>Customization and Enterprise Architecture

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While User-centric EA seeks to provide useful and useable products and services to the end-user, the heavy customization of major application systems to meet user needs is a huge mistake. Major customization of IT systems is a killer: it is a killer of the application and a killer of the underlying business processes.


What do I mean? When you heavily customize an application system (and I am not talking about changing settings), you do the following:
  • You greatly increase the implementation cost of the system, since you have now added all sorts of modifications to the system.
  • You greatly increase you maintenance burden, because new versions of the software often will need to be recoded.
  • You hamper the ability of the system to interoperate with other systems that it was designed to work with (even when it is built with open standards), since you have tinkered and tweaked away at it.
  • You missed one of the biggest opportunities to improve and reengineer your business processes; instead of aligning your business processes with those identified (by usually hundreds, if not thousands of other organizations) as best practices and written into the software, you have made your enterprise the odd man out and overwrote the best practices in the application system with your specific way of doing things. That’s a big no-no.

Let’s face it, most (and there are exceptions to every rule) organizations at their fundamental “business” (not mission) practices are often close to identical. Areas like finance, human capital, and even IT and considered utilities to the organization. These areas are often run in ways to exploit enterprise solutions for large organizations (for example, one timekeeping system, one payroll system, or one general ledger system ) and these functions are the first to be looked at for integration and downsizing on the corporate side during mergers and acquisitions.

Instead of insisting that your processes are so different, see why others are doing it another way and whether there is merit in it, before you go and customize and chip-away at the system—you may be doing yourself more harm than good. Generally (and there are exceptions to every rule), you’re better off changing business processes to meet widely used and verified software.

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