Enterprise Applications: Customization Vs. Configuration
Ron Lanzo 270000BY51 firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  software maintenance facilities-management ibmontwitter ibmeam asset-management tivoli ibmsoftware government assetmgmt eam enterprise-applications tririga service-management
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Doug Henschen of Information Week wrote recently about a trend in Enterprise Application space where organizations are attempting to avoid customizations when upgrading enterprise applications. Henshen based his analysis on the results of Information Weeks 2012 Enterprise Application Survey, which is available to download for free provided you register with the site.
What primarily caught my interest was the statement that “(Enterprise Software and SaaS) vendors are providing more options to configure applications for particular needs and industries. But in some cases, configuration options are getting so numerous and layered that they present challenges of their own.”
It comes as no surprise that a configurable software solution is more useful and cost-efficient than one that must be customized. What’s surprising is that this statement implies that vendors are only recently starting to provide these configuration capabilities. A dynamic and flexible client configuration capability has been part of the IBM Maximo product line architecture and design going back to its windows and client server days. Vendors adopting this approach now are making a wise move. Their clients however may still be stuck. For some, accessing these new configuration capabilities may require a significant upgrade to a new architecture and/or data model which can cost as much as a new implementation. For others, they may get access to new capabilities only in core or recently updated modules. In a worst case scenario, where the vendor has products based on a series of acquisitions, some key applications may never support the new release and configuration options.
Interestingly the first two questions of the survey had the same top response, which directly speaks to the issue of ease of configuration. When asked about Barriers to Success (what are your organization’s biggest applications or process management related impediments to success?) and Most Time Consuming Tasks (Which of the following tasks or challenges consume most of your time?), respondents overwhelmingly chose “Changing, upgrading or optimizing existing applications”. So clearly there’s been a lot of customization that’s been applied to enterprise software over the last two decades. Had vendors been providing highly configurable solutions all along, the clients wouldn’t be in this predicament today.