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Does Rapid Application Development Mean the end of Enterprise Solutions?

Investing in new technologies to modernize the way an organization operates not only improves its efficiency, but it also improves the efficacy of the organization’s mission through the empowerment of its leadership and employees. But how do we empower an organization without creating a “wild, wild, west” of siloed solutions? Is rapid application development the death of enterprise solutions?

Think of any software, platform, or tool that has changed over the years and the effect it’s had on the way we do business: from the Brother Word Processor to Microsoft Word, paper mail to email, applications you needed to install on a computer to, thanks to the Internet, any web-based software that twenty years ago you could only purchase at your local office supply store. Lastly, we had applications used to improve work that required you to attend a one week, “death by slideshow” training, followed by non-real world scenario labs to “learn”, in order to help employees shave 5 minutes off the time it takes to process a 2-week workflow.

Today, there are a host of customizable, commercial off-the-shelf technologies that allow users to leverage a single platform and rapidly customize robust and functional tools for doing their day-to-day jobs. While the more complex of solutions may require some coding, most solutions can provide at least 80% of a requirement to be useful, right out-of-the-box. Tasha, in HR, develops an approval workflow to collaborate with her colleagues to draft new policies for the organization. Damien, develops an invoice processing solution that has cut vendor payment turnaround time in half and all but eliminated late or missed payments to disgruntled vendors.

We love the ingenuity and attitude of employees like Damien and Tasha. But what happens when you have 25, 50, or 100 “Tashas” and “Damiens”, creating solutions all over the organization? Some are documented. Most are not. Some use best practices and follow a software development methodology. Most do not. Are there 20 other departments with similar tools used for invoice processing or relatively the same thing? The entire HR department now relies on the workflow solution Tasha designed, but she has resigned and it stopped working two weeks after she left. Now what?

Investing in modernizing your organization is paramount to its evolution. Cloud platforms that allow us to save time on code reviews, IT support, or expensive operations and maintenance may be the best invention to happen since the computer itself. However, “quick and easy” solutions should not be done at the expense of dismissing proven best approaches like,

1) documenting your design approach and illustrate their alignment with the requirements

2) designating a backup person with administrative privileges to maintain the solution in your absence,

3) developing enterprise solutions with a holistic approach that proves beneficial for all or that may be only slightly tweaked with minimal effort for another department or team, and last but not least,

4) establishing governance upfront on how and by whom the platform will be used.

Organizations can expend a lot more time, money, and resources than the IT investment itself when governance is not in place to manage how a software platform is used across the entire enterprise. It is possible to maximize your IT investment, increase efficiency, and empower your people at the same time.

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