Monday 14 January 2013

Consolidation or Integration?

Do you have multiple systems in your company that are doing the same thing, but slightly different? Do you also feel that those multitude of systems get in the way when figuring out how to implement new business models?

The usual reflex of an organisation is to consolidate the systems in order to reduce costs. However, consolidation is not a guarantee to reduce overall costs, in fact companies can end up with even higher operational cost.

In a simple example, we look at two Content Management Systems; CMS A and B. You ended up with these two systems through organic growth and "gifts" from previous acquisitions. The two systems differ in the type of content they contain, data models, the granularity of data storage and also differ in functionality. Where system A focuses on content storage, system B has a focus on functionality and contains a rather big application stack on top.

To what system would you consolidate? Most likely you will choose the system with the broadest functionality and brightest future. Whatever you choose, it will feel like jamming a circle into a square. If you push hard enough you’ll get the circle in the square, however, bits and pieces will fall off. Additionally, there will be gaps unfilled. This is just the same with a consolidation project, some users will lose functionality and other will have to perform additional activities they never had to do before.

All this extra work and loss of functionality can be quite disrupting for the business users and may end up costing more than the savings on licenses and maintenance.

Is it better to migrate to a new system, let’s say a very big circle. Possibly, but you also might end up with a 3th system. CMS systems or any other platform for that matter are usually highly integrated by means of a huge variety of interfaces. What will you do with those when setting up a new box?

Fortunately, there are good solutions that allows you to work in a progressive and non disruptive, non big bang scenario, keeping control in the risks regarding your IT landscape. By applying a Service Oriented approach you can abstract the CMS system from the different consumers while introducing standardization in both functionality as well as data models. After a while you’ll get a sound library of functional services implemented by the underlying CMS systems. All direct interfaces have been rerouted through the services resulting in very few dependencies on the underlying CMS systems. Once in this situation, you can think of a safe consolidation or replacement of the platforms to gain the IT savings.