Standardize or customize? That’s an old debate in soft ware. The
traditional answer was: customize as far as possible, or at least evaluate case
to case. And that was because businesses varied, and no ready tools exactly
fitted that business.
Well, that hasn’t changed. Business processes still vary. What has changed
is the mantra. It’s simple: As far as possible, standardize. If en existing
application more or less fits you needs, but you have some processes that are
different, change your business processes. If your HRD follows some complex
manual process for appraisals, and a Lotus Notes-based off-the-shelf system is
completely different, don’t look for developing a package to fit your old
process as the only answer. Consider changing your process completely.
The reasons are simple, and several. Standard software is cheaper and quicker
to deploy–the difference is between weeks to months, versus months to years
for custom software. Standard software is stable: it’s been tested elsewhere,
without making your business process the guinea-pig. And it is usually based on
business experts’ views and best processes from many organizations. That
off-the-shelf HRD package probably reflects an HRD system far superior to your
company’s. Finally, upgrades and improvements and much easier and cheaper, and
interoperability with software in other departments far more likely.
Most support calls relate to software. Standardizing desktop software makes support a lot easier, reduces cost and allows interoperability and integration. Even for enterprise or business apps, today’s mantra says: try using standard apps. Change your business process a bit if you have to. You’ll gain.
It helps also to go for limited application areas, after carefully weighing
how long it could take to get return on investment. When the ERP wave set in,
many companies splurged crores on them. Most of the ERP packages that were
introduced during the early days were bulky and contained many features that
weren’t even required by everyone. The result: implementation ran into several
months, incurred huge costs and did not get any significant benefits. Finally,
you may not be able to realize major benefits very quickly: it can take a long
time for benefits to be quantified and visible in some systems. In others, for
instance in the BPCL e-business system described in this issue (page 88), impact
could be quick and clear: a 12-day process that drops to two days flat.
Customize, only if you must
Customize, only if you must
Product and Prices
|Office Suites for Desktops
MS Office 2000 Prof CD Rs 17,500
Lotus SmartSuite Millenium 9.0 CD Rs 5,500
For Design Companies
|(The list does not cover all the products in the segment. To give you an idea, we have mentioned some best selling products for various applications.)|
As the business grows, your needs expand and new technology comes in, there
may be a need to customize and improve. As any enterprise cannot stand still and
survive. Most companies treat software as a one-off kind of activity like buying
hardware. They fail to realize that buying and implementing software is a
journey–not a destination. They feel the software vendor is going to drive the
implementation. This is not true: the implementation has to be driven by the
user organization, and relentlessly, over a period of time.
Avoid multiple vendors
Using multiple solutions should not mean having multiple vendors. More number
of vendors not only causes chaos among the users, but also creates problems in
integration. And while dealing with bugs and upgrades you will also have to seek
support from various sources, which again increases confusion. Besides,
standardization of software across the entire organization would mean large
number of users for a single vendor, who would then be more eager to provide
Package software purchases are another area where standardization is a great
help–and where it often is not done. Office suites, for instance, often vary
across PCs: some use Office, others SmartSuite; some use Eudora, others Outlook.
This can be a support nightmare, for most support calls in companies are about
software. Standardize the application: Your company’s hardware may vary a bit
(or a lot), but software cannot afford to vary.
The big challenge for many is legalization. Clearly, using copied software is
illegal, and becomes more dangerous as your organization grows. Support, too, is
easier with standardized legal software.
But how do you legalize when you have a mass of varied software? Here are
some simple steps:
Acknowledge the problem;
Audit your PCs:
what software do they have? How much is legal;
circulate a policy: no illegal software on your company’s PCs; no
unauthorized software to be copied or downloaded;
As the first
step, clean up all systems of non-essential software, including downloads,
business applications. There would be just one or two such apps per PC; and
If you can’t
legalize in one sweep, work out a legalization schedule. For instance:
Quarter 1: All operating systems to be legalized. Quarter 2: At least one
legal copy of each package per workgroup. Quarter 3: Each PC to have at
least one legal OS and one legal application. Quarter 4: All apps legal. (Of
course, you may get a better deal if you’re able to buy all the licenses
in one sweep. But don’t count on it–mutli-license deals in India are not
Do I need consultants?
Nobody knows your business better than you do. So, when it comes to assessing
enterprise needs, setting on revenue targets and business plans, you are the
best judge. But when it comes to software planning and development, a technology
consultant can help, especially if you are going for a large-scale deployment.
A DQ report