From: Aidan Dunphy, Product manager, Orchard Information Systems
Sir – Those who have been in housing IT for long enough are probably experiencing a sense of déjà vu as we hear some commentators calling time on integrated housing systems. The 1990s was characterised by RSLs choosing packaged solutions to replace bespoke systems that had become unmanageable, couldn’t be developed or supported; hardly surprising given that they were not software developers by trade and didn’t have the resources to develop and maintain such complex systems. Packaged solutions offered a release from the endless burden of trying to keep the IT system going.
The downside to packaged solutions has been that they don’t exactly meet customers’ expectations out of the box because they were designed to meet the needs of differing organisations with varying requirements. Also as vendors provided ever more modules, so they became less inclined to integrate with products from other suppliers.
Not all vendors behave this way, and for our part we have always offered the choice of integrated modules, partners or integration as demanded by the business context, all platform-neutral and based on open standards. Furthermore if we can’t provide a feature, our customer can create it using the same tools our developers use.
The same cannot be said of some products lauded as ‘new technology’, and as a technologist it makes me cringe when people describe the notably proprietary Microsoft as a ‘standard’. Taking the long view, how many organisations that have ended up locked into Microsoft’s ecosystem will regret their choices when the licence hikes start to bite?
The true benefit of an IHMS is not fewer technologies, it’s avoiding duplication and disconnection of data and process, which will be familiar to anyone who has witnessed suppliers arguing over a failed interface or wondered why their outsourced maintenance contractor reports 99 per cent satisfaction despite obvious problems with delivery.
Organisations demand high quality solutions and our challenge is to sell our products on their own merits, not because of lock-in. The suggestion that critical business systems should be reinvented in Microsoft SharePoint or Dynamics might generate lucrative work for consultants but it is dangerously misleading and misses the point – it’s not the technology that counts, it’s your supplier’s attitude.