Centralized business process automation was the motivation for First American Title Insurance, part of First American. “We had 50-plus title and escrow production systems on every single variation of hardware and operating system,” says Larry Godec, CIO of First American Title Insurance. “We were looking to centralize, re-engineer, and automate all that back-office work.”
Discover, Analyze, Strategize
Lofty goals are great, but enterprises also need to be aware of risks. Consolidation is a potential logistical nightmare that, if poorly managed, can take far too long and be far too disruptive to both IT and the business.
One of the first steps in an effective consolidation is to define what is to be gained and how that serves the long-term goals of the organization. Is the first objective cost savings, agility, process transformation, disaster recovery, or compliance? Agreement, which should be explicit, requires ongoing communications with upper management and all affected business units.
The next step is to discover and analyze all the affected systems, storage, and applications across the network, understand their interdependencies and staff and their resource requirements, and use that data to build a business case and strategy for consolidation, based on a specific set of objectives.
“Being a statistical agency that was good at surveys, we did a survey in the departments to see what hardware, storage, and backup was out there, and tried to associate full-time employee costs to each of those environments,” says Guy Charron, assistant director of infrastructure services at Statistics Canada, the Canadian government’s statistics-gathering agency. “We also looked at the role each server played in the environment.”
Such fact finding is essential, Gartner’s Bell says. “You need to develop a complete inventory of what you have, what is near the end of life, what you want to retire or replace, what new equipment should you add,” he says. “You also need to decide if you want to maintain a regional network of datacenters, due to some unique requirements of each region, or just move to one or two primary datacenters and backup facilities.”
Charron credits Statistics Canada’s consolidation success to getting all the parties involved at an early stage. “Each division had representatives participating in building the business case and agreeing on the numbers,” he says. The survey and business case took four to five months.
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Even with broad involvement, however, there’s often resistance, particularly when it comes to moving servers and applications to a central location. “Everyone wants to hug their servers before they go home,” Charron says.