SmartAdvice: Boosting Legacy Apps Without Overspending
The Advisory Council suggests you consider new approaches to these initiatives: taming legacy applications, grid computing, and staff skill development
Editor's Note: Welcome to SmartAdvice, a new weekly column by The Advisory Council, a Westport, Conn.-based business-technology advisory service. Each week the column will spotlight TAC's advice on two or three issues of core interest to you, ranging from career advice to enterprise strategies to how to deal with vendors. We encourage you to write to TAC and request answers to pressing business-technology issues. They will not solicit you unless asked, and will respond to you here or directly via E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Topic A: How do we leverage our existing enterprise applications within our current budget to meet demands for increased functionality?
Our advice: IT investment is meant to spur business efficiencies, but it seems that aging IT applications become investment monsters in their own right. End of year is a good time to take stock and talk about taming this monster.
IT investments usually fall into three categories:
Maintaining existing applications
Managing new development
Maintaining the infrastructure
The best way to leverage your existing portfolio of enterprise applications is to look critically at all three elements for possibilities of consolidation, reuse, and retirement that will decrease costs and increase their functionality.
Maintaining existing applications
Here's one approach to conducting this review:
Working with your business units, look for unmet, high-pay-off business problems and investigate whether existing applications can be applied to solve them. A lot of businesses don't use many features of their application packages, some of which may be just what you're looking for.
Organizations tend to invest in separate applications for different departments: sales, marketing, human resources, financial management, etc. Some of these tools could potentially serve other areas. By consolidating your applications and their vendors, you may be able to get better deals. Using the same back-end resources also pays off in greater front-end consistency.
Review each applications database, looking for redundant information. For example, sales, marketing and billing may have separate databases for the same customers. Be forewarned: database consolidation is not a trivial task; still, it's one of the most beneficial. Prioritize your consolidation by addressing the easiest ones first. You may find that the available data has other business uses, such as reporting or market/financial analysis, etc.
Set baseline standards for technology, and minimize the use of different tools for the same technology. The long-term benefits of having a well-trained workforce along with consistent documentation, coding standards, databases, servers, storage, look and feel, and so on, will save you money and improve reusability.
Managing new projects
Your IT organization should work with finance and agree upon a process for initiating, prioritizing, funding, and managing technology projects for the entire company. This process must address return on investment, the payback period, customer satisfaction, funding, project implementation, etc., and it must map them through to enterprisewide strategic objectives. A review of all existing applications should be undertaken before funding any new development.
Projects and maintenance tasks should be separated and prioritized and their progress reported regularly and publicly.
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