Advantage Sales and Marketing’s first step was messaging. “E-mail was the low-hanging fruit,” Hiatt says. “It was so antiquated, so we started by building a unified messaging system and active directory domain, which was well received. Then we started focusing on virtualization and consolidating database servers.”
Unisys started by consolidating regionally in the late ’90s. The second wave was to consolidate to a single global datacenter in Minnesota. Only then did the company start focusing on applications, such as consolidating to Oracle ERP for financials and Siebel for CRM. Even then, it retained two instances, one for the U.S. and one for international users. “As it turned out, it was a smart move because we need the redundancy for business continuity,” Unisys’ Carrow says. Finally, the company started consolidating messaging under Exchange.
“It’s one thing to talk about consolidating hardware and another to talk about databases and applications, which are much more complex and more visible,” IDC’s Bailey says. “If you take on too much, you get cost overruns and a lot of pressure to just get it out, so the project ends up falling short.”
AT&T’s reputation rests so heavily on faultless reliability, that it often starts consolidating by simply replicating all existing systems at the new location. “Collapsing the footprint is much more easily achievable than collapsing servers and applications, and it has a big return on investment in terms of management, efficiency, and real estate savings,” says Dave Roberts, senior technical director of consolidation, planning, and relocation at AT&T.
First American’s Jafa advises not to get too obsessed with standardization for standardization’s sake. “You want to serve the customer need for things like scalability and reliability, not force them to suddenly change their cost model or negatively impact them with a limited selection of standards.”
Plan ... Then Plan Some More
After the strategy has been decided, execution requires very careful, detailed planning. “You really need to discover all the details, all the relationships among systems and networks that you’re going to move around, and do lots of planning for everything that might happen,” Jafa says. “And you need to really focus on the lessons learned with each consolidation and use them to develop standard approaches, processes, and implementation plans for the next one.”
Business units should also be involved in the logistics planning. “We’d turn over many of the plans to the business units. The ultimate go/no-go decision was always made by the business, not by IT,” Jafa says. Similarly the business units were the ones that decided whether things were functioning the way they should.
Because it had small windows for each actual move, TRW built in specific drop-dead milestones. “If it got to be Saturday at 10 p.m. and we weren’t where we expected to be, we had to roll everything back, no questions asked,” says Anil Goindi, senior IS manager at TRW. Dry runs in a test environment were also essential.
For maximum reliability, AT&T replicates data to the target location and updates both systems in parallel for a full six months before going live at the new location. “We’ve learned that data movement is absolutely key to success,” Roberts says.
Getting help from vendors is also a big ingredient for success. “You have to tag along with the tech experts for each system,” First American’s Jafa says. “We got a lot of help and used a lot of best practices from our primary partners Fujitsu, HP, and IBM.”