Many organizations are struggling with their application landscape. It has evolved to a situation where everything is connected and where just maintaining daily operations consumes a massive portion of the available budget. This leaves precious little funding for improvements and innovations. And this is translating into a new trend:  VANILLA ONLY!!!

what happened?

Not so many years ago the implementation of a software package was mostly seen as a platform for a customized solution.

The notorious 80/20 would apply: 80% out of the box 20% organization specific. And quite often a large proportion of that 20% would be quite invasive, impacting every standard feature that came out of the box. In those days IT budgets were more plentiful than they are today, and the coverage of the systems were significantly smaller than they are in the iPad era. Technology and philosophy have taken significant leaps, introducing SOA, canonical data models, BPEL, and hybrid solutions, mixing multiple generations into one.

Organizations have been depending on their fitted and tailored standard solutions for over a decade, making many smaller changes to both the technical solution as well as the data underlying the truth. The most extremes I have seen are on one side a fixed assets revaluation that was only in the screen logic, and sedimentary datafixes to cover up datamigration mistakes, one fix requiring the next, until a Gordian datastructure has developed that demands either a complete new data renovation (i.e. remove, cleanup and import again), or yet another layer of datafixes…. Just to make it to the next reporting period. And I’m not even going towards the documentation disaster  evolved applications imply.

In modern times budgets are not as plentiful as they used to be. Oracle is slowly no longer developing their (to be) desupported solutions for new generic requirements. To meet these new requirements a difficult upgrade is required. Or, for short term relief, yet another custom solution.

towards vanilla

Where previously many flavours of vanilla were to be distinguished, vanilla is currently actually meaning really plain vanilla. No more customized solutions.
Oracle is recognizing the competitive downside. More configuration possibilities are introduced through rules engines and personalizations. Quite often customizations are defined by what screen or tool is used. Anything through the GUI is functional and therefore a configuration; anything requiring the coding of an object or direct database access is considered technical and therefore a customization.

Interestingly enough this puts the rules engines (like AME and SLA) in the twilightzone. And as tempting as the possibilities of these engines are, please: use with the utmost discretion!
One of the challenges we face is to take an existing environment into our care that has a significant evolution. A decade of datafixes and customized tweaks have yielded a user-centric solution that is next to impossible to maintain in a standard way.

how can we help

We sell a service… In an ongoing maintenance deal  and under certain conditions we actually include it for free. We clean up. We sweep the streets in an organized fashion, we clean the pavement, repair the potholes, paint the subway and we clean up. And the more leeway our clients give us, the more we clean up.  We take the customizations and we re-challenge them. We review the intended business purpose and we look for standard alternatives. And if the business purpose just can’t be covered by standard, we look for a justifiable uniqueness: does it add value for the business. And if this is the case we replace it with a best practice solution, leveraging the tools that weren’t available at the time the original solution was put in place, and we make sure the new solution is properly documented and maintainable.

This way we achieve multiple benefits.
•    The client environment becomes more predictable and often better performing
•    We need to spend less effort in sustaining the required business functions
•    At some point in time upgrading suddenly becomes an option again, where previously reimplementation was the only way out…

Pure Vanilla

Going through the RFPs I have seen come over my desk in the past years, all of them have a common component. Vanilla only.  It really is the best flavour around.

Henk Vermeulen, Lead Consultant Oracle Financials.