In the world of technology, there are many ways to describe products, solutions, services and applications. The definition of a product is quite clear. It is a tangible thing that is made or manufactured and then sold. A solution is also clearly understood in that it is the means by which a problem is solved and can comprise a mix of different things, including products, service and consultancy.
An application is a little more specific. It is a software program, or set of programs, developed for an end-user to perform a task or set of tasks.
All of us are familiar with software programs such as MS Word, Adobe Photoshop, or the Firefox Browser. These are applications that contain features and do certain tasks for us. While they allow for some minor configuration and personalization of preferences, they essentially work the same way for everyone. This is acceptable because word processing, photo manipulation and Internet browsing are largely similar functions for users across many industries.
Applications usually come with instructions on how they are installed and recommendations on how they are configured, and this process is made as easy as possible. Most software programs can be loaded on a computer automatically these days by simply clicking a link, downloading the software and, after a few clicks, the installation is complete.
So what is a solution accelerator?
Solution accelerators are more like software tools than they are applications. For example, instead of buying a vase, you would get the clay, paint, spinning wheel, some water and directions on how to make a vase. You then make the vase determining the size and color that best suits your preference and usage.
Forrester defined solution accelerators as pre-developed software that technology services firms use to automate a particular business process or aspect of product development, where 30% to 70% of the code can be reused across clients.
Solution accelerators make sense for business applications, which do not have universally consistent business rules or features. For example, Software AG’s Apama Market Surveillance and Risk Management Solution Accelerator can identify FX (Foreign Exchange) market manipulation and benchmark fixing.
This Solution Accelerator enables trading institutions to customize real-time detection scenarios to meet business specific needs and to evolve surveillance in response to the latest regulatory demands. For instance, it is critical that banks have the ability to configure their system for institutional or retail venues, electronic or voice trading, exchange or OTC (over the counter), as well as several other trading considerations. The key here is that not all banks are the same and therefore need a solution for their particular circumstances
Custom reports and alerts are almost always needed for line of specific business solutions. For example, each manager likes to see data in a different way to suit their particular needs. In the case of Software AG’s Apama Market Surveillance and Risk Management Solution Accelerator, alerts can trigger processes that kick-off an investigation in to irregular behavior by automatically creating a case and launching a workflow.
And Most Importantly, what do you get in a Solution Accelerator?
Each Solution Accelerator typically includes a Project Development Kit (PDK) and a solution guide. The PDK is basically a ZIP file that contains developer tools comprising frameworks, templates, customizable user interfaces, etc. Basically, all the pieces needed to quickly install and run the application. There is also documentation and intellectual property provided to kick-start developers to customize or even extend the application.
A solution accelerator is a different approach than custom development, which offers nearly unlimited customization, but can be expensive, risky and time consuming. Solution Accelerators fit somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, offering a hybrid of buy and build strategies.
When choosing to use a Solution Accelerator, it is necessary to include services along with requirements analysis, configuration, customization, training, and documentation. The effort required will be more than a typical product installation, but the work is necessary to solve a firms’ particular problem within its day-to-day working environment.