Question: can packaged apps join the 'Lean IT' bandwagon?

Home-grown apps can never be 'lean.' But neither can packaged apps.

Answer: It depends if you wear a ponytail.

Sandy Kemsley has been providing wall-to-wall coverage of the Forrester Business Technology Forum in Chicago, and picked up on an interesting panel discussion on the role of packaged applications in Lean IT. (Lean IT is the theme of Forrester's confab.)

Sandy's reports on Forrester BTF are a good read for anyone trying to get their heads around the concept of "Lean IT."  (She starts here with her series.) I mean, isn't that what we've been trying to do for the past 20 years anyway? (Not that things have turned out that "Lean" yet. We'll see if it works this time around.)

According to Sandy's report, Forrester's John Rymer argued that "packaged apps can never be Lean, since most are locked down, closed engines where the vendor controls the architecture, they’re expensive and difficult to upgrade, they use more functions than customers use, they provide a single general UI for all user personas, and each upgrade includes more crap that you don’t need."

Chip Gliedman, a Forrester analyst, argued the opposite side, stating that the opposite of packaged apps -- custom-grown apps -- are just about as bloated and klunky as you can get. You need packaged apps to pave the way to Lean IT. Sandy quotes Chip as "pointing out that you just can’t build the level of functionality that a packaged application provides, and there can be data and integration issues once you abandon the wisdom of a single monolithic system that holds all your data and rules."

I like Sandy's summary of the whole thing: "Clearly, Gliedman is either insane or a secret plant from [insert large enterprise vendor name here], and Rymer is an incurable coder who probably has a ponytail tucked into his shirt collar. :) Nonetheless, an entertaining discussion."