The computer was initially used by business as a means of record keeping. Once it replaced the ledger books, a small number of people could store and look up vast numbers of records. A company now knew exactly the inventory on hand and the status of orders.

The computer was next used to analyze the records that it was keeping. This yielded important insights into a company's business. A business could optimize its supply chain and achieve a just-in-time operation.

However, a dark cloud soon began to appear. Businesses used different software systems to keep records of different areas of the business. The accounting software that kept track of orders, invoices, and payments was distinct from the manufacturing management system that kept track of parts inventory and status of work items. And yet, one business process can rarely function with the services of a single software system. For example, we need a software that takes the order from the customer. We need the accounting system to send invoices and receive partial payment. Only then can we begin manufacturing. Once manufacturing ends, we need to obtain full payment before we can ship the item.

A business is now faced with two separate problems:

  1. Who will enter all the records in each system? Many of the records are kept in more than one system. Manually entering data into one system by reading it off another one is slow and fraught with error. A single software product may be a great time-saving tool in its ...

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