You can't always get what you want....

“You can’t always get what you want.” The famous words from the Rolling Stones ring true when organisations acquire packaged solutions “off the shelf”.

Here is an analysis of what happens when an organisation has a legacy system it wants to replace with an “off the shelf” solution. There are three basic things to consider:
  1. What the organisation has right now, in terms of the capabilities the system offers
  2. What the organisation wants from a new system, often with updated capabilities, streamlined processes, support for new channels, etc.
  3. What the organisation actually gets from the new application it acquires off the shelf.

Let’s analyse the gap between what the organisation already has and what it wants. The gap between the two will depend on how big a business transformation the organisation is taking on. It is likely, however, that there will be at least some capability that the organisation currently has that it will want to retain. The figure below illustrates that there will be some overlap between what the organisation currently has and what it wants. Of course, there will be some legacy capability it will no longer be interested in, while there will be new capabilities required.

It’s reasonable to expect that where the business transformation is large the overlap will be smaller, and where the change is small the overlap will be greater.

Now, let’s analyse the relationship between what the organisation wants and what it will get off the shelf. It’s logical to conclude that what the organisation wants and what the organisation gets won’t match perfectly. There will be some kind of misalignment or gap between expectations and reality. The figure below demonstrates this:

The extent to which the two circles overlap will depend on lots of factors and obviously the more they overlap the better. However, no one should realistically expect that the two will exactly match each other. There will always be capabilities that the organisation wants that it will not get off the shelf. There will also be capabilities or functions it will get that it really isn’t interested in.

Now, let’s put it altogether and see what happens:

As you can see, it’s a bit more complex than it might have appeared originally. Obviously, the shape of this diagram is going to vary based on the organisation, the size and type of business transformation and other influences. However, there are a number of constants that are apparent.

Let’s look at what you will get. You will get some of what you want that you already have and want to keep. That’s a good thing. New capabilities that will replace your old ones and will hopefully do it more efficiently and effectively.

You will also get some of what you want that you do not have already. This is also a good thing. You want those new capabilities that were out of your grasp previously.

However, there are a couple of problems. You are also likely to retain some of the capabilities that you no longer want and you are likely to get some capability that you don’t have and don’t want.

Worse than that, you will NOT get some of the things you want, and you will lose some of the things you have and want to retain.

That’s right, “you can’t always get what you want.”



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Written By: Information Professionals Associate Partner - Tim Hosking 

Tim is a senior business and information architect with wide experience in the private and public sector. His private sector experience is almost entirely in the finance sector, including Bankers Trust, Commonwealth Bank, Sydney Futures Exchange, Commercial Union (now part of CGU), and National Mutual Life Assocation (now Axa). His public sector experience has been with NSW Police Force, Police Integrity Commission, Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), and Australian Taxation Office (ATO). Tim has completed the ITMP program at UTS - Master of Business (IT Management) with special focus on research into enterprise architecture.

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