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Commentary

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
Topic C: We're under management pressure to outsource application development and to cut staff, but I'd rather get more value from our existing staff, who know our business. How can I broaden their skills?

Our advice: We would recommend broadening their skills in four areas:

  • First and easiest, make sure the team is well-trained on a really good report writer, such as Crystal Decisions. Better reporting and trend analysis are always great ways to leverage the unique knowledge your people have.
  • Second, train a strong Web-site team. Customers don't see your sales order-entry, inventory-control, or other "back-room" applications, so those won't get you differentiation. Customers do see your Web site and will judge you accordingly.
  • Third, train a team in collaboration. It's no longer just for forecasting. There's collaborative planning, collaborative replenishment--even, in joint ventures, collaborative budgeting. Big customer intimacy impacts can be gained here with a relatively low investment.
  • Fourth and finally, train a team in using a good process manager. Many of the opportunities for cost reduction internally ? and improved customer response externally ? lie not inside your standard applications but in your human processes before, between, and after your applications' work. (Note that collaboration and process flow control interact very positively.)
  • One last suggestion: Ask yourself whether you would lose any competitive advantage if an application were identical to one used by your worst competitor. In fact, there's no way to get competitive advantage from a payroll application or a general ledger application. And so, if a generic application can be used without damage to the business, you can buy a package or contract development to Bangalore. However, there will be applications that provide customer services (or business insights) that can set you apart from your competitors, and your people should continue to drive those.

    -- Wes Melling


    Humayun Beg, TAC Thought Leader, has more than 18 years of extensive experience in business IT management, technology deployment, and risk management. He has significant experience in all aspects of systems management, software development, and project management, and has held key positions in directing major IT initiatives and projects.

    Beth Cohen, TAC Thought Leader, has more than 20 years of experience building strong IT delivery organizations from both the user and vendor perspectives. Having worked as a technologist for BBN , the company that literally invented the Internet, she not only knows where technology is today but where it's heading in the future.

    Wes Melling, TAC Expert, has more than 40 years of IT experience with a focus on enterprise IT strategies. Melling is founder and principal of Value Chain Advisors, a consulting boutique specializing in manufacturing supply-chain optimization. He has been a corporate CIO, a Gartner analyst, and a product strategist at increasingly senior levels.