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Friday, December 31, 2004

Heavy Costs Of IT Customizations

Chad Dickerson writes in Infoworld, IT customizations tend to have stories where this time you will most definitely pay, and probably enough to consider abandoning your one attractive out ride in a custom made car years back .. the customizations are cool when they’re new, but where do you go to fix them when they break!!. Excerpts with heavy edits and my comments added:

A crew of roving salespeople and consultants from an enterprise software company could surprise IT departments that labor under broken down legacy systems -- and customize those systems to perfection, sending a horde of skilled developers to fulfill every desire. The VP of sales wants the CRM system to do something the current CRM system has never done before? It’s all about customization, so it’s done. The CFO wants to operate accounts payable from a Wi-Fi enabled Pocket PC? No problem -- you want it, it can be done, so presto, it’s done. In the heat of the moment, no one thinks about what these one-of-a-kind customizations are going to mean down the road. More often than not, they end in frustration. The consultants finish their custom work, and, to maintain the system, existing staff must fully understand the customizations -- which is difficult and rare -- or else the consulting sun never sets. When the customizations get really close to the software metal, even worse things can happen. I’ve seen cases in which enterprise solutions have undergone such intense customization that the vendor who sold the original software can’t even upgrade the system without consulting engagements that are more expensive than the initial purchase.
Software expert Robert L. Glass notes in his excellent book Facts and Fallacies of Software Engineering that every 25-percent increase in problem complexity results in a 100-percent increase in the complexity of the solution. Smart IT shops should limit unneeded complexity at every turn, choose their customizations carefully, and turn a deaf ear to the siren song of the perfectly customized solution. Remember, when a solution is truly “yours,” it can end up being “yours” in the worst way possible: Your problem My Take: No wonder, that in established IT setups, close to 70% of expense outgo are towards maintenance, infrastructure and resource costs. The whole movement towards packages software hinges on this besides being able to embed superior process and quicker time to deploy COTS applications. Unmindful customisations, owing to limited perpectives and stakeholer traps, increases cost of maintenance and upgradation quite dramatically.

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