“You can have any color as long as it’s black,” said Henry Ford in 1909. Clients had a choice, it just happened to be a fairly limited choice. It was until only a few years ago that the same paradigm applied to software; if you wanted to solve problem X then you used program Y and that was that. But like cars, consumers became hungry for variety and choice, and didn’t like to have their choices made for them. Combine that with the natural evolution of technology and computer capabilities, and we suddenly find ourselves awash with choice for whatever problem we’re trying to solve.
But, with choice comes responsibility. You didn’t have to choose your car color, Henry Ford made that choice for you. Now, you risk choosing a car color that your spouse doesn’t like and we probably all know what that means! The same is true of software and systems; companies and IT leaders now carry great responsibility for choosing the right solutions for their organizations. And it’s far easy to make these decisions.
Take for example a company who wants to embark on a new venture, something that requires them to have a whole new IT solution. Do they go to market to find something “off the shelf” that’s a perfect fit? Do they find something that’s close to what they need, and then either customize it to suit the business or change the business to suit the software? Do they develop something in-house and carry the responsibility for lifetime of maintenance? And if they do go down the custom/bespoke route, do they pay consultants to write it or do they build it themselves? Choices, choices, choices.
Let’s look at the Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations application (known to its friends as simply F&O) from Microsoft as an example. Off the shelf, it can perform thousands of regular business processes and it can be configured to fit many business structures. It’s a very capable solution indeed. But every business has its quirks, perhaps through history or perhaps as part of its unique advantage over its competitors, and this is especially true the further up the vertical ladder you climb. And no matter how capable the software is, at some point a client will find something they want to change. But all the choices I mentioned above can all be embraced as required and can all work together. If a company wishes to fly their own flag, they can adopt a low-code/no-code solution such as a Microsoft Power App and build it themselves; not only can this work alongside F&O but it can sit inside it, presenting a rich experience to the business’s users, albeit with perhaps a slightly different user interface between the products. Or a company can customize it through a more traditional “coding” approach, providing a more powerful solution with an even more knitted-together, seamless experience. Or embrace them both as the company evolves.
Companies no longer need to be hemmed into going down a predefined path, they can make the right choices at the right time for them, and they can deviate to a different track if circumstances or preferences change.
The choice is there for the making, and it needn’t always be black.