Forrester Day 1: Packaged Applications panel

We finished up the day with a panel of Forrester analysts addressing the issue of whether packaged applications (i.e., ERP software) will ever be designed for people and built for change — that is, can these apps ever be agile. This was structured as a debate monitored by Merv Adrian, pitting Sharyn Leaver on the business side against John Rymer on the IT development side.

Adrian started by repeating the four principles of dynamic business applications that Connie Moore discussed this morning, then framed some questions for the packaged application version:

  • Will packaged applications contextualize work using unitary but dynamic workplaces?
  • Will packaged applications enable up-front customization to meet unique customer needs? (The feeling is that apps will be customizable “at the edges” only in order to allow for future upgrades/agility)
  • Will packaged applications enable ongoing adaptation for continuous business evolution? (Yeah, right)
  • Will packaged applications allow development and change by business people and IT professionals in cooperation?

Leaver and Rymer duked it out over each question, providing some really interesting viewpoints. It wasn’t exactly impromptu; each question had at least one backup presentation slide from one of them to make their point. They ended up with a slide comparing the four application biggies: Oracle, SAP, Microsoft and IBM.

From my standpoint, this was the least interesting presentation of the day, since I don’t focus on packaged applications, although it was an interesting “he said, she said” debate format. The general agreement is that the gap is narrowing between build and buy+customize, but that most customers will still require customization for competitive differentiation.

Tom Pohlmann popped back up at the end of the day with some closing remarks, then directed us off to the vendor showcase reception and the pool party. Given that it’s only 21C here in Carlsbad — compared to a balmy 28C back in Toronto (even though it’s already after dark there) — I don’t think that anyone’s going swimming tonight. Since I’m still on Eastern time, I’ll probably be asleep by 9pm again tonight.

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