If you've been living under a rock for the past five years, let me get you caught up: There’s been a shift in how technology is being embraced. Not too long ago, businesses created and purchased technology. Then that technology trickled down to the consumer level and morphed into something we’d use. Think the ENIAC  evolving after many years into the PC, etc.

That process is reversed today. The consumer experience comes first and businesses play catch up to the consumer technology. The classic example of this is mobile: we've been living on our mobile phones for several years, but only now are enterprises making their systems mobile friendly for their workforce.

Custom Only Goes So Far

Part of that consumerization of IT trend is what some call the “solutionization” of IT for the enterprise. You've likely heard about the “appification” of things -- this is somewhat of an extension of that. No longer do companies want to conceive, build and maintain custom solutions. They want specialized pieces -- one app for your personal network (Facebook), another app for real goods (Amazon), another for music (iTunes) and yet another app for your professional network (LinkedIn).

We've seen custom solutions developed for access to different systems, creating better and faster user interfaces. Over time we've seen these things get better -- a lot better, resulting in better productivity.

Here’s the thing: this kind of custom code is expensive to create and even more expensive to maintain.

In spite of the cost, enterprises are using custom user interfaces that plug neatly into your various systems of record, extracting the information your company needs. Your company is unlike any other company -- you do things differently than your competitor down the street, as you should. You’re looking to gain the edge, so you want to do it smarter, better, faster -- hence the customization.

Enter the cloud, promising scalability, mobility, efficiency, speed and flexibility. Enterprises WANT those benefits (minus the various concerns about reliability and security -- topics for another column), but already have homegrown systems and custom code. When those systems are moved to the cloud, they are subject to regular, and often automatic, code updates -- this is a boon to enterprises (for the most part).

Continual upgrades are a beautiful thing until you see how they can shift the foundation enough that the code sitting on top of them -- the stuff that lets Joe and Jane Knowledgeworker easily access and use that data -- breaks. What’s an enterprise to do?

Finding the Unique Solution

Solutionize. This means not using custom code. You want things faster than can be done with custom. You can get the code in a solution that sits atop your cloud solution. The code is designed to allow flexibility in the updates. The system updates are managed from your cloud-based system of record -- you don’t have to worry about your custom code breaking. 

What’s great about this is that you can get the basic usability issues addressed. You can get your code up and running quickly. You can take advantage of their expertise in developing this kind of interface -- ideally you’ll put your trust in a provider who specializes in usability. This way you can be assured of best of breed experiences.

It’s not custom, but it’s configurable. That’s where you get the uniquenesses needed for your solution. You can get it on brand, fast, at a low cost. The configuration takes eight to 12 weeks, instead of six to nine months.

Enterprises who have been looking to harness the benefits of the cloud are shifting to this solutionization of the cloud -- it’s the entrée they’ve been looking for. The trick with taking advantage of a solutionized cloud is that you need a provider you can trust. I’ve seen a number of fly-by-night companies who make big claims, but lack the foundation of understanding of the enterprise, of the cloud and of usability to deliver the benefits enterprises need and want right out of the gate.

Are you seeing the solutionization trend? Is it here to stay?