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Living with Packages

Packages software is advertised as the low-cost, simple solution, but collateral issues need to be considered. First, the package vendor controls the introduction of new functionality. If internal customers request changes to a package function, they may have to wait—or do without, if the requested feature is not in the vendor's product plans.

Second, don't underestimate the requirements for upgrades and maintenance. A major revision to a package can take days or weeks. Some vendors don't use common data formats between releases. The result is that data may need reformatting and file structures may need complete rebuilding. Most vendors supply conversion tools, but the job can be time-consuming and, in the case of large enterprise systems such as SAP, considerable advance planning is required for a successful upgrade or revision.

The final issue of living with packages is that you must assume the business risk of the package vendor. If the vendor goes into decline or bankruptcy, or is merged or sold, how will you maintain and improve the package and at what cost? The risk can be mitigated but never eliminated.

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