Bend me, shape me: cloud applications not always as agile as hoped, survey suggests

Half of cloud and Software as a Service users express the same frustrations that on-premises packaged software users have been voicing for years.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer on

One of the longstanding criticisms over decades of enterprise software implementations is that the solutions introduce rigidity, requiring that business processes be bent and contorted to the software, and not vice versa. Those frustrations helped fuel the rise of web services, service oriented architecture, microservices, and cloud services, which essentially serve as end-runs around hard-to-shape solutions.

However, the frustration continues, as it appears that even cloud-based enterprise software isn't providing the agility that enterprises crave.

That's the gist of a recent survey of more than 500 executives from TrackVia, in which most say their businesses need to continually alter operations to accommodate current software solutions. A majority even say the limitations of their software programs have dented their company's growth.

More than 80 percent of executives have had to change a part of their daily operations to match the way their software works, the survey finds. At least 76 percent say they have replaced enterprise software programs entirely, because they needed updates or customization made that their vendor could not execute, or the software itself couldn't accommodate.

While migration to the cloud or Software as a Service (SaaS) "addresses some of the distribution and financing hurdles associated with enterprise software, it is not fully resolving some of the more fundamental end-user challenges," the survey's authors state. That is, they still need to contort things to make it all fit. Seventy-two percent indicate they use SaaS-based solutions to some degree, but half this group states they are having difficulties integrating cloud-based solutions into other systems, and that these solutions are forcing adaptation of business processes as well. More than one-fifth cite lack of customization as an issue with cloud or SaaS.

With public cloud and SaaS, a challenge is that offerings are often designed for mass audiences, with low levels of customization. This is fine for many common across-the-board business functions, such as purchasing or inventory tracking, but many enterprises have their competitive secret sauce embedded in the logic of higher-end applications which are likely still on-premises, such as an insurer's rate-calculation engine.

The survey and report examined rising attitudes toward a new category of software commonly referred to as "low-code" application platforms. While TrackVia, as a provider of low-code software, has a horse in this race, the longtime loathing of enterprise software means the situation is ripe for simpler, faster approaches that don't pile obligations on already stressed-out IT departments. .

Nearly one in three executives surveyed are already leveraging low-code technology and another 43 percent say they are interested in low-code technology, the survey finds.

So, is low-code enterprise software the solution, as the survey's authors suggest? That may be part of it. The survey doesn't mention containers, APIs, or pre-built open source community solutions, which also offer ways to focus on business applications without getting mired in the plumbing underneath. Either way, enabling end-users to run with new ideas and seek out new information within a secure and supported framework will definitely free up IT for the bigger challenges ahead, such as moving forward with digital strategies, and serving a brokerage role for dispensing both cloud and on-premises-based services.

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Taking out or abstracting away complexity helps, of course. But enterprise technology by itself doesn't deliver overnight success, as is often pitched. Dropping even the latest and greatest digital transformation package on top of a calcified, bureaucratic, hierarchical organization will not deliver results -- it will only mean more bending, shaping and shoehorning of creaky processes, making them even creakier. Organizations needs to evolve first, into more forward-thinking cultures open to innovation -- and bring in the technology that supports that vision.

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