Flexible pursuits

Software is a core business asset whose effective management is vital to modern corporate well being, and a potential source of competitive edge. However, while enterprise software managers also agree that bespoke projects offer the greatest potential return on investment, the complexity and expense of software development and integration remains an obstacle to business change.

These are some of the key conclusions from Information Age’s recent survey of enterprise software policy, sponsored by connectivity and integration software company DataDirect Technologies. Based on the responses of 642 senior IT professionals, the survey shows that whilst the value that UK businesses place on software infrastructure has never been higher, most companies are still not confident of their ability to maximise this investment.

Certainly, support for the proposition, “Software is a core business asset and the effective management of software assets is vital to the corporate well-being of my organisation”, could hardly have been higher. Asked to indicate their agreement on a scale of one to five, where one indicated strong disagreement and five indicated very strong agreement, 51.4% of respondents agreed very strongly, and a further 34.6% agreed strongly.

Agreement with the statement, “An enterprise software infrastructure that can be easily adapted to changing business needs would be a source of significant competitive edge to any organisation”, was almost equally emphatic. More than 80% of respondents offer either strong or very strong support for this statement.

Yet, despite this widespread conviction that enterprise software has a strategic, enabling role to play in the success of modern business, the survey also highlighted the lingering mistrust that IT professionals have in the ability of software technology – and software suppliers – to fully meet their business needs.

Over the past year, according to 30% of respondents, the category of enterprise software that has delivered the greatest business benefits to their organisation was bespoke systems developed in-house. This helps to explain why more than 54% of respondents agreed either strongly or very strongly with the proposition that the “acquisition and retention of an in-house software development and/or integration capability is essential” to corporate well-being.

This support still falls short of being a ringing vote of confidence in software development and integration as a key business process, but it is stronger than the support offered for other areas of the enterprise software realm – particularly the enterprise package software sector. Although corporate enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM) suites, and business integration tools were each cited as software categories to have delivered the greatest benefits in the past 12 months, they were equally likely to be cited as the elements that delivered the least. CRM, indeed, was ranked the most productive software investment by 16% of respondents, and the least productive by 17%.

ERP and CRM will continue to grab the lion’s share of software investment at 12% and 14% of organisations respectively, and a further 13% of respondents plan to make integration technologies their top priority. Bespoke systems development will be the major software expense at 22% of organisations – however, this figure excludes the 11% of respondents who said that service-oriented architecture (SOA) projects would be their chief investment focus over the months to come.

This explicit support for SOA is clearly still a minority interest, but it is a significant one. Although 43% of respondents say they still have no plans to adopt SOA practices, the 31% that have already done so have much success to report. In most cases, SOA adoption is credited with having accelerated in-house systems integration projects and simplified the task of integrating with external systems. Other respondents talk of cost reductions connected with code reuse, improved time to market, and a reductive effect on the total cost of ownership of the software estate. All that points to a new confidence in software by IT professionals: while old limitations may not be going away, they are at least being progressively diluted.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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