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The Future of Enterprise Applications

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I had to blog the last two sessions on paper – there are no power sockets in the hotel (the Palazzo at the Venetian in Las Vegas, conference planners please note) and my battery eventually gave up. So, back in the hotel now, here’s a summary of the notes I took.

Sharyn Leaver presented on the the future of Enterprise Applications. Sharyn began by identifying the success imperatives for Business Process and Applications professionals – these are something Forrester has identified for each of the 9 roles they discuss. These are:

  • Become a more process-centric organization
  • Governance
  • Adopting next generation packages and architectures
  • Continuous improvement of CRM processes and technology
  • Continuous improvement of SCM processes and technology
  • Continuous improvement of HR processes and technology

Her focus in this session was the third – adopting next generation packages. Forrester’s view is that enterprise application vendors will deliver Dynamic Business Applications (of which more tomorrow) or become obsolete. They also feel that only process-centric organizations will really be able to take advantage of these applications.

The last year or two has been full of consolidation in the EA business and upgrades, especially major upgrades, are very much on the mind of Forrester’s customers. Big upgrades are complex decisions and tend to cause customers to re-evaluate their whole application strategy. The EA business continues to be impacted by what Forrester jokingly calls the Four Horsemen:

  • SOA
  • SaaS
  • Open Source
  • Offshore Services

and while the impact of Open Source and Offshore has been limited on EA vendors, SOA and SaaS have caused significant disruption and will continue to do so. However, people still want to buy packaged applications – templates and best practices – and this is not going to change any time soon. That said, customers do find packaged applications too inflexible, too hard to match to requirements, lacking in visibility and inadequate when it comes to supporting cross-functional processes. This leads to the Dynamic Business Applications approach Forrester proposes where applications are Designed for People and Built for Change. Forrester feels that application vendors will make some progress on these but that their business models will make it impossible for them to get all the way there.

  • They will become more people-centric but not good enough to be the primary information workspace for most users
  • They will do better at delivering insights from BI and content management and will support better decision-making
  • They will offer more upfront flexibility and configurability
  • They may be able to offer the kind of continuous improvement capability being demanded but only if they can deliver some business-focused capabilities.
  • Beyond that they will need to rely on their ecosystems

Oracle, she feels, has an edge in building for change thanks to its platform products while SAP has an edge in being more process-centric (though it’s build for change platform is a weakness). The changing market dynamics do leave an opportunity for smaller application vendors outside the “big 4” if they focus on tangible business results in verticals or even “micro verticals”. In addition, BPM vendors can use frameworks to compete effectively (Pegasystems’ CRM framework for instance) and service providers may be able to compete by offering “last mile” applications. She ended up with some conclusions and a recommendation:

  • Solutions will increasingly be focused on, and named after, processes and results
  • There will be more subscription and process-based pricing
  • User led consortia will take the lead in defining best practices in processes
  • Companies must up their “process IQ” to take advantage of all this change.
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  • Dave Wright May 22, 2008, 7:35 pm

    “Next Generation”. It may not be Star Trek, but it will do.   When will see some of this coming to market?