by Susan Nunziata

When ‘off the shelf’ software is good enough

Jan 18, 2017
Enterprise ApplicationsIT Strategy

Are you about to start customizing a new enterprise application? Stop what you're doing and consider whether there are better uses for your time.

What software developers really want
Credit: Thinkstock

Have you ever asked an IT vendor to help fight your addiction to application customization? This is exactly what Bank Of America Merrill Lynch CTO David Reilly asked of attendees during the company’s Technology Innovation Summit in Menlo Park Calif. in October.

“We have never met a technology we didn’t think we could make better, or a technology we didn’t think we could customize,” Reilly said onstage at the event. “We need your help not to do that.”

It’s an interesting request at a time when enterprises are faced with managing a plethora of apps, often in a hybrid environment which combines cloud-based and on-premises technology.

Let’s consider ERP apps. Back in 2014, Andy Kyte, a Gartner Research Fellow and vice president, said in a prepared statement, “Early ERP adopters, particularly large enterprises in energy, manufacturing and distribution industries, are paying the penalty of a decade or more of excessive customization. Businesses looking to improve administration today can take advantage of lower costs, better functional fit and process flexibility offered by blending cloud applications with on-premises applications in what we now refer to as ‘postmodern ERP.’ ” 

In its report “Predicts 2014: The Rise of the Postmodern ERP and Enterprise Applications World,” Gartner further stated that by 2017, 70 percent of organizations adopting hybrid ERP will fail to improve cost-benefit outcomes unless their cloud applications provide differentiating functionality. Further, the company said, by 2018, at least 30 percent of service-centric companies will move the majority of their ERP applications to the cloud.

By 2020, 67 percent of enterprise IT infrastructure and software will be for cloud-based offerings, IDC predicted in November 2016.

According to IDC, by 2018, 60 percent of IT will be done off-premises, and 85 percent will be done by multi-cloud. By 2020, IDC predicted, the cloud will be where trusted and secured IT lives.

IDC further predicted that by 2020, enterprise performance will be measured by a demanding new set of benchmarks in leadership, customer engagement, digitization of new and traditional offerings, operational efficiency, and organizational agility. At least a third of leaders in every industry will fail to clear these digital transformation hurdles.

New benchmarks will include 35 percent improvement in Net Promoter Score, 100 percent growth in revenues from information-based products, 20 percent of processes are self-healing, and 50 percent reduction in management layers. These performance levels will be “the new normal” for all enterprises.

So, what does all this have to do with application customization? It’s simple: While it’s fun to fiddle with apps, there are bigger things to spend your time doing in IT these days. Things like exploring how automation can help you eliminate workloads and free your people up for more creative work. Or, experimenting with voice-recognition systems and artificial intelligence to find new ways of enhancing worker productivity. In an era in which most software is on a near-constant upgrade cycle, overly customizing things could end up slowing you down, even as agility and flexibility are becoming core requirements in enterprise IT.