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The Promise and Challenge of Enterprise Sync

Novell Cool Solutions: Trench

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Posted: 2 Apr 2003
 

The Move Toward Enterprise Sync

The past few years have seen a dramatic evolution in the technologies used to sync the PIM (Personal Information Management) and email data housed in groupware assets like Novell's GroupWise with other mission critical enterprise applications or data sources. Changes in sync infrastructure have been driven by the need to make sync more productive, more cost-effective, and more flexible. This progression toward a more flexible, enterprise-friendly approach toward synchronizing vital information has been a welcomed one, but one that requires an understanding of where sync has been and where it is heading in order to fully leverage the benefits of this growing range of solutions.

"Old Sync"

Early sync solutions were confined to the desktop, and involved the synchronization of PIM and email data between a desktop application (such as GroupWise, Lotus Notes, ACT!, or another groupware application) and a mobile device, such as a Palm or Pocket PC PDA (Personal Digital Assistant). In the mid- to late-nineties, early adopters of PDAs reaped significant productivity benefits from this type of sync solution thanks improved access to timely PIM and email information. However as adoption of stand-alone desktop sync solutions grew, it became apparent that these benefits were hard to sustain across large groups of users due to limited support for centralized management, inflexibility with regard to non-PDA sync, and a widening range of device and platform options being offered to bewildered end-users. Old Sync showed users the potential rewards of effective sync without providing them or their IT administrators with the tools to fully realize that potential.

Today's Enterprise Sync options

As the limitations of Old Sync became evident, vendors responded with a set of integration-capable solutions aimed at meeting the increasingly demanding needs of a more enterprise-centric user. "Enterprise Sync" is built around the needs of a community whose requirements far outpaced those of Old Sync's early adopters. Today's Enterprise Sync infrastructure offerings include enhancements in areas like:

  • Growth beyond mobile device enhancement: A key component of Old Sync was the concept that the application of sync technologies was limited to the interaction between a desktop PC (and related applications) and a mobile device. Old Sync centered on reliably synchronizing data from the PC to the PDA, then back again. Enterprise Sync has changed this view considerably, providing sync options that move data seamlessly between mission critical applications without the need for interaction with a mobile device. In the new Enterprise Sync environment, the mobile device is an optional component of the sync process that, like other device and application destinations, can benefit from robust sync technologies.


  • Support for application data integration: As one of the most productive areas of infrastructure improvement for the past five or so years, CRM and ERP solutions have become a highly visible component in ensuring that companies deliver on their promises to current and prospective customers. As these technologies became more standardized and mature it became evident to their users that no enterprise solution could be complete without incorporating the PIM and email data relating to customers and their interactions. Support for integrating PIM and email data between leading CRM/ERP platforms with groupware solutions has been one of the major advancements toward enterprise-friendly sync, and has resulted in richer information being available on both the PIM/email and CRM/ERP fronts. The ongoing growth of sync in today's enterprise is largely due to the ability to enrich mission these critical application platforms with information that was previously unavailable.


  • Centralized management and administration: Perhaps the most significant barrier to realizing the benefits of Old Sync on an enterprise scale was the inability of IT Administrators to centrally manage and administer the myriad applications, devices, platforms, and user/role configurations associated with a large-scale desktop sync user base. As mobile sync solutions gained momentum in the mid- to late-nineties, IT learned that the cost of supporting this diverse user population often exceeded by an order of magnitude the cost of the hardware, software, and sync infrastructure being leveraged. By providing a comprehensive set of administrative tools capable of managing a wide array of user scenarios, Enterprise Sync took an important step forward in becoming supportable as well as productive.

The Opportunities

The ongoing advance in Enterprise Sync flexibility described in the previous section has resulted in a number of opportunities for businesses looking to increase their organizational efficiency through more complete, timely distribution of groupware PIM and email data across the enterprise.

Cost-effective Integration of Existing Assets
In today's increasing tight IT budgeting environment, the need to extend the lives of existing enterprise applications and data sources is paramount. Coupled with these constraints are expanding business requirements and functional enhancements that require IT to not only preserve this existing infrastructure, but also enhance it in a cost-effective and scalable manner. Enterprise Sync solutions offer IT organizations with the ability to meet these seemingly contradictory directives-improving operational capabilities without significantly increasing overall cost (either for software replacement/upgrade or for more labor-intensive integration options). By augmenting far-flung multi-vendor groupware assets, enriching supply chain and ERP applications, and super-charging the CRM systems used by customer-facing employees, Enterprise Sync offers companies an attractive option to system replacement or, worse yet, status quo.

Reduced Support Demand for Existing Sync User Population
Old Sync technologies reached their breaking point sometime ago, particularly where IT was concerned. As the numbers of supported applications, devices, platforms, and connectivity constraints rose steadily over the years, so too did the number and complexity of IT issues relating to these users. Thanks to improvements in Enterprise Sync management, these headaches have reduced considerably.

Improvements include:

  • User/Role configurations: Rather than allowing users to set their own synchronization parameters, Enterprise Sync tools provide administrators with the ability to create, distribute, and maintain role-driven configurations that can be consistently applied and password protected to ensure users are synchronizing the right data, with the right mappings, under the right conditions. Ensuring that users have consistently applied access to the information they need, when they need it, is a significant opportunity for today's organizations.


  • Sync history/metrics: A detailed sync history, along with record-level metrics, allows administrators to spot trends and identify real or potential problems with a user's sync configuration. Providing administrators with the deep insight required to identify potential problems before they snowball into support issues, Enterprise Sync provides organizations with a measurable cost avoidance opportunity.


  • Centralized troubleshooting: Although IT administrators put great effort in carefully planning an Enterprise Sync infrastructure some end-user problems are inevitable. To resolve them quickly with minimal disruption to the IT team and their competing commitments, Enterprise Sync offerings have in recent years provided centralized troubleshooting capabilities that allow administrators to have single-source access to all user log files for easy examination if and when a problem arises. By providing IT with the resources required to troubleshoot problems from their desktop, Enterprise Sync dramatically lowered the cost of resolving each user issue.

Nearly Instantaneous Insight into Email/PIM Events Across Groups
Much of the business benefit (and associated financial rewards) of an Enterprise Sync solution lies not only in cost reduction, but also in the nearly instantaneous insight into far-flung email and PIM interactions. In an age where businesses are challenged to coordinate their activities more closely than ever, and on a global scale, the ability to share customer knowledge quickly and accurately is key.

Enterprise Sync delivers compelling business benefits through:

  • Shared insight into email interactions: Maintaining the image of your company as an informed organization, one worthy of your customer's continued business, relies on a high level of shared insight between sales, marketing, service, fulfillment, and support groups. By providing cost-effective mechanisms for sharing email interactions across servers and across sites, Enterprise Sync helps to provide this insight.


  • Cross-functional insight into customer-related tasks: Shared customer insight doesn't end with interaction histories-coordination of internal tasks and activities is every bit as important in conveying an aura of corporate competence. Enterprise Sync provides companies with a cost-effective, easy to deploy mechanism for delivering this kind of cross-functional view of tasks related to customers and prospects.


  • Current contact information across groups/apps: An often forgotten part of relating to customers in an effective manner is recognizing and then documenting the shifts occurring within an organization as they occur. By providing a streamlined mechanism for sharing changes to the contacts (title, name, contact info, etc.) within your customer's organization (or that matter, within your own), Enterprise Sync allows companies to align their contact databases quickly and accurately, reflecting the latest information gleaned from touch points across the organization.


  • Calendar/Event sharing between sites/groups: As with customer-related tasks, understanding when key meetings or customer-affecting events are scheduled across functional groups is an important part of better coordinating the activities of your organization to serve the needs of customers and prospects.

Summary

In recent years Enterprise Sync has grown to encompass more than just the process of reconciling the information stored on desktop PCs and mobile devices. From those Old Sync beginnings, Enterprise Sync has grown to embrace a variety of new application types (CRM, ERP, and mission critical application integration), sync scenarios not involving a PDA, new use cases, and ultimately large-scale supportability through powerful administrative tools. The scope of Enterprise Sync has grown, and will continue to grow, thanks to the evolving needs of companies and their realization that sync solutions offer tangible benefits to their organizations with minimal cost. As a leading vendor in both desktop and server sync solutions, Pumatech has been at the forefront of redefining the role of sync in today's increasingly efficient enterprises.

To learn more about how Pumatech's line of proven sync solutions can help you or your organization to extend the power of GroupWise, we invite you to visit our Novell visitor's area at http://www.pumatech.com/novell.


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