Members Define Reengineering, Ask for New Products
Connectivity, system management, interoperability high on list
When open systems professionals think of reengineering, they
think mainly of two essential things: revamping their information
system and thereby improving their company.
Behind those two basic concepts lies a panorama of ideas about
what the specific objectives should be and how to achieve them
- all revealed in a survey conducted by UniForum of its members
earlier this year. Revamping itself is an encompassing term to
describe several kinds of processes mentioned by Uniforum members,
all beginning with the prefix re-:
Revisit. Reengineering means "to revisit a procedure, workflow
or events within an organization's structure and redesign with
a fresh outlook," said Kurt Vanderbogart of Menlo Park, CA. "Many
organizations have tried to re-engineer and many have failed."
Rethink, replan and rebuild your direction, says Geoff Bullen
of Chatswood, Australia. That means "taking a look at what you
have and deciding that major changes are needed to take the business
to the next generation."
Redesign. "Reengineering is a complete redesign of a process
or system," said Steve Hathaway, of Salem, OR.
Restructure, said Don Hansen, of Omaha, NE, meaning to restructure
a process or processes, agreeing with Hathaway. "Those processes
can involve the changing of computer hardware, software, training
or organization. Our company has just done this. We have restructured
our manufacturing, sales, engineering and more."
Rework your processes, said Roger Gourd, of Cambridge, MA.
"Re-engineering means looking not at what you do, but at how
you do it," he said. "It's not just automating existing processes
- it's reworking those processes, often by incorporating new
Reimplement. Reengineering means "specifying the functional
requirements of an existing system that may have no written spec
and then reimplementing it using new technology," said Margie
Templeton. And in the same vein, Matt "C.P." Rush, of Chico,
CA, said he considers the term to mean "taking a finished product
as a goal and then designing and implementing it from scratch,
disregarding previous notions of how or why things were done
in the original."
Redeploy. David Markowitz, of San Jose, CA, defines reengineering
simply as "redeployment of business systems or processes to improve
efficiencies and more closely model workflow."
Replace your functional system with a new design, "providing
new features or capabilities, without making the features of
the previous system unavailable" and you have re-engineered,
said Robert A. Michael, of Santa Cruz, CA. "An example would
include the replacement of stand-alone cash registers, paper
inventory/parts lookup systems and inventory replenishment with
networked point-of-sale cash registers using scanners, a back-office
inventory database, a service counter with parts lookup, inventory
check screens and special order capability and a WAN connection
to a central ordering facility for automated inventory replenishment,"
You reengineer for results. According to members, those results
Reduced costs and improved profitability. "The bottom line
is to be more profitable, just as it is for other companies,"
said Don Hansen. It "allows the company to dispose of legacy
processes that have become cumbersome and extremely costly to
maintain," Hathaway said. Doing that improves efficiency, he
and Markowitz noted.
Better control over processes. In reengineering, "MIS tries
to regain control over systems development," said David Sherr,
of New York City. "It implies control over the extant system
and control over the architecture and construction of the new
Improved openness and longevity of the resulting system.
A reengineering exercise "normally involves moving away from
proprietary environments to a more open one that will last longer,"
An improvement in the technology of the system or the technical
offerings of the company, or both. When a company re-engineers,
it "has had to radically alter its technical offerings or its
market approach or both in order to survive," said Nik Simpson,
Huntsville, AL. "If this is a correct definition, then pretty
much all of the major vendors are in the middle of this process
and it is too early to say who the survivors will be."
The new features for a functional system that Robert Michael
The improved customer service and satisfaction that result
from those better features.
Improved competitiveness. "I'd define reengineering as doing
whatever it takes to be competitive in the marketplace, even
if it means tossing out conventional ideas," said Jefferey M.
Stockett, Austin, TX. "The computer business in general gets
more varied every day. Making wrong decisions and sticking with
them just because Ôthat was what we decided' is more costly than
ever." Stockett adds, "I can't think of any company that is doing
this except maybe Microsoft. They continually outstrip all their
competition at reengineering their perception in the marketplace
as No. 1."
UniForum members who responded to the survey also let their opinions
be known on the subject of what kinds of new products they hope
for in the coming year. Although the question included a chance
to mention favorite products from 1993, nearly all the responses
discussed only hopes for the future.
Connectivity and network/internetwork-related products topped
the list of hoped-for offerings this year, followed closely by
system management products, the area of interoperability and
development of a common API for UNIX software.
"Connectivity is the key," said Daniel Wexler, Brooklyn, NY.
"Anything that helps promote connectivity between users, processes,
machines and networks can be used to implement client solutions."
Matt Rush, Robert Michael and Steve Hathaway all asked for better
products to allow Internet connectivity. Hathaway asked for "networking
products that are compatible with the newer and bigger addressing
requirements of the future Internet" as well as products to aid
the connectivity of TCP/IP and OSI applications. "There is a
very large need and market for Internet connectivity providers,"
Rush said, meaning lower-cost continuous Internet connections
via modem instead of leased lines. Michael asked for "service
products that bring Internet access to nontechnical users."
System management was the first request of Geoff Bullen, who
asked specifically for "management of computing environments
from the enterprise down." Don Hansen agreed that "managing the
enterprise centrally is very important." Kurt Vanderbogart asked
for "distributed management that works with different vendors'
The interoperability area is important for Dion Johnson, Scotts
Valley, CA. "We need interoperability that is bulletproof and
spans all major vendor systems," Johnson said. "UNIX must manage
and be managed at every level. It must have tools to ship data
and code between systems with a high degree of automation."
For others, a common API for application developers was uppermost
in their minds. "The only hope for UNIX in '94 and beyond is
a single, complete and robust standard API for application developers,"
said Nik Simpson. "Without that, UNIX will become increasingly
unpopular with commercial software vendors who have to support
multiple platforms." Bullen also requested "standardization in
cross-platform development work" as one of the most important
needs of 1994.
Other highly requested items included cheaper UNIX products or
product discounts and standardization in multimedia products.