Monday, March 27, 2006

Bring on the Balkanization!

For years now we've been told about the benefits of combining functionality in an effort to do more with less. This has been especially common in the world of software development where once scattered systems now fall under the umbrella of a single system. Generally, this has meant greater functionality at a lower price. I myself have done this with various web components albeit on a much smaller scale. This trend is referred to as Walmartization and socioeconomic considerations aside, it will continue to have a large impact on software development for some time to come.

Yet despite the good intentions companies may have in providing an all-in-one solution, there are some things that simply cannot be predicted as a need when developing the software. More of a hinderance still, they cannot engineer a product so generalized as to allow somebody to easily add powerful features without requiring a basic knowledge of information sciences. The closest I've seen to this laudable goal is the Google Mini which utilizes XSLT so that a customer can render their results however they'd like.

Reality does not seem to faze large software companies though, or the managers with large budgets who purchase from them. Case in point, I am currently at an impasse with management over the direction of our customer portal. While I fully believe that an integrated back end is a great idea, I also feel that our front end should be controlled by us. The customization that has gone into our current product in just over a year is extreme and to expect a vendor to match it would be overreaching to say the least. Not to mention that we are at the whim of our marketing department which expects changes in days, not the months-long timescale vendors commonly adhere to.

For this reason I say bring on the Balkanization! One piece of software shouldn't do everything. Some tasks are just too specialized to incorporate into a product meant for widespread use. Add onto that the fact that IT organizations often serve departments which expect changes quickly and you can see why such control would be better placed in-house.

No comments: