I subscribe to Computerwire and in today's opinion piece "Computerwire Directions" the headline is "Is All Business Applications Software the Same?". The most pertinent paragraph seemed to me to be:
"However, the conclusion does highlight the dilemma facing vendors. On one hand they need to be seen to have parity with their peers with near identical functionality, and are increasingly providing pre-defined vertical functionality, pre-configured business process based on best-practice guidelines, and pre-prepared reporting, suggesting that they believe their customers have a high degree of uniformity. This begs the question that if their customers in a particular vertical sector have a high degree of commonality, why shouldn't competing business software vendors? Yet they also have to demonstrate their uniqueness, and this takes the form of different architectural approaches. Despite this, the end result is the same: these days, a move to service-oriented architecture based around processes, not transactions."
It seems to me that one way for companies to both implement standard processes and data structures from the major application vendors is to use business rules to build custom decisioning components that select between process options, make risk-based decisions, replace manual decision-making with sophisticated automation etc. This allows common components to be aggregated and controlled in a unique way.