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August 12, 2010

Products - A Business Perspective through Technology Coloured Glasses

As I was browsing through my news feeds for the day, I began to wonder how much a couple of my favourite ones drew stark parallels to the current state of existence of business software products. On one hand, my personal favourite, engadget, abuzz with new developments, innovation, product launches on the gadgets and allied areas (leaving me dazed on how often there is something similar happening on the business software front); while on the other hand, lifehacker, flooded as usual with tips on maximising productivity and making the most of various softwares (something where most organisations have paid limited attention to, leaving vendors with the lack of impetus to tread in that direction).  The traditional business software products have only accentuated these miseries, ending up as nothing more than an isolated block in the organisation's application portfolio.

How often have you crumpled under the social pressure (or a mad zest?!) of buying of a hot new gadget and leaving it lying un-used? The state of risk management softwares hasn't been much different with the coercive factor being 'compliance'.

All the recent financial happenings have only heightened the debate about the ab(g)ility of organisation to respond to changes. How to make the empowering technology, agile, is the real question? In the world of risk management in particular, the ability of the business to flex technology and its ability to respond make all the difference.

Imagine your house as a non-separable whole where you can't add anything new (say, furniture) as much as you can't remove any other. Well, that's today's products for you!

Do you think you can always get saas-y? (We'll put that in perspective in a later post)

ADM remains painful in these cases - While I may be in the market for a new pc, I don't wish to witness how the platters in a hard disk are put together; or the die on the processor...

From a technology perspective, most business needs, to a great extent, can be addressed by a cogent organisation of a set of configurable components. For instance in a business scenario pertinent to risk management, Basel business hierarchy, risk rating, issue remediation, LDAs and EVTs translate into the likes of simple tree builders, workflow, rules engines, analytics, reporting tools etc. Leaving the configuration of every element in its silo make upgradeability and portability a cinch. Loosely couple these together with the business logic, standardise data access layer (with say, hibernate) to make it database agnostic and factor in the flexibility of the UI layer, and you have a componentised product framework in your hand. Want only select functionalities - no problem, just toss out components that you don't need, retain only relevant configurations in the remaining - flex that 'modular' muscle.

'Shared Infrastructure' is an undeniable value proposition. Apart from saving tons of money in duplicate investments, it provides the much needed business (process & system) integration that product silos can't. To illustrate, If your organisation happens to purchase / upgrade, say the intelligence engine, you can squeeze out every penny by making it available to all applications, and also where needed, by sharing the intelligence across the board. Atleast with intelligence, that's how it's really meant to be, isn't it? And what's more, your products remain as recent as their newest updated component

Business software products have transcended being applications and become the 'platform'.

If ever, there is a lingering thought about if and how this would work, rest assured, at Infosys, these methodologies have been tried and tested.

The definite question is, what does all of this have to do with risk and compliance - Well, to sum up my previous blogs: a brave new world; changed paradigm; a new breed of approaches...and this is technology catching up.

Having planted the thought, I take a pause before examining its particular significance in the risk(y) business...