How relevant are “closed” enterprise software systems?

There has been a lot of talk over the past couple of years regarding the impact of new technology that focuses on the delivery of software – SaaS/web-based vs more traditional packaged apps.  Other debates revolve around the merits of proprietary platforms vs. open-source technology. 

A lot of that to me simply distills down to questions of economics and implementation.  Important questions from a business perspective, no doubt, but often times not nearly as fundamentally important questions as they are made out to be.

Looking at a lot of categories of enterprise software, I think a more important question is the impact of closed vs open systems.  By closed in this context, I’m speaking of systems that live internally within corporations.  A few of the categories where this has major relevance include SFA, CRM, Collaboration, and Knowledge Management.  For many years, software providers have been trying to help companies maximize the utility of information within their organizations and streamline the way that information is used by people to get things done.

In many of these categories, there’s currently a broad chasm between "internal" apps that look at information within an organization and apps that are built on top of data that lives on the web.  These used to be very distinct silos of information and activity.  However, with the way people now work, these areas are starting to overlap – a lot.

If traditional enterprise software providers aren’t careful, much more lightweight applications that pull little pieces of data out from the enterprise from lots of different places will quickly become more powerful and relevant than the big, deep applications currently in place within the enterprise.

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