Too often, enterprises approach a business application deployment as a discrete project (or discrete sets of projects - one for customer relationship management, one for enterprise resource planning and one for supply chain management) that begins with the acquisition of software and ends with going live. These discrete projects maintain limited scopes. As a consequence, they limit an enterprise's ability to adequately plan for other life cycle issues that must be addressed when dealing with packaged applications as a set of business applications.
Enterprises have invested heavily in business applications - acquiring, implementing and owning them to provide efficiency and value to business processes and users. Interestingly, acquisition and implementation costs constitute less than 30 percent of total ownership costs during a five-year period. At the same time, the life cycle stages that occur after implementation are often understaffed or ignored. Enterprises must address the full application life cycle to best control spending and obtain the most from their investments.
As the application portfolio expands and these applications become more interdependent, it will be increasingly difficult for users to address each application as a discrete implementation initiative. Enterprises must view the selection and implementation of packaged applications as the start of a robust business application life cycle, as opposed to regarding them as discrete projects that are "done" after they go live. Despite the market focus and effort placed on the implementation process, business and IS organization users often find the post-implementation stage of the business application life cycle to be just as difficult as the implementation. Little effort is given to building post-implementation support models, which means that upgrades, functional enhancements and system changes are often more challenging to execute than the implementation process itself.
Functional enhancements typically address the addition of new business processes and modules to the current live system, as well as business acquisitions and mergers. All of these factors contribute to overall life cycle costs and must be considered during the vision and planning stage of the life cycle. The availability of outsourcing options adds another decision point and potential layer of complexity to most of the stages of the life cycle.
To better prepare for "life after implementation," as well as other business application issues, enterprises should think in terms of a business application life cycle, as depicted in Figure 1.