Get Updates

New posts, webinar and event invitations, and more.

Too Many Systems, Too Many Headaches

, Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

For many of our projects – be they technical strategies or builds – it is necessary to develop a thorough inventory of a broad variety of systems. It is important for us to understand the existing infrastructure, systems, and staffing at an organization to ensure that any solution or recommendation takes integration and existing support capabilities into consideration. If a solution cannot be supported by existing infrastructure and staff, the additional investment in these areas will need to be included in the final assessment.  While we undertake this effort to ensure that we are making the best recommendations for our clients, there are a number of other reasons that any organization should conduct a similar inventory. 

One compelling reason to periodically look at all of an organization’s systems from a holistic view is that these tend to grow and multiply over time, with disparate departments investing in systems more or less in a vacuum. This often leads to significant redundancies and difficulties in getting these systems to share common data.  By stepping back and taking an objective look at what each system is being used for and what its other capabilities are, it is often possible to reduce a great number of systems down to a just handful that readily share common data. Identifying these opportunities and taking action can produce significant cost savings while concomitantly improving efficiency and associated business processes. 

Clearly, there are upfront costs associated with taking this approach. It takes a significant investment in staff time to inventory all of these systems and document how they are being used, in addition to the costs of switching over to new systems. This kind of work also often requires outside consultants to facilitate it, which is another cost to be considered.

Before taking on a project like this, an organization should carefully weigh the ongoing costs of the current systems against the upfront costs of fixing them. Many times the direct cost savings and efficiency gains will offset the upfront costs in a relatively short amount of time, but this is not always true. Regardless, organizations should periodically at least evaluate whether a full systems review and evaluation should be undertaken.

One Response to “Too Many Systems, Too Many Headaches”

  1. Norman Reiss Says:

    This posting bring up a valuable point which many nonprofits overlook. Very often new systems are brought into an organization without considering how well they will ‘play’ with existing products. Strangely, the problem of integrating products is often considered to be a ‘back office’ concern and not of much importance, even though it can take a huge amount of organization resources to handle.