Software for Small-to- Medium Enterprises

Software for Small-to- Medium Enterprises

Jaroslav Král (Charles University and Masaryk University, Czech Republic) and Michal Žemlicka (Charles University, Czech Republic)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-892-5.ch011
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Abstract

Small-to-medium enterprises (SME) have specific requirements on the software systems (SWS) they use. SME have a limited possibility to design stable business processes as they have limited resources and data to design the processes properly. Moreover, SME must be able to adapt itself dynamically to changing business conditions and must, due to limited resources, reuse legacy systems and third-party products. SME cannot apply the higher levels of CMM and to define precisely its business processes, as SME cannot have enough data and experience. The solution of this issue or weakening of its consequences can be based on the variant of service-oriented architecture (SOA) discussed next. A proper use of modern software systems depends on the skills and knowledge of (end) users of the systems. The extent of a new software-oriented knowledge of the users needed to specify, install, and use the systems depends on the architecture of the system. We further show that a properly used SOA can substantially reduce the need to learn new knowledge at users’ side. The kernel of the solution should be based on the SOA-based generalization of the concept of usability and on a technical turn enabling agility of business processes. The solution can simplify the development of tools enabling the activation of inhibited user knowledge via flexible prototyping supporting agile business processes and learning by doing. The solution further enables new business turns and has many technical advantages. Our solution is especially preferable for small-to-medium enterprises, but it should be applied in very large enterprises for different reasons.
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Introduction

Small to medium enterprises (SME) are strongly influenced by global challenges and business conditions changes. SME is rather an object than a subject of the business challenges. Any SME must be – due to its size and consequently due to its openness – even more dynamic than large enterprises. SME have insufficient resources to update or develop their software resources from scratch. Under these conditions the necessary preconditions of success is a proper reuse of software systems.

Software systems supporting SME must support the dynamics of modern business. It follows that such software must itself be open and dynamically changeable. A classical solution was a quick development of new software editions or updates. Growing complexity of software systems makes such a solution continuously less feasible. This problem is especially severe for SME due the following reasons:

  • 1.

    SME have not enough resources and IT experts to apply repeated software development from scratch or quick software enhancement.

  • 2.

    It can be too difficult for SME employees to use quickly changing systems.

  • 3.

    It is difficult for SME to develop reliable and stable business processes. SME have not enough business data to design repeatable or even optimized processes in the sense of CMM. The business processes must be often even on-the-fly changed due to changed outer business conditions.

  • 4.

    SME have a limited possibility to apply fully the complex software standards like the standards of IEEE, ISO, W3C, or OASIS (OASIS, 2008) and complex considerations like the ones from special issues of IBM Systems Journal (IBM, 2005 and 20082008). The complexity of the standards can be one of the substantial reasons of falling interests of the new SOA developments (Sholler, 2008). SME need, however, not apply complex standards provided they apply a proper pragmatic based on the fact that SME can use small systems and are unable to use the huge ones.

The only feasible solution of these challenges is the (re)use of legacy systems, integrate them together and with (purchased) third-party systems to obtain a system providing a new quality. It is a crucial issue for SME.

Service orientation (SO) and service-oriented architecture (SOA; Erl, 2004) offer a framework for doing it. We, however, must apply specific techniques that are applicable in SME; it is a specific version of SOA – a subclass of confederations (Král & Žemlička, 2003a, 2003b). Confederations are SOA having core subnetwork of services knowing each other. In SME the core consists of quite small number of services being almost independent. It leads to solutions not involving Enterprise Service Bus (ESB; Chappell, 2004). We call such systems unions for short1. Note that unions are in fact broadly used outside SME, for example in e-government, municipal systems, or health-care systems. SME often pragmatically use techniques used in SOA but they are afraid to apply highly-standardized SOA in the form supported by large software vendors.

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Soa Systems For Sme

The problems listed above can be solved if we integrate applications such that the resulting system has the service-oriented architecture of the following properties: SOA use wrapped legacy systems, third-party systems, and, may be, newly developed applications such that they can behave like real-world services, i.e. such that technically they can be peers of a virtual peer-to-peer (p2p) network. The middleware of such a network can be based on different tools or frameworks – Enterprise Service Bus, www, or other transport means. The tools can be combined. In unions the ESB-based solutions are rarely used. A small number of core services in SOA supporting SME reduces the need for ESB.

The systems can be integrated together with their client tiers, if any. It is desirable (often necessary) to integrate the systems as wrapped black boxes such that they are equipped by a new interface (tier, adaptor) enabling communication with other peers being applications or even systems. Such a solution enables it that the “old” users of the systems, if any, are not too influenced by the fact that “their” systems have been already integrated.

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