Life Cycle Mgmt: A case for Enterprise Software

As product life cycles are getting shorter for the critical enterprise, a lot of companies in recent past have invested heavily in maintaining and upgrading their Enterprise solutions to the more acceptable versions, or shall I put it bluntly, to the supported versions by the vendors.

By taking the imperial study numbers, any product / technology adoption sector is divided into 5 types of players.

  1. Innovators: Who are on top of their game and they drive the Market dynamics. Generally assisted by strong Research facilities either of their own or by affiliation, they bring new technology, standards or products to the market and rest follow them.
  2. Early Adopters: These are the group of companies, who follow the trends very closely as their own services or offering are dependent on the latest product or technology bases. Reason for them to be the early Adopters are usually highly reduced Time-To-Market to their products or to capture early market share and establish themselves as big players for future.
  3. Early Majority: These are the companies with strong market sense and they are the ones who identify the changing dynamics of the market game by the technology players. They are usually the companies with high end user touch points and they are the ones who get the benefits of moving with the market. This segment of companies makes a new technology mainstream.
  4. Late Majority: These are the cautious ones. They wait for a technology to get stable and wait for others to adopt it first and mature it for them. They have high sensitivity of downtimes, hence the cautious approach for the technology. These enterprises maintain systems that are highly mission critical or can afflict deep impact to the market in general if their systems fail.
  5. Laggards: Many of these are the super cautious types, just like late majority but are very risk averse or in many cases companies who give IT adoption to the lowest value fall in this category, but in many cases being ultra-cautious is not the reason. They could be plain simple lazy to adopt the technology and are only pushed towards it when the existing technology goes out of Support by respective vendors.

The figure below reflects the percentage of these companies as compared to each other.

In many cases we’ve noticed that Banks are the ones which fall in the category of Late Majority or Laggards, as their systems are highly inflexible to migration and carry huge dependencies on old systems (like Mainframes or AS/400s). There is still a sentiment of not touching the working logic of COBOL and make workarounds for piggy backing that logic and create plugins in new technology to provide additional content / context enrichment.

Banks in particular are facing a lot of these Life cycle issues, as the concept of Life cycle management was quite loose as far as Proprietary systems were concerned. IBM, Sun & HP were the primary vendors for many of these banks. It was vendor’s headache to deal with ageing hardware, keep pace with software patches and keeping the application software supported. But with the introduction of flexibility of managing infrastructure as a bit part solution brought the overhead of managing each component to the in-house IT department of these banks, who has no or limited maturity in devising an overall infrastructure strategy.

Furthermore, IT as a Service model with in these banks have alienated the application development team to have an exposure towards the infrastructure layer of things and the way IT faces of to its business users, they are not able to present the holistic demands of the overall requirements of the IT puzzle. They try to sell only the solution business wants at that point in time and it’s future support and infrastructure bit is left in the grey area.

Past few years regulators have tightened the noose on the financial sector in particular and in an attempt to bring in tighter processes around IT have exposed such gaps. Managing the life cycle is now added to the standard list of IT tasks and needs to be funded by the business users and that’s where the conflict surfaces.

Business users in many cases align such expenses under a different bucket and now this shuffle have left many of them with bad taste as it eats up their bottom lines, and blame comes to IT in general for not delivering as promised.

Industry is still evolving and jury is still out to see how the ever shortening product life cycle will further impact these organisations. It’s high time we come up with more out of the box solution that should keep IT Infrastructure and IT Application / Product development in sync, else IT will soon lose its competitive edge and may become a necessary burden to be carried by the corporations around the globe.

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