June 3, 2010Doug Hadden
There is some confusion in the Government Resource Planning (GRP) market. Vendors like FreeBalance promote software configuration as an advantage. Other vendors promote customization. Generic software vendors tend to promote a broad array of options. This can be confusing – particularly when some of these options can be very expensive. It can also be misleading governments into thinking that requirements can only be satisfied through the code customization approach. It’s high time for someone to score configuration and customization options provided by enterprise and government vendors.
- Description: Use of parameters or settings in software set-up pages.
- Implication: No change in source code. Parameters supported in upgrade to new versions.
- Generic Software Approach: Tends to support general system and basic set-up. Not intended to be comprehensive because of support for many markets.
- FreeBalance Approach: All functions parameter driven. Intended to be comprehensive for governments (with other configuration methods). Supports progressive activation of features and functions over time.
Graphical Drag and Drop
- Description: Ability to configure complex concept through drag and drop methods with rich interface.
- Implication: No change in source code. Designed to facilitate complex configuration
- Generic Software Approach: Sometimes provides “wizards” to enable configuration.
- FreeBalance Approach: Support of rich graphical drag and drop for complex design for Chart of Accounts, Logic Maps and Organizational Charts.
Rule and Workflow Parameters
- Description: Use of table-driven parameters to adjust business rules and workflow.
- Implication: No change in source code. Simple method of defining processes. Easy to adjust these to support progressive activation.
- Generic Software Approach:Generic vendors unable to provide simple table-driven methods because of the breadth of markets supported. Workflow often requires more complex Business Process Management approach (see below).
- FreeBalance Approach: Uses table-driven parameters for workflow and rules. Supports progressive activation.
- Description: Ability to add fields of information to support unique requirements.
- Implication: No change in source code.
- Generic Software Approach: Enables additional fields. Many are treated as generic text. Often not able to affect business rules or reports without code customization.
- FreeBalance Approach: Full support of custom domains that enable adding tables, fields, field rules and validation. Used in reports and workflows.
Language and Localization
- Description: Methods used to support different languages and character sets to enable translation.
- Implication: Ease of translation and adjustment of terminology important for capacity building.
- Generic Software Approach: Support of many i18n methods. Requirement to localize large portions of software that may not be leveraged in public sector. Multiple entry points for translation – help, labels, documentation etc. Difficult and expensive to support and maintain.
- FreeBalance Approach: Multi-lingual software. Unique translation method uses spreadsheet and uploads method. Easy to support and maintain. Ideal for countries with unique national language. Single entry point to translate help, documentation and e-learning.
- Description: Pre-configured set of default modules and default values for one of many vertical markets.
- Implication: No change in source code. Public sector often one of many verticals.
- Generic Software Approach: Accelerates implementation relative to other generic applications. Often includes so-called “best practices” from other markets. Some customization is typically required.
- FreeBalance Approach: By definition, the FreeBalance Accountability Suite supports a single market – government. Rich out-of-the-box government functionality. Support of XML enables importing parameters and migrating data from existing systems to accelerate data migration.
Generic Software Approach:
- Description: Ability to augment processes with call-out or exit to additional code.
- Implication: No change in original source code. Ability to add custom software code linked to existing code. Adds new source code that needs to be maintained.
- Generic Software Approach:Typical approach. Most enterprise software does not support atomic Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), so call-out is limited to what is exposed by the vendor. Approach often uses proprietary APIs. Sometimes requires the use of the vendor’s technical platform.
- FreeBalance Approach: Support for component SOA. Atomic-level integration with augmented code is available. However, the focus on public financial management reduces the need for this approach because primarily handled via configuration.
Business Process Management
- Description: Use of workflow-based authoring tools to develop and adapt business processes.
- Implication: Like Call-Outs, can augment existing code. Creates new source but does not affect original source code. Workflow tools tend to be generic and require some programming or scripting. Approach can reduce the burden of upgrading, however, provides ability to change workflow to support poor practices.
- Generic Software Approach: Used by some generic software vendors in order to adapt processes and integrate with acquired software companies. (There has been a debate about this approach between the two leading ERP vendors.)
- FreeBalance Approach: Table-driven workflow provided rather than complex because of FreeBalance single market focus. The workflow engine in FreeBalance software supports the WfML standard, so generic BPM suites are compatible. The call-out support can call-out to BPM workflow.
- Description: Adjust existing software code to meet unique requirements.
- Implication: Modifications change the software code making it difficult to development, test, maintain and upgrade.
- Generic Software Approach: Code customization is the typical approach to meet unique government requirements. Code is customized by system integrators or by the government.
- FreeBalance Approach: Code customization rarely required. FreeBalance typically provides the code and exposes code as parameters for long term support. Nevertheless, code customization is available.
- Description: Develop software components using an Integrated Development Environment (IDE).
- Implication: Creation of new source code. Complex to develop requirements, design architecture, write code, maintain quality, and handle changes.
- Generic Software Approach: Technical platforms provide comprehensive tools for software development. COTS vendors with Financial Management applications view this option to be used for highly specialized applications that integrate with COTS. Governments looking to develop software in-house tend to start with generic technical development platforms.
- FreeBalance Approach: Government-specific platform includes technical platform and set of reusable Government Entities to accelerate development and facilitate maintenance. Governments can acquire this platform to develop applications from “scratch”.
Generic Software Approach: