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Gartner Says Adopting A Pace-Layered Application Strategy Can Accelerate Innovation

Many organizations are finding themselves with an enterprise application strategy that no longer satisfies the needs and desires of the business community, and this often leads to poor decisions and bad investments, according to Gartner, Inc.

"There is a gap developing between the business users of enterprise applications and the IT professionals charged with providing these applications," said Yvonne Genovese, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. "The business leaders are looking for modern, easy-to-use applications that can be quickly deployed to solve a specific problem or respond to a market opportunity. The IT organization is typically working toward a strategic goal of standardizing on a limited set of comprehensive application suites in order to minimize integration issues, maximize security and reduce IT costs. These competing goals often lead to strategic misalignment."

In the Gartner Special Report, "Accelerating Innovation by Adopting a Pace-Layered Application Strategy," (, Gartner analysts explain that Gartner's Pace-Layered Application Strategy is a new methodology for categorizing applications and developing a differentiated management and governance process that reflects how they are used and their rate of change.

In the past, many companies had a single strategy for selecting, deploying and managing applications. They may have had methodologies for classifying applications by value or technological viability, but they did not recognize that applications are fundamentally different based on how they are used by the organization.

Gartner believes the idea of pace layers can be used to build a business application strategy that delivers a faster response and a better ROI, without sacrificing integration, integrity and/or governance. Similar to the concepts in building architecture, Gartner has defined three application categories, or "layers," to distinguish application types and help organizations develop more appropriate strategies for each:
  • Systems of Record — Established packaged applications or legacy homegrown systems that support core transaction processing and manage the organization's critical master data. The rate of change is low, because the processes are well-established and common to most organizations, and often are subject to regulatory requirements.
  • Systems of Differentiation — Applications that enable unique company processes or industry-specific capabilities. They have a medium life cycle (one to three years), but need to be reconfigured frequently to accommodate changing business practices or customer requirements.
  • Systems of Innovation — New applications that are built on an ad hoc basis to address new business requirements or opportunities. These are typically short life cycle projects (zero to 12 months) using departmental or outside resources and consumer-grade technologies.

"These layers correspond to the notion of business leaders having common ideas, different ideas and new ideas," said Dennis Gaughan, managing vice president at Gartner. "The same application may be classified differently in one company than in another, based on its usage and relationship to the business model. We expect to see applications move among layers as they mature, or as the business process shifts from experimental to well-established to industry standard."

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