Why businesses still hate enterprise software

Forrester survey shows the 5 top reasons why your big-bucks apps are so unloved

Got issues? Enterprise software sure does. That's according to a new report from Forrester Research's principal analyst Paul Hamerman, appropriately titled "Enterprise Apps Customers Have Issues."

What issues, you might ask? Respondents to the 2009 survey on business process and applications pros from 111 enterprises cite their top five:

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1. High cost of ownership: 91 percent of respondents said it was a "significant" or "very significant" business problem. "We believe that the concerns related to cost of ownership are primarily due to the installations of on-premises packaged applications, where internal support requirements and vendor maintenance contracts are a significant burden to IT shops, often causing other projects to take the back seat," Hamerman says.

2. Difficult upgrades: 87 percent said it was a "significant" or "very significant" business problem. "While upgrading the packaged apps will extend their useful life and provide relief from vendor-imposed version support deadlines, the upgrade process itself is often disruptive and expensive," Hamerman says.

3. Poor cross-functional processes: 86 percent said it was a "significant" or "very significant" business problem. "The issue results from the fact that enterprise applications have been designed and implemented as functional modules, whereas the real end-to-end processes span multiple business functions," Hamerman says.

4. What the apps deliver doesn't match business requirements: 80 percent said it was a "significant" or "very significant" business problem. "While packaged applications are mature in many of the core ERP areas (such as finance, procurement, and HR), most customers still find gaps that must be addressed via customization or workarounds," Hamerman says.

5. Inflexibility limits process change. Of the respondents, 75 percent said it was a "significant" or "very significant" business problem. "Inflexibility tends to be more acute in older legacy packages, as well as modern packages that have technically complex tools for workflow and business rules configuration," Hamerman says.

Gee. That's it?

The staggering intensity of dissatisfaction, coupled with the idea that enterprise software is a not just an IT concern but a real business problem, doesn't just beg the question, it screams the question: What, then, is enterprise software actually doing well right now? (Perhaps that's in Forrester's next report.)

Unfortunately, Hamerman offers an (unintentionally) ironic and sobering fix for all the app issues that are ailing companies: "Better technology will address some of these concerns over time, as better process configuration tools and flexibility appear in the packages. Most customers, however, will not see significant improvements unless they invest in major upgrades or replacements with next-generation packages."

More software investment? Given all the aforementioned business app issues, that shouldn't be too hard to get approved in next year's budget.

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This story, "Why businesses still hate enterprise software" was originally published by CIO.

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