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Back to Basics: Getting Your Information House in Order

Tackle application consolidation and retirement projects to deliver more value

Product Strategy & Marketing - InfoSphere, IBM

Organizations rely on a myriad of custom and packaged applications such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) to collect and manage the critical business information that drives daily operations. As the business evolves, organizations often need to upgrade to next-generation applications, consolidate and retire (decommission) applications, and simplify the supporting IT infrastructure to reduce costs.

As a recommended best practice, organizations should evaluate application portfolios regularly to determine whether their investments are delivering maximum business value. Weighing the costs and benefits of each application can help when deciding which applications should be maintained, and which ones should be upgraded, replaced, consolidated, or retired. In many cases, the review, evaluation, and decision process can lead to significant hardware, software, and maintenance cost savings, as well as improved application and operational efficiencies.

For example, if critical business data is scattered among several application instances, consolidation offers advantages in promoting consistency and improving efficiency. When considering consolidation (or migration efforts), best practices include:

  • Ensure your consolidation platform can support your data volumes
  • Provide heterogeneous support for consolidation and migration efforts (including SAP projects)

These practices can help you take steps to actively address and manage the quality of data that supports mission-critical strategies.

In other cases where organizations have redundant or older technology that is no longer delivering business value, application retirement offers the opportunity to lower the infrastructure costs and mitigate operational risk associated with removing or retiring systems, applications, databases or hardware platforms from service. And in all of these scenarios, organizations must also ensure access to historical business data that must be retained for compliance or privacy regulations. Incorporating database archiving as part of an overall information governance strategy also facilitates consolidation and retirement projects and helps organizations reach their business goals.

A consolidation story

Let’s have a look at how consolidation and migration can help simplify IT infrastructure and increase operational efficiency. A global specialty chemical company wanted to reduce profit exposure to fluctuations in costs of chemical and energy raw materials. The organization needed to improve operational efficiency by increasing synergy across divisions and leveraging economies of scale.

The organization launched a global ERP consolidation into a single SAP instance. The large application portfolio included predominantly PeopleSoft Enterprise, with some custom and legacy applications. The company’s IT teams had to support too many instances and applications, including multiple versions of PeopleSoft General Ledger and Accounts Payable modules. The company also needed to adhere to strict industry data retention policies such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act; work with agencies including the Securities and Exchange Commission, Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; and comply with tax regulations. All of these factors made the consolidation project highly complex and risk-prone.

This company selected IBM InfoSphere information integration capabilities (provided by InfoSphere Information Server) for phase 2 of the global consolidation project to support migration of existing ERP data into SAP, and InfoSphere information integration capabilities were used to profile legacy systems, design data integration flows and quality processes, transform and load data to SAP, and help ensure the quality and consistency of data from multiple source environments in SAP.

InfoSphere data integration and governance capabilities helped the company reduce risk and ensure timely deployment of phase 2 of the global consolidation project. It also helped the company create a reusable platform of data integration routines for greater transparency, consistency and accuracy; develop self-sufficiency for remaining rollouts; and enhance data management quality. In addition, the organization successfully passed Sarbanes-Oxley auditing with financial record retention that is consistent, repeatable, and unalterable.

An application retirement story

Application retirement, too, can provide significant savings. A leading direct mail company selected Oracle E-Business Suite as its ERP application of choice to support current and future business growth. The decision to subset the mainframe environment made sound business sense; the company expected to save USD6 million per year.

However, with 34 mainframe applications and reliance on DB2, IBM Virtual Storage Access Method (VSAM) and sequential files, the company had accumulated vast amounts of application data. Data retention policies stated that those historical records needed to be kept for 10 years. Adding to the challenge, the Oracle E-Business Suite environment was growing at a rate of 30 percent annually, increasing the time, risk, cost, and effort required for any future upgrades.

Clearly, the company needed several key information governance capabilities. To support the mainframe retirement initiative, they needed to archive, manage, and store mainframe data cost-effectively. They also needed the ability to access and report against archived data, keeping it in an audit-ready format for compliance purposes. Finally, to support the Oracle E-Business Suite initiative, they needed to archive historical data. Using archiving to control data growth would significantly improve any future upgrades. InfoSphere capablities (provided by InfoSphere Optim) satisfied all of the requirements.

The company achieved outstanding business value with savings of more than USD2 million in projected five-year IT capacity expansion costs. It also saved USD6 million in hardware infrastructure and software licensing by subsetting the mainframe applications. Additional benefits included annual productivity improvements derived from increased availability and measured improvements in application response time and batch-cycle run times. Taking control of application data growth also made it possible to reduce the cutover time to move from Oracle 10.7 to11i—a significant improvement from past upgrades.

InfoSphere can help

The IBM InfoSphere portfolio can help you address best practices for application consolidation and retirement to help improve application efficiency of your applications, provide highly scalable and heterogeneous support for your specific requirements, enhance data quality, and simplify your IT infrastructure to garner significant savings. Click here to learn more about how InfoSphere can support your application consolidation and retirement efforts.

Has your company tackled an application consolidation and/or retirement project? How did it change your business? Please let me know about your experiences in the comments.