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Vanilla Enterprise: Paradigm, Considerations & Trends

Guest post by
Supratik Ray, Principal Consultant - Manufacturing vertical, Consulting & Systems Integration, Infosys


Enterprises embark on application implementation programs and adopt different approaches to attain goals like improving efficiency, collaboration, enhancing customer experience and employee productivity. The approach to implement enterprise application has been evolving due to learning and changes in ideology and technology. Experiences across multiple large scale transformation programs highlight the challenges, paradigms, decision considerations and some noticeable trends.

A challenge frequently encountered by enterprises while implementing an enterprise application is the ability of the out of box application to support the distinct business processes and sustain competitive advantages. The challenge is equally pertinent for large package application vendors who have tried to address the varied needs of the client base by adopting open architecture, configure & play options and specialized industry specific options.

On one hand enterprises attempt to improve operational efficiencies & compete sustainably and on the other hand application vendors try to tailor their applications to accommodate unique industry specific needs. This has re-enforced the fact that one size does not fit all. But there is also an increasing trend that has been observed, and that is to retain and deploy only those business processes & applications those are scalable, sustainable yet help retain long term strategic advantage.

Some of the changing paradigms in enterprise application implementation programs are listed below:

  • Change is Constant: Enterprises realize that they operate in environments that change, and hence the processes and supporting applications need to be scalable & flexible to adapt to changes.
  • Transformation is Continual: The built to last approach is now slowly changing towards an approach that embraces transformation as gradual and ongoing. The enterprise application implementation now is more of a business transformation program in which the end state becomes clearer as we get closer to the transformation vision.
  • Non-Disruptive & Predictable: Increasing adoption of enterprise application with minimal changes to core functionality of packaged application. Use of standardized out of box application processes to reduce disruptions to business during implementation, upgrades and enhancements.

Enterprises evaluate the choice of adapting their business processes or alternatively making changes to the out of the box application based on multiple considerations. Pros-cons are evaluated by enterprises for making a choice to deploy out of the box applications vis-à-vis making medium to major changes to functionality. Salient considerations for and against customization to out of package functionalities are listed below:

  • Cost, Complexity & Risk: Cost of ownership and risk are key considerations at different stages of enterprise application implementation. Organizations have sometimes customized enterprise application during implementation and subsequent phases to such an extent that maintenance and upgrades are not only complex and costly but may have potential for substantial disruptions. Other organizations have been able to manage a combination of technology and process focus to do better work in this front and reduce complexity of program. The second approach is more cost efficient and reduces risk of disruption.
  • Adaptability & Change: Sometimes complex customizations reduce the ability of the organization to react to changes. Often change management and standardization have been used as  tools to overcome myopic focus. The willingness to adapt and change is the key to successful enterprise transformation.
  • Competitive Advantage: A very basic tenet of standardization is that all processes are standard, but organizations sometimes do things differently to sustain competitive advantages. Process must be evaluated for scalability and relevance. The retention of competitive advantage is a must irrespective of technology consideration.
  • Personalization & Productivity: The last few years have seen giant strides in the concept of personalization in some aspects. Social Media (face book, twitter etc.), mobile computing & personalized entertainment devices lead the pack and prove the point that users place an inordinate amount of emphasis on ease-of-use, and the same holds true for application interfaces too. Personalization, usability & productivity improvements without changing the core is a certain aspect that needs due consideration.

The increasing realization in recent years is that enterprise application projects involve more than just technology. It is an organizational transformation program aimed at creating a scalable, cost efficient and non-disruptive process framework to continually evolve and adjust to changing needs of an enterprise. The illustration below represents the levers and swivels for getting the best of enterprise applications.


Vanilla.jpgThe last few years have seen some changes in the approach of implementing enterprise applications and some of the unmistakable trends include:

  • Vanilla: There is an increasing adoption rate of the vanilla (out-of-box) flavor among enterprise; process change is associated with these programs. Enterprises are having a re-look at the processes and mostly adopting the same to the meet the standards that come with packaged application.
  • Process Harmonization: Harmonization is sometimes being done for processes that has evolved over time and for local or site specific needs. The changes to core functionality and its associated long term impacts are being evaluated keeping scalability, global relevance and competiveness as measuring yard. Benchmarking of similar functions within and across industries is being done to improve efficiency.
  • Empowered Team & Early Communication: Formation of empowered team with executive sponsorship, early involvement of process owners & stake holders, training and communication strategy are key drivers for adoption of change.

Organizations are hence trying to successfully use these levers of process, technology and change management to implement largely vanilla enterprise applications & yet retain cost and process advantage.

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