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Take full advantage of ready-made platform solutions – don’t build from scratch, build on top

Modern business platforms are designed to alleviate complicated tasks but can turn on themselves if customised too heavily. If you think customisation is needed to meet business requirements, think again: using platform capabilities and building on top of them offers vast possibilities.  

Complexity slows down development, common goals accelerate it

Modern platforms are easy and quick to configure. This nice feature often results in a pitfall in business solution development: over time, the solution becomes too complex. Complexity degrades user experience and reduces the maintainability of the solution significantly. A lack of control and high-level requirements from the beginning of development projects result in the development branching in many directions.

Agile development methods help to increase knowledge of the solution and to understand the possibilities during development. This results in a solution that better meets business requirements. Even so, defining a target for the final solution guides the development towards a common goal.

Platform functionalities offer new possibilities

Modern platforms, like ServiceNow, provide possibilities with ready-made business solutions. Building everything from scratch would be time consuming and expensive in both the implementation and development phase. When the business requirement is fulfilled with out-of-the-box solutions or with minimal configuration, ready-made business solutions are the way to go.

However, this is not always the case. Heavy customisation may be needed to meet the requirements. In such cases, using platform capabilities and building on top of them offers vast possibilities.

Business solutions vary from small, dedicated applications that fulfil the needs of one process to complete company-wide ERPs. In many organisations, the reality is typically a combination of smaller and larger solutions and applications.

Regardless of size, the solutions benefit from shared data and functionalities on a shared platform. The shared data allows visibility throughout the end-to-end value chain for all parties. On the other hand, platform functionalities eliminate the need to build them separately for each solution, as it is often with stand-alone and custom-built solutions.

A typical use case for a smaller application is when an organisation wants to expand their service management to new business areas. In such cases, the new business application should be linked to the company’s service catalogue for reporting purposes, but for data sensitivity, the data managed within the application should be isolated and restricted to a limited group of users.

A shared platform can fulfil all these requirements at the same time: shared data and functionalities but with the possibility to restrict visibility into the process itself.

In a companywide ERP, the flow of shared data throughout processes is key to make sure all parties working on different processes can always see up-to-date data.

Why build from scratch when you can build on top?

ServiceNow offers a long list of useful platform functionalities, ready-made processes, and tools to support the development of the platform. When the built-in processes don’t meet business requirements, ServiceNow AppEngine provides the possibility to implement the processes and, at the same time, take full advantage of the platform features.

AppEngine is often an effective choice compared to a completely custom-built solution. Taking the platform features and functionalities and building on top of them is effective from all perspectives – time, cost, usability, ease of development, and maintainability.

Careful with customisations!

Even though the business solutions built with AppEngine are custom solutions, it’s not the same as customising existing solutions. Therefore, it doesn’t mean that the solution becomes difficult to maintain and upgrade. AppEngine offers the tools to build on top of the platform functionalities, not making customisations to existing applications.

Still, even when implementing a custom application, there’s an important guideline to keep in mind when designing the business solutions: build on top, don’t customise existing. Whenever customisations are made to out-of-the-box functionalities, upgradability suffers. Platform features are constantly developed, and the improvements cannot be utilised if customisations have been made.

The author

Lauri Salminen is CTO for Sofigate’s Enterprise Solutions.