All of us in our Careers as Executives have encountered Software Applications and systems that over time have degraded in their capabilities, can no longer support the business in its current state, becomes too slow and costly to maintain, or worse is mission critical but very few people know how to support it.
The question that always comes up is, do we:
Of course, any of the above Options may work and they all have some costs and risks associated with them, especially if the system suddenly stops working at an inopportune time. In this Blog Article, we will discuss the primary Business Drivers, Technical Considerations, Decision Criteria, as well as several real world Examples.
Here are just a few of my own personal experiences during my career as a CIO & Software Executive:
Garvin Promotion Group is a marketing promotion management company that creates and processes Consumer Rebates for a variety of industries, primarily in the Alcoholic Beverages, Tire & Auto Parts, Firearms, and Pharmaceutical industries.
We had a Legacy application which handled all of the Rebate Claims Processing for every Promotion for each Client. In our case, the biggest problem was Technical in nature, which directly caused multiple problems for the Business and was preventing us from scaling the application to support a larger Client base.
The core problems that our ArkusNexus Team uncovered were:
Needless to say, this was causing a lot of pain, frustration and even in a few cases loss of business with a particular Client, as we were not able to process Rebate Claims timely or with a high level of customer satisfaction. In addition, the owner Sam Garvin was frustrated that none of his key reports from different departments matched, so he was never sure exactly what the state of the business was.
We worked with our Arkus Team and the rest of the Key Business Executives on the following plan of action:
It took nearly 2 years to accomplish this, but overall this effort was an enormous success:
Incorporate Massage provides professional Massage Therapists for on-site Corporate Events, Special Events, Conferences and Seminars, throughout the United States. The core application that is used by both Clients (Corporations & Organizations) as well as our network of licensed and certified Massage Therapists is our Custom Booking Application. This allows:
Initially, our original Offshore Development Team in India was struggling with a number of issues in supporting the Business Operations and our Massage Therapists:
Because of all of these challenges we made the decision to change our Software Development Partner to ArkusNexus.
Almost immediately, our new ArkusNexus Team uncovered a number of serious Technical issues as well:
Based on all of these considerations, in conjunction with our ArkusNexus Team we put together a plan to slowly Migrate the Booking Application to AWS Cloud, and then component by component start to Re-Architect the entire Application. We started naturally with the areas of the application that were causing the greatest amount of pain to the business or represented the greatest amount of risk.
Our ArkusNexus Team executed the following Plan and Approach:
In addition to all of this our ArkusNexus Team was also able to add some new and unique features, as well as features that were required from a State Regulatory perspective. This included:
All of these enhancements and changes dramatically affected the core business in a very positive way.
Later, the Board of Directors decided to wind down the Custom Booking Application and Replace it with SalesForce. That is a story for another day, but as you can expect took longer and cost more than expected; and then the Covid-19 Pandemic hit, which dramatically changed the entire business.
UTI is the largest Technical Training education facility for Automotive, Motorcycle and Marine repair Technicians in the US. They have 13 campuses in the US, are a mid-sized firm (roughly $400 M in annual revenue), and approximately 20,000 students.
In addition to their apprentice Training Programs, they also have very strong industry partnerships with many of the manufacturer’s within this Industry. In many cases the Advanced Programs allow a student to work on the latest models of the vehicles, and upon graduation are offered a job as a Journeyman Technician at a dealership. This includes organizations like:
In 1999, UTI’s IT Department convinced the Executive Management Team and Board that they needed to implement a Student Information Management System. Unfortunately, UTI’s model did not fit into the common University model at that time, as they had a new cohort of Students every 3 weeks. They couldn’t find a COTS Solution that fit their needs, so they opted to build a custom Student Information Management System from scratch.
The initial process took over 3 years, with continuous upgrades and enhancements after the “SMART” Application finally went live in Production. Unfortunately, the IT Director at the time selected a fairly new 4GL Programming Language known as Progress Software. The “promise” was that using Progress would make it easier and faster to develop an application, maintain it, and enhance it in the future.
The HUGE drawback is that the technology never really took off that much within the US, so it was very challenging to find and hire new Developers who knew this programming language. We often had to hire them, wherever they happened to live and have them work remotely.
By 2009 this was starting to cause problems both for the Business as well as from a Technology (IT) perspective. So, IT in conjunction with our Business Executives, started an Initiative to replace SMART with a COTS Solution, as they had evolved since the late 1990’s. Our challenge was that everytime we found a potential possibility, someone on the core team would find a fatal flaw to it. The running “Joke” was that it was going to take 5 years for us to replace SMART… and that is what we would say every year.
Finally, it just had to be done, the Business simply had enough. UTI found a collection of COTS products built on modern technologies, Cloud based, and highly scalable; and over roughly 3 years replaced core modules one at a time, while creating an Integration Framework that could support the system into the future. But this was not easy or cheap, as it ended up being a multi-million dollar replacement project.
In this Blog Article we’ve covered the main Business Drivers, Technology Considerations, and Options that you might take as an Executive or Organization. Which approach you take in either Fixing, Replacing, or Re-Architecting your System / Application, will depend greatly upon your individual situation and business needs.
In Part 3, we have also provided you with several real world examples, including the challenges and considerations which we took into account. We hope that this Blog Article has been valuable to you.
Thank you, David Annis.