It’s the effectiveness and profitability in disparate and constrained business environments that make application of Information Technology (IT) a lucrative option for managing data and information within an enterprise. Data get generated continually in business environment; and its volume depends on the extent of information that we would need or like to record. In fact, the magnitude can be massive as can be seen in the volume of sales data archived by retail chains like Walmart or Tesco. Even smaller enterprises may also plan to store various data related to their business, and relevant to their business objective, sustenance and competitiveness – possible due to reduced upfront costs and availability of requisite technologies.
Such fast growing data may pose difficulties against storing those in traditional Relational Database Management Systems (RDBMSs) and in the same old way. Also, these data may not be effective (with respect to the ease of storage and retrieval) or appropriate with RDBMS as the formats can be different – documents, audio-visuals, or even unstructured or semi-structured texts. However, the demands from the real-life usage require quick access of data, and thus make the entire effort difficult or impossible to manage data in traditional ways. These are Big Data having attributes like large volume, wide variety and high velocity of data storage and retrieval. Such requirements have spun new noSQL (not only SQL) database systems, and different ways of storing and managing such data.
While technical efforts are on to manage increasingly large data, business managers are rather inclined to comprehend data from business perspective – visualise patterns of sales to predicting such patterns based on different conditions, occurrence of exceptions among usual business processes to predicting the possibility of such occurrences, and so on. This is Analytics.
On the other hand, Cloud Computing, the new computing model, has been popular to tackle requirements like large storage and processing capacities. This way of computing depends on ubiquitous Internet connectivity while engaging large number of computers together to create a mammoth machine that can cater to different organisations for their requirements at different scales, in a cooperative fashion – utilising idle capacity in an optimal way. The basic nature of Cloud Computing demands the working of self-contained programs (services) collectively through standard interface of data exchange and negotiations, and uses software applications, software platforms, hardware and networks comprehensively to perform various tasks. We term services delivering software applications as SaaS (Software as a Service), software platforms as PaaS (Platform as a Service), and hardware and network as IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service).
Now enormous data and computing power located centrally, have become available to users conveniently through desktops, laptops and smartphones over Internet. With mass-scale use of mobile devices apart from their increasing computing power and connectedness, these devices have penetrated into business environment deeply. The computing model bundling Big Data into large trans-geographical framework of Cloud Computing and extension of usage of business information to users’ mobile devices have revolutionised the data management in business, and thus similarly, in supply chain management. Moreover, growth and wide acceptance of social media among consumers and business users have made the social web a tremendous platform of reaching and collaborating with suppliers, customers or any other users associated with a business ecosystem.
Gradually, the innovations described above have given rise to a broad framework called SMAC (Social media, Mobility, Analytics, and Cloud computing) where we do not look these technologies, platforms, or computing models separately. Rather, these form an integral part of a business process affecting various aspects of data management within enterprises. These new developments and availability of many vendors offering various products and solutions at different levels of organisational functions does make the decision a real challenge.