Press Release

STAMFORD, Conn., February 14, 2012 View All Press Releases

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

Special Report Shows Pace Layers Can be Used to Build a Business Application Strategy That Delivers a Faster Response and a Better ROI


           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."

Gartner analysts said that one of the keys to developing this strategy is listening carefully to the way business people describe their vision for particular parts of the business. These categories of ideas include:

  • Common ideas — aspects of the business in which leaders are happy to follow commonly accepted ways of doing things that change fairly slowly.
  • Different ideas — aspects of the business in which leaders not only want to do things differently from comparable organizations, but also can specify the details of how the different approach should be taken, and can expect these details to change on a regular basis.
  • New ideas — aspects of the business in which leaders are thinking of an early stage concept, and are not at the point where they can be specific regarding the details of how things should work.

Organizations must establish a new strategy for business applications that responds to the desire of the business to use technology to establish sustainable differentiation and drive innovative new processes, while providing a secure and cost-effective environment to support core business processes.

One of the keys to using pace layering is to take a more granular approach to thinking about applications. She said that organizations are accustomed to using common, three-letter acronym application categories (such as ERP and CRM) but, when classifying applications in pace layers, they must be broken down into individual processes or functions.

For example, financial accounting, order entry and collaborative demand planning are often part of a single ERP package, but are separate application modules that belong in three different layers in the Pace-Layered Application Strategy. This approach should also be used to classify individually packaged or custom-developed applications. It is important to determine whether they support a common requirement, a unique business methodology or an innovative new business process. This allows the organization to apply the appropriate governance, funding and data models, based on the characteristics of each application.

"As organizations look to pace layers to help their application portfolios evolve from the rigid nature of current monolithic application strategy, it will be important to establish process and data integrity requirements within and between each," Mr. Gaughan said. "The pace-layered approach acknowledges that process and data integrity requirements will be different within each layer, and defines a set of architectural standards at each level to accelerate an organization's ability to adapt."

"For each layer of the portfolio to be managed effectively, a strong governance structure must unite all stakeholders," Ms. Genovese said. "The challenge for IT management teams is to develop a culture of governance that encourages consistent and persistent participation. This means that governance cannot be about IT telling the business stakeholders what needs to be funded — rather; there must be a true partnership that includes respect."

The Gartner Special Report "Accelerating Innovation by Adopting a Pace-Layered Application Strategy" ( The special report includes video commentary, and links to more than 20 reports examining various aspects of a Pace-Layered Application Strategy.

Gartner analysts will provide additional commentary during the Gartner webinar, "A New Application Strategy to Accelerate Innovation," March 1, at 10 a.m. EST and 1 p.m. EST. To register for this complimentary webinar, please visit

Mr. Gaughan explains why the Pace-Layered Application Strategy framework was developed in his Gartner blog post, "Introducing the Pace Layered Application Strategy Special Report." The blog post is available at

About Gartner

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT), is the world's leading research and advisory company and a member of the S&P 500. We equip business leaders with indispensable insights, advice and tools to achieve their mission-critical priorities and build the successful organizations of tomorrow.

Our unmatched combination of expert-led, practitioner-sourced and data-driven research steers clients toward the right decisions on the issues that matter most. We're trusted as an objective resource and critical partner by more than 15,000 organizations in more than 100 countries—across all major functions, in every industry and enterprise size.

To learn more about how we help decision makers fuel the future of business, visit

Comments or opinions expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributors only, and do not necessarily represent the views of Gartner, Inc. or its management. Readers may copy and redistribute blog postings on other blogs, or otherwise for private, non-commercial or journalistic purposes. This content may not be used for any other purposes in any other formats or media. The content on this blog is provided on an "as-is" basis. Gartner shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever arising out of the content or use of this blog.