Enterprise Software: What If Reality Sets In?

Dennis Byron

Chirag Mehta is a "Technology, Design, and Innovation strategist" in the Office of the CEO at SAP, "focusing on technology and architecture strategy and strategic operational, product, and management innovation." He's also an adjunct faculty member at both Santa Clara and San Jose State, which are a few miles apart in Silicon Valley. He regularly contributes to his blog, Cloud Computing, a name he was smart enough to grab three years ago. The blog ranges far and wide despite its name.


In my mind, sitting where I do here on the right coast, Chirag's trifecta of plugged-in tech blogger, academic smarts and location makes him a Valley wag, although wagging is apparently more about gossip, while Chirag posts up some good technical content.


So it made sense to pay attention when he wrote on September 28, 2009, "Augmented Reality Will Change Enterprise Software For Real." Augmented Reality (AR) is hot in the Valley because VentureBeat recently ranked emerging AR start-ups. But "hot" and enterprise software do not typically appear in the same sentence. So it's worth a read to see where Chirag is going with the idea.


Chirag approaches his blog post with the standard convention of building on what is already known. Enterprise software, particularly classic enterprise applications, consists of user interface (UI), logic and data management components. But he only addresses the UI and the data component of the equation. According to Chirag, when AR meets ERP, "No interface will be the interface," and "Data will be the new design."


So what can AR do for the logic, the business process part of enterprise software? Can it change the way enterprises do business or will it simply change the way users interact with today's logic and produce/access today's type of data with that logic? In such a scenario, touch-screen surface computing and wearable computers replace a keyboard and mouse.


But a hint at what might happen is that AR by definition (that is, according to the guys who conceived and enhanced the concept over a decade ago) means real time. At the risk of oversimplification, remember that current-day ERP changed quarterly financial closes from weeks to days at the end of the last century. Can AR take that a step further? I could argue that that kind of speed is not needed for accounting, but I am not an accountant. Perhaps an accountant applying the real-time characteristic of AR will decide that the whole multiple-millennium-old concept of double-entry accounting can be replaced.


Certainly the value of AR in manufacturing is obvious. But robots have already replaced people on the line. Instead, its application in enterprise software might be more relevant in services industries, especially health care delivery and construction, where it's best that a mistake be discovered in real time.


Anyway, every example I can think of (in the time spent writing this post) means new business processes and the need to rewrite not only the UIs and database managers associated with enterprise software but the software itself.

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