Thank you for checking out Part 2 of 4 of our Evolution of Modern Work series. If you’re just tuning in, check out Part 1 – The Good Ole Days, where we introduced the pre-Digital Revolution concept of work and how it fundamentally transformed with the introduction of digital technology. Today, we explore 2 phases of Enterprise Work Management that aimed to address the challenges of modern work but didn’t quite get us there.
Enterprise Work Management 1.0
Organizations adopted one of two approaches in hopes of harnessing the power of IT to adapt to the new world of work: behemoth proprietary solutions or rigid and complex custom development.
The behemoth solutions offered a wholesale approach – covering commonplace business functions like Human Resources, Finance, Marketing, and more – and customization through configuration. The singular platform was beneficial in that it anchored the organization – in the same way, the conference room did in The Good Ole Days – with a common frame of reference for strategy, priorities, and changing conditions.
But the solutions were “an inch deep and a mile wide,” offering “good enough” business process automation. And because these big-box solutions were once seen as the linchpin to the modern work conundrum, vendors were able to – and even to this day in many organizations – lock buyers into expensive, complex licensing agreements.
The custom development option offered more customization but at the expense of “recreating the wheel” for very common, fundamental features and functions. Custom development was also time/resource intensive; and in particular, during the Waterfall days, development could take months if not longer – and then, often failed to meet the intent of business requirements defined much earlier in the software development life cycle.
Both options offered pros and cons, but neither achieved what organizations were truly after: a common frame of reference for work across the organization, configured with the fundamental business processes and configurable for the unique nuances of the organization.
Enterprise Work Management 2.0: Best of breed Systems
Enter the era of best of breeds: in the “there’s an app for that” age, we’ve seen SaaS companies with deep understanding of a specific business function (e.g. Human Resources, Finance, etc.) developing highly customizable solutions built on a solid foundation of out-of-the-box functionality for optimizing the automation of common business processes.
Rather than recreate the wheel, organizations can use the SaaS foundation as a springboard for optimizing their business processes and automation, and then customize as needed through codeless or code-lite configuration. Best of breed systems also enable a modular technology ecosystem. Modularity has two benefits:
- Swap-In, Swap-Out Agility: Technology evolves rapidly and in the same way that an organization doesn’t want to be beholden to one of the wholesale platforms, it shouldn’t be obliged to stick with a best of breed when a better best in breed emerges.
- Best (Fit) of Breed: The implied meaning of best of breed is something along the lines of “this is the best system for X of all the systems that do X”. In that context, one might visit a Gartner Magic Quadrant report to find the Leaders in a particular area – these are the best of breeds.
But best of breed can also mean the best fit. An organization may need the Leader for a customer relationship management system but may need a Niche Player product for its contract management system because of its business model. Best of breed modularity allows organizations to pick and choose the right tools for their business needs, budget, risk-appetite, etc.
In some cases, best of breeds have received a bad rap for creating functional silos. There are two reasons for the accusation:
- Technology Sprawl: or the uncontrolled proliferation of technology within an organization, is an environment where best of breed solutions thrive: someone identifies a need, finds a simple app to fulfill the need, and installs the app – no questions are asked. In more recent years, the IT community at large has a collective light-bulb moment that technology sprawl was not the fault any particular technology, but of missing enterprise IT governance – where needs and proposed solutions for those needs are evaluated in a much more holistic context before decisions are made and acted upon.
- Limited Integrations: Until more recently, the technical agility for connecting a nearly infinite number of apps and applets was nonexistent. If organizations wanted to connect systems, custom integrations were the only option. But that’s no longer the case…
Stay tuned for Part 3 of our Evolution of Modern Work series, where we uncover that best of Breeds systems, when paired with intelligent integrations and something called an Operational System of Record, is the answer to the challenges of modern work. Catching up? Read part 1 – The Good Ole Days