A solution is a collection of business processes and data that allow the business to complete functions such as sell a product, process an insurance claim, or manage a payroll. Modeling the process and data required by the solution provides a logical representation of the portfolio of business applications needed to run and manage a business. This provides the necessary context when buying an ‘off the shelf’ solution.
Best case, you’ll have one Business Application for each Solution. In a large company, you’ll typically find many business applications supporting one logical business function. The more complex or specialized the function, the more likely you’ll see multiple Business Applications for one logical Solution.
For example, you’re less likely to find multiple payroll systems at a company than you are claim processing systems. In fact, a company like ADP exists because a payroll solution is so well understood. But even with a solution such as ADP, customizations like adding a company logo or specialized deductions for company specific purposes are still needed. To properly evaluate any vendor solution you need to have an inventory of all the applications currently providing the logical solution.
Beware when you hear, “We’re going to implement this solution ‘off the shelf’, no customizations!” Three months into the project you will be wondering why does the solution require so much customization. Unexpected customization will delay the project and drive up costs.
Understanding what a solution is goes a long way towards explaining why ‘off the shelf’ solutions are customized. The solution you purchased is the instantiation of a vendor’s vision of the business processes and data. In order to sell the product to multiple companies, it has to be generic. You’ll soon realize that you need to modify this generic solution to accommodate how your company is actually organized and does business. Translation – you need to customize the product you just purchased ‘off the shelf’. Most likely, the customization of the software is what differentiates your company from your competitors.
Setting the right customization expectations
You can minimize customizations by comparing the logical model of your business processes and data to the default processes and data included in each vendor’s solution. Then choose the solution that most closely matches your company’s solution. Being aware of the gaps in the vendor’s solution allows you to set the right expectations for customization. Not knowing can be disastrous!