May 27, 2021

Technology and architecture have always been important when making decisions about your IT infrastructure and the back-office systems that run your business. More and more, however, architecture is becoming an important differentiator among enterprises, a competitive advantage in your marketplace.

“A new era of competition is dawning. One where architecture matters and leaders will be decided not just on the success of their business plans, but by the ingenuity of their technology choices.” (Accenture Technology Vision) [1]

Good architecture can deliver on the promise of future-proofing technology decisions. Systems must be architected with the belief and understanding that architecture changes rapidly and your product offering has to be able to respond to that and allow their systems to change with the times. Adapt or die.

Of course, you could argue many systems claim to be adaptable and can change. But one must look deeper to understand the cost of that change. What amount of time and investment – not to mention disruption – is required to move to the newest version or latest technology with a particular vendor. Sometimes that expense and disruption are the same order of magnitude as simply starting over.

Architecture is typically described as the layers in a “stack”. Those layers imply abstraction and leverage. Each layer building upon the one beneath it. As you climb the stack each layer is typically at a higher level of abstraction and has a higher degree of leverage over the layer beneath it. Until of course, you get to the layer that impacts the end-user, the business, and/or your customers.

Decisions and investments at the lowest layers are critically foundational and should be closely examined when making purchasing decisions as they will impact the higher layer’s ability to change and be future-proof. It isn’t enough to simply assess an enterprise solution as a “cloud” offering. Look more closely – even at this most fundamental layer – was the solution built as cloud-native or does it bring with it years of technical debt. Technical debt is like stepping up to bat with two strikes against you.

As you climb the stack to the critical highest layer, where users interact with the applications that run your business, you have to remember application investment is the most highly leveraged on the platform upon which it was built. The investment in applications must be protected. Changes in the lower levels of the stack – cloud infrastructure, database, security, technology – cannot impact your applications and must not cause ripples that disrupt your business. Nextworld uses a strict reliance on metadata to provide a buffer between applications and any changes in the lowest levels of the stack. We refer to this quality of our applications as future-proof.

CLOUD ARCHITECTURE MATTERS

89% of executives believe that their organization's ability to generate value will increasingly be based on the limitations and opportunities of our technology architecture. (Accenture Technology Vision 2021) [1]

1. SaaS applications architected from the ground up in the cloud on top of a powerful development platform. There are benefits to using a solution that was built from the ground up in the cloud versus using one that is essentially a warmed-over hosted solution. Truly architecting for the cloud means you can take advantage of features like true multi-tenancy, lower cost of ownership, elastic scaling, and a stateless architecture.

Having access to the same platform on which your applications were built eases the deployment of custom solutions. No/low code platforms have been growing in popularity over the last several years because of the ease of use and speed of development. The idea is that customizations can be made by business practitioners, thus freeing up IT to be more productive. To date, very few vendors have built an enterprise-grade solution as a no-code platform, but the value of using the same platform on which your applications were built for custom work is apparent: consistent software solutions and a unified, homogenous environment.

2. Metadata is the heart of future proof. When metadata is decoupled from the technology, it remains implementation agnostic. This separation can insulate companies from technology changes because it is up to the vendor to expose those changes without impacting the applications. The metadata is a protected blueprint for what you want your software to do so when technology or feature-driven requirements are implemented in the platform. Those changes must not impact the metadata – only the platform layer. When a platform is truly future-proof and the application investment is protected, there is no barrier to the uptake of new technology changes and features. Your software will always be “modern.”

3. Only a single set of interfaces. There shouldn’t be a runtime and integration version of your system, but only a single set of standards-based RESTful interfaces. This ensures that outside parties will integrate into your system using the same REST endpoints as the user interface. Regardless of the interface consumer, validations and security rules would apply the same way for consistent results, secure access, and no transactional inconsistencies.

4. Server architecture matters. A 100% stateless server architecture is one of the most critical aspects of being truly cloud-ready. Statelessness enables servers to be stopped, started, and elastically scaled without any impact to the client. This allows your vendor to approach zero downtime in updates and upgrades and seamless failover in the event of disaster recovery.

5. Enterprise-grade, no-code. From a full application suite to a powerful enterprise-grade platform, the more complete the solution out-of-the-box, the better. It isn’t enough to be future-proof and no code if your platform can only create simplistic point solutions. The Nextworld platform is comprehensive enough to have created a complete ERP system. Nextworld understands what it takes to build and deliver mission-critical solutions to businesses. Here are some of the components of our platform that demonstrate that our platform is enterprise-grade and complete.

  • Development tooling, reporting, business logic
  • Workflow
  • Security, auditing, compliance
  • Data migration tooling (in and out)
  • Customizations and extensions
  • Automated testing solution
  • Dashboard, visualizations
  • Documentation tooling
  • Internationalization, localization, multiple currencies

6. Modern User Interface. Modern web user interfaces must be attractive, easy-to-learn, easy-to-use and navigate, but they also must be architected properly. Single-page applications leverage the power of the browser and the local computing horsepower where they run. They should avoid server roundtrips to serve page content to the user efficiently.

The user interface should support multiple device form factors and layouts without any application rework. Consistency, predictability, and discoverability are also important parts of a modern web interface. Finally, a user interface should delight its end users, it should be good-looking and engaging.

CONCLUSION

Cloud-based solution adoption will continue to increase, forward-thinking enterprises will continue to look for ways to leverage technology to establish and maintain a competitive edge. As they do the pressure to make good technical and architectural choices will increase. Nextworld is architected as a cloud-native solution and has a future-proof abstraction based on a commitment to metadata and declarative solution development. This positions you to make your ERP system selection with confidence, knowing that your decision will last for the long term. Architecture does indeed matter to you and it definitely matters to us.

  1. ‘Leaders Wanted: Masters of Change at a Moment of Truth.’ Accenture Technology Vision, 2021.

About the Author

Vito2

Vito Solimene

Founder & Chief Technical Officer of Nextworld

Answer the question below for direct access to the Accenture Technology Vision 2021 report and learn how your company can future-proof your technology decisions in 2021.

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