Computerisation and automation have helped businesses in many ways - achieving leaner operations, increasing productivity, automating repetitive parts of the operations, increasing efficiency of administrative and financial functions, and many more. In fact, these elements have become the foundation for survival in today's business environment.
Unfortunately, the market dynamics are becoming more complex. Market protection is a thing of the past. Home ground advantage is rapidly diminishing.
Market globalisation is blurring the border that segregates the domestic from international markets. Worse, rapid advancement of online channels have enabled individual consumers to deal directly direct to manufacturers half way across the globe; rendering traditional market borders to mere academic definition.
All these have brought drastic changes to the market landscape - global competitions, rapid pace of market movements, shorter shelf-life of products and services ... just to name a few.
The pressure of competition is certainly mounting especially for the Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises (SMEs). With limited resources, it is definitely difficult to take on all the challenges that may come from all sides head-on. It will be costly and, more often than not, disruptive to day-to-day business operations.
In Malaysia's case, these challenges are also a threat to the national economy as SMEs are the backbone of the industry. A 2012 statistics from SME Corporation showed that SMEs contributed 32.5 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and provided 57.4 per cent of employment. The number is set to grow. Under the SME Master Plan 2012 – 2020, SMEs contribution to the GDP is expected to exceed 40 per cent in 2020.
In a highly competitive and fast-changing environment, time and accuracy are of essence. Business owners and managers need fast and accurate information from all parts of the operation to make informed decisions.
It is no longer good enough to have various parts of the business computerised or automated. All these systems must work in tandem, aligned to business objectives and strategies.
The realisation of the need to have all the different systems is not new. Many organisations had gone through the pains of trying to get disparate business applications to work together. Most fell short of expectations, if not failed outright.
The advent of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies has opened up new and more effective ways of interconnecting disparate systems. In fact, the connectivity can extend beyond computerised devices. Through the use of the wireless communication technologies such as RFID, even stock items can be part of the network.
Malaysian own software engineering company Custommedia Sdn Bhd, for example, has developed indigenous technology to enable implementation of IoT. Through its IoT-Middleware, the company is offering a platform for effective interconnection of disparate systems, applications, equipment, devices and services.
Instead of integration, the IoT-Middleware technology employs interoperability approach where individual systems, applications, et cetera run as they were - nothing is changed. Without going into details, the technology in the IoT-Middleware enables communications between them. Further, the IoT-Middleware can also actuate some pre-set actions based on business rules.
Through this 'smart' set-up, the management would be able to have the full-view of the state-of-health of the business through a dashboard at any point of time. In turn, this enables the management to make informed business decisions in a timely manner.
Another big advantage for users is they are to prolong the shelf-life of most of their existing IT investments and at the same time, have greater flexibility in making future technology investment, knowing very well that whichever technology they choose will fit into the set-up through the help of the IoT-Middleware.