...by Daniel Szego
"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
Leonardo da Vinci

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The ways of customizing a software

Previously I always had the opinion that there are basically two ways of software development:
 - having a project based development, starting by a business analyst to gather the requirements, setting up the architecture, making an implementation and delivering to the customer, or
 - creating and selling a ready to go product, starting by a product manager, having some implementation phase and then selling at the end. 
However the world as usual is more complicated. 

I am making analysis based on how much a product is possible to be customized from an end user perspective, having an analogy through the different restaurants and fast food restaurants. In this sense I would at least distinguish the following four types of software products:
1. Ready to go products
Ready to go software products are like sandwiches in a supermarket. You can buy them as they are, you can usually choose between different sandwiches, however you do not have the chance change the product itself, like having your sandwich with mustard and mayonnaise, instead of ketchup.  

Figure 1. Ready to go product.

Typical "ready to go" software products are the different mobile and or SharePoint Apps. They provide some very specific but limited functionality, they usually specialize on the B2C customer segment and both the buying and the installing mechanism are as automatic as possible, as an example via online stores.

2. Complex Products.
Complex software products offer more space for customization, despite they are products for a very specific need. They are like ordering a menu at Mc Donald's, you already have some possibility to customize your menu, varying several parameters, like french fries or salate and of course you can choose if you want to have mayonnaise, ketchup or both.

Figure 2. Complex Products.

Such complex products are usually the domain specific business applications, like quality management system, special applications for transportation, financials, logistic and so on. The avrage complexity of these software systems are usually bigger than to be only self-service, as a consequence buying these products requires a certain level of consulting. As a consequence they usually sold in a classical way instead of online shops, and with a certain level of consulting services as well.

3. Frameworks.
Frameworks are actually not products, however they are certain way of conveyance chains that are capable of many different, slightly different products. The best example is subway, there is actually a pretty complex customizing process that help to deliver a couple of thousands of slightly different sandwiches in a pretty efficient way.

Figure 3. Frameworks

Such software frameworks are for example, the different BPM and workflow solutions, like K2 or Nintex in the business field, they do not provide ready to go solutions, instead possibilities to build up many different customized processes. Actually SharePoint itself can be regarded as well as a general framework for delivering social collaboration solutions. Buying and installing these solutions usually splitted into two parts: buying the framework itself and buying the consulting service for that.

4. Custom project development
Project development is the very classical way of software development, with business analyst, requirement engineering and then implementation and delivery. It is like a five star restaurant, where you have a small discussion with the waiter discussing your taste, the possibilities and then getting you burger exactly as you want.

.Figure 4. Custom project development.