where we looked at the concept of middleware and whether adoption of middleware technologies would help enterprises with the issues they face when it comes to customer and partner contact management.

It’s clear that focusing on existing customers pays off - according to research from Gartner, it costs 4-10 times as much to acquire new customers as it costs to deliver better services to existing customers. But delivering better services often means adopting newer systems. In a scenario where experts estimate that 80% or more of current technology spend is on maintaining existing systems, it’s obvious why enterprises aren’t really gung-ho about that option. Add to that the issues that crop up during significant enterprise implementations - all the Enterprise IT Leaders on the panels had horror stories to swap about this aspect - and it’s even more clear just why enterprises prefer to keep things running as they are, even though they know that better customer or partner contact management can provide significant strategic advantages. The thinking is crystal-clear: Why risk tinkering with something that isn’t broken?

So, a utility would like to provide bills in different Indian languages for customers who don’t understand English, or with larger fonts for senior citizens or in complete colour for corporate customers, with snazzy graphs, charts, etc, to help high-paying corporate customers understand usage better, but struggle to do so. This and various variations of this issue is something that many transaction-intensive organizations face when it comes to customers and partners. And if you’re an Enterprise IT Leader who doesn’t have millions of customers and hence don’t think you face this issue, let me ask you about the number of invoices your organization processes. It’s clear that few organizations escape this problem.

But is middleware really the answer? The issues here relate to data integrity when it comes to the original enterprise applications, where there could be compliance issues if middleware changes data residing in the original application; besides security, speed and the usual issues related to ease of implementation, cost and RoI.

The panels in all the cities looked at middleware in a new light after debating the issue and discovering evidences to prove that middleware solutions did in fact deal with these issues. And almost all the Enterprise IT Leaders on the panels agreed that they would look at middleware technologies as a vital and cost-effective tool for providing greater personalization to customers and deliver RoI, without having to re-engineer existing applications.

Would you agree with this view? Or do you have a better solution to this problem? At CXOtoday.com we want to take this debate further - so feel free to share your views.