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Driving a Stake Through the Heart of Single-Purpose Apps

The dead walk among us. I’m not referring to zombies, though if I were, I would definitely refer you to this important resource. No, I’m talking about business apps that serve a single, dedicated purpose; apps that have comprised the lion’s share of business software acquisitions for far too long. Each with its own workflow. Each with its own training requirements. Each with its own server, its own vendor overhead, its own database, its own extension language.

Lawson’s Time Management. Ariba’s Procure to Pay. Taleo’s Recruiting package. These and hundreds of others: they all must die. And it is BPM that will kill them.

Understand, I’m not talking about replacing best-of-breed apps with integrated suites. As a former CIO, I’m no fan of high-cost, complex software suites. But BPM represents an opportunity to create dynamic, highly customized, extremely flexible solutions across the enterprise–and all with no programming required. It’s the best of best of breed.

BPM opens the possibility of leveraging a single app to solve dozens of business challenges. Imagine, if you will, replacing all those single-purpose tools with one flexible platform. From one vendor. Requiring one skillset. Enticing, is it not?

Of course, not every piece of business software is suitable to be replaced by BPM, but I’d bet that in your shop there are many more such expendable apps than you realize. Like the examples I list above, strong candidates for the noose include tools that provide a mechanism for collecting data, enhanced with some basic workflow. Document approval, help desk, expense reporting, capital expenditures: these are just a few of the areas in which you may find the dead walking among us. And when you do, do yourself a favor: pull the plug.

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