Enterprise System flexibility and business agility

This is a collaboration between Mario van Vliet, Bart van den Hooff, Marijn Plomp and Roger Bons which addresses the relationship between the complexity and flexibility of Enterprise Systems on the one hand and organizations’ increasing need for agility on the other. Traditional ES are characterized by “tight coupling” between business processes and ES: reengineering business processes can only go ‘hand-in-hand’ with changes in the underlying application landscape and vice versa. This ‘tight coupling’ between business processes and ES creates an environment in which organizations are ‘locked in’ their current business processes. Curently we see developments in the ES market towards more flexibility and modularization. Developments such as SOA (Service Oriented Architecture), BPM (Business Process Management)  and SaaS (Software as a Service) carry the promise of making ES more flexible, less monolithic and less constraining  in terms of tight coupling with business processes. This may alleviate the tension between the “best practice” based systems on the one hand, and organizational need for agility on the other, by establishing a “loose coupling” between business processes on the one hand, and the ES on the othe Agility refers to the flexibility of an organization to (re)act on changes in market conditions. Our general assumption is that “tight coupling” between business processes and IT reduces agility, whereas “loose coupling” may increase business agility. This leads to the following research questions:

  • To what extent do current architectural design principles behind Enterprise Systems facilitate ‘tight coupling’ or ‘loose coupling’ between the business processes and application layer?
  • What are the design principles of an architectural model that would enable “loose coupling” in an optimal way?
  • Which factors determine the extent to which an organization (1) needs and (2) is ready for “loose coupling”?
  • How and to what extent will “loose coupling” between business processes and IT contribute to business agility?

This is a project we are currently initiating, and in which we would very much value collaborating with companies which have practical interest in and experience with these issues.

Mario van Vliet
Bart van den Hooff
Marijn Plomp
Roger Bons