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Sunday, June 13, 2004

The Reality of Real Time

RTE can deliver an immediate and measurable impact in reducing operational and transaction cycle times, especially across supply chains. But its ability to strategically affect a corporation and its supply chain is unproven.The RTE concept has been around for many decades. The goal of early information systems was to capture transactional and operational data as it was created and share it instantaneously across the enterprise and its supporting supply chain. But technology limitations made RTE elusive. And although RTE technologies in some form or another have been around for a while, their use has been limited to a specific customer service function — such as credit verification at point of sale. Even then, paying by credit card in certain parts of the world can take anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes. (Lacking real-time connectivity to a credit verification bureau, a store clerk must phone a credit bureau to get approval for the purchase.)Now, the increasing availability of affordable high-speed network connectivity and extensible markup language (XML) and its derivatives is letting certain functions within the enterprise interact in real time. The business drivers for RTE technologies continue to drive adoption: Reducing the amount of time it takes for information to be transmitted between functional areas within an enterprise and its supporting supply chain will yield significant business benefits. RTE ideally would provide these business benefits at the operational, managerial, and executive levels. Although finding areas where RTE technologies can deliver operational efficiencies and cycle-time reductions will be relatively easy, discerning where real-time information can assist managers and executives in their decision-making processes will be much tougher.RTE technologies promise meaningful and measurable business benefits — as long as the focus is on reducing cycle times and improving operational efficiencies. In some instances, especially in service industries, RTE technologies also can deliver managerial benefits by automating routine decision-making, such as credit authorization and approval. For manufacturing enterprises and supporting supply chains that have been exchanging information using traditional mechanisms such as EDI, RTE technologies will have to demonstrate a clear ROI from incremental time reduction to zero latency. Until the difficult problems of data cleansing, integration, and supplier relationships are solved, strategic benefits from RTE technologies will be limited
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