Integration in the Cloud

Mohawk Fine Papers saves millions by using the cloud as a central integration point for all its B2B transactions.

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But for Mohawk, the benefits outweigh those risks. The low cost per integration and the rapid turnaround have given the company the agility to create new business relationships and build business processes on a trial basis. Mohawk can do all this without worrying about the investment of time, money and other resources required to do the integration work.

And because its costs are lower, Mohawk can tackle smaller projects that it wouldn't have considered before. Stamas points to the StrikeIron integration as an example. "It is a small little Web service," he says, noting that in the future there may be hundreds -- or thousands -- of such initiatives.

End of Big IT Architectures?

Stamas sees this as the beginning of the end for monolithic enterprise applications. "They're beginning to break apart into pieces. Rather than monolithic systems like SAP and Oracle, an ecosystem of cloud services will be interoperating with other workflows and processes that can be anywhere," he says.

For example, Stamas explains, "our ERP is the system of record for financials, but much of the functionality resides outside the system." Orders entered via websites and CRM, expense management and HR systems are handled in the cloud, and advanced capabilities such as planning, scheduling, transportation, supply chain, asset management, manufacturing execution and warehouse management are performed outside the ERP software. Today, 60% of Mohawk's IT portfolio resides outside the ERP system, up from 10% five years ago. "I see this rate accelerating," says Stamas.

In such a setup, "your ERP system may call Web services at StrikeIron for a currency conversion, and UPS or FedEx for a freight rate," he says. "Then it may check inventory for an item at a customer or supplier" or ping other sites to perform credit checks, calculate sales tax, approve a credit card payment and more.

As the financial bar has been lowered and turnaround times shortened for executing on such integrations, the number of projects at Mohawk has increased.

"We can bring in a third-party manufacturer or logistics provider at the drop of a hat. That's what's fueling revenue generation," Stamas says. "If it costs us $1,000 to try something, why not try it? If it doesn't work, we just throw it away."

This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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