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Jill Dyché

There you are! What took you so long? This is my blog and it's about YOU.

Yes, you. Or at least it's about your company. Or people you work with in your company. Or people at other companies that are a lot like you. Or people at other companies that you'd rather not resemble at all. Or it's about your competitors and what they're doing, and whether you're doing it better. You get the idea. There's a swarm of swamis, shrinks, and gurus out there already, but I'm just a consultant who works with lots of clients, and the dirty little secret - shhh! - is my clients share a lot of the same challenges around data management, data governance, and data integration. Many of their stories are universal, and that's where you come in.

I'm hoping you'll pour a cup of tea (if this were another Web site, it would be a tumbler of single-malt, but never mind), open the blog, read a little bit and go, "Jeez, that sounds just like me." Or not. Either way, welcome on in. It really is all about you.

About the author >

Jill is a partner co-founder of Baseline Consulting, a technology and management consulting firm specializing in data integration and business analytics. Jill is the author of three acclaimed business books, the latest of which is Customer Data Integration: Reaching a Single Version of the Truth, co-authored with Evan Levy. Her blog, Inside the Biz, focuses on the business value of IT.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Jill's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

By Stephen Putman, Senior Consultant

I've spent the last eighteen months at clients that have aging technology infrastructures and are oriented to build applications as opposed to buying more integrated software packages. All of these organizations face a decision which is similar to the famed "build vs. buy" decision that is made when implementing a new enterprise computer system - do we acquire new technology to fulfill requirements, or adapt our existing systems to accomplish business goals?

Obviously, there are pros and cons to each approach, and external factors such as enterprise architecture requirements and resource constraints factor into the decision. However, there are considerations independent of those constraints whose answers may guide you to a more effective decision. These considerations are the subject of this article.

Ideally, there would not be a decision to make here at all - your technological investments are well managed, up-to-date, and flexible enough to adapt easily to new requirements. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case in most organizations. Toolsets are cobbled together from developer biases (from previous experience), enterprise standards, or inclusion of OEM packages with larger software packages such as ERP systems or packaged data warehouses. New business requirements often appear that do not fit neatly into this environment, which makes this decision necessary.

Aquire New

The apparent path of least resistance in addressing new business requirements is to purchase specialized packages that solve tactical issues well. This approach has the benefit of being the solution that would most closely fit the requirements at hand. However, the organization runs the risk of gathering a collection of ill-fitting software packages that could have difficulty solving future requirements. The best that can be hoped for in this scenario is that the organization leans toward obtaining tools that are based on a standardized foundation of technology such as Java. This enables future customization if necessary and ensures that there will be resources available to do the future work without substantial retraining.

Modify Existing Tools

The far more common approach to this dilemma is to adapt existing software tools to the new business requirements. The advantage to this approach is that your existing staff is familiar with the toolset and can adapt it to the given application without retraining. The main challenge in this approach is that the organization must weigh the speed of adaptation against the possible inefficiency of the tools in the given scenario and the inherent instability of asking a toolset to do things that it was not designed to do.

The "modify existing" approach has become much more common in the last ten to twenty years because of budgetary constraints imposed upon the departments involved. Unless you work in a technology company in the commercial product development group, your department is likely perceived as a cost center to the overall organization, not a profit center, which means that money spent on your operations is an expense instead of an investment. Therefore, you are asked to cut costs wherever possible, and technical inefficiencies are tolerated to a greater degree. This means that you may not have the opportunity to acquire new technology even if it makes the most sense.

The decision to acquire new technology or extend existing technology to satisfy new business requirements is often a decision between unsatisfactory alternatives. The best way for an organization to make effective decisions given all of the constraints is to base its purchase decisions on standardized software platforms. This way, you have the maximum flexibility when the decision falls to the "modify existing" option.

photo by orijinal via Flickr (Creative Commons License)

StevePutman_bw_100Stephen Putman has over 20 years experience supporting client/server and internet-based operations from small offices to major corporations.   He has extensive experience in a variety of front-end development tools, as well as relational database design and administration, and is extremely effective in project management and leadership roles. He is the co-author of The Data Governance eBook, available at information-management.com.

Posted December 10, 2010 6:00 AM
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