Legacy systems, often poorly documented and written in obsolete languages, can be expensive and risky to renew.
Many of the largest corporate project failures come from this area — attempts to rebuild or replace core enterprise systems.
Hewlett-Packard believes it has a methodology and practice that can reduce this risk.
From its Business Applications Services Centre in Christchurch, and 14 other similar centres around the world, it is aiming for a “scientific” approach to these problems.
Alex Bouma, who manages the applications services business in New Zealand, says HP is looking at the work it has done, especially in the area of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) over the years, both here and internationally, and developing areas of specialist capability — or, as HP calls these, “domain expertise” — that can be deployed globally as well as locally.
“Every application a customer has needs to have modernisation done to it at some time,” Bouma says.
A major driver is the need to free-up application maintenance costs, so they can be deployed to other areas of innovation. Bouma says data from within HP’s own IT organisation showed the company was spending 72% of its IT investment on infrastructure and application maintenance. That needed to change. The company needed to spend a “heck of a lot more than 28% on application innovation”, he says.
Out of that renewal project, Bouma says, there developed and executive-level understanding of the need to get a grip on modernisation. That, in turn, developed into a worldwide initiative to develop expertise that could be taken to market for customers.
From New Zealand, the HP centre has undertaken what Bouma describes as a lot of niche modernisations and contributed to the formalisation of these into portfolios.
“It’s a structured view to identify opportunities,” he says. “We pull the breadth of what we do into that.”
He says in New Zealand, there is particular expertise in replatforming Forte, a Sun Microsystems technology that has reached its end of life. This expertise goes into HP’s worldwide delivery model.
Bouma says every project faces certain decisions. Managers can choose to retire a system, reengineer it, rehost it, retain or replace it, he says. The methodologies HP is developing are designed to help them analyse their particular application challenges and reach a conclusion about action.
These include technology to run code bases through tools and look at their complexity, identify redundant code and deliver a graphical landscape of the application. From there it is possible to identify the best processes to attack first.
“We’ve taken a smorgasbord of things we can deliver and wrapped around them a structured methodology to allow customers to make informed decisions about which applications to target or which parts of applications to target,” he says.
The Christchurch centre focuses on Java and .Net development.
Another area of specialisation is in delivering national identification solutions, such as passport and drivers licence systems, Bouma says. Local customers include Vector and the Ministries of Education and Social Development.
• O’Neill travelled to Christchurch as a guest of HP