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August 2003

Build, Buy, Port or Stay?

Choosing a Winning Strategy for Your HP 3000 Transition

[Editor’s Note: This article is taken from an HP World 2003 session scheduled late in the conference week, on Friday, August 15 at 10:40 AM. We’re passing it along to the HP 3000 community that might miss the talk due to restricted travel budgets or other training commitments.]

First of two parts

By John Burke

What should an IT organization that committed to the HP 3000 do now? In November of 2001, the IT world changed dramatically and irrevocably for everyone using the HP 3000 and MPE. Whether it wants to or not, each organization with at least one HP 3000 is embarking on a transition, a transition that will make or break careers, and a transition that, if handled poorly, could bring down the organization. Instead of dealing with what in retrospect now seem like simple decisions, such as which application enhancements to add or when to upgrade, each organization must now make the business critical IT decision whether to build, buy, port or stay.

We’re going to look at objectively exploring the alternatives, including using a combination of approaches to achieve the best overall solution to the transition dilemma; taking control of your destiny; and avoiding common mistakes.

All HP 3000 users are in a transition period

When HP announced the end of its line for the HP 3000, it got at least one thing right by using the term “transition,” because everyone will have to “transition” to a new IT model. Somehow, though, “transition” has come to be used synonymously with “migration” or “port” by HP’s partners and even HP. Neither “migration” nor “port,” however, is a synonym for “transition.” Fact has been replaced by FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt).

You really do have choices; in fact, you can even be in the driver’s seat. “Build, buy, port or stay” is not just a slogan, but also a set of real choices that require real analysis.

Despite what some consultants and vendors will say, “porting” your homegrown applications or following your ISV are not necessarily obvious choices. In fact, a portfolio solution that combines several of the alternatives may be the best bet for some organizations.

Surveys suggest that most HP 3000 users have not yet committed to a transition strategy. If you haven’t at least started a thorough analysis, it is time to begin. You have four distinct choices to consider for a transition strategy: to build, to buy (replace), to migrate (port) or to stay (homestead). Each option is viable for some organizations and each comes with its own set of risks and rewards.

For example, everyone understands that building, buying and porting are major decisions, major projects and will cost significant dollars. But there is a tendency to dismiss staying as the do nothing, no (or low) cost approach. Take that approach at your peril. Evaluate in detail all four options.

This is not something you can or should try to dash off in a few days. It will likely be a defining moment in your career. Treat it as such. You still have time to plan properly. For example, HP support for your HP 3000 and MPE still has more than three years remaining. Furthermore, HP will continue to sell almost everything past October 31, 2003 except a whole systems or a chassis. [If you even think you might stay on the HP 3000 for an indefinite period, try to get a new A- or N-class system before October 31.] Finally there are well-qualified third party hardware and software support options. Remember, “failure to prepare is preparing to fail” – John Wooden.

Someone has to do it, why not you?

Your organization’s transition, how it is handled and your role, can make or break your IT career. Avoid falling victim to “management by magazine” or “management by consultant” by spearheading the planning process in your organization. Burying your head in the sand and hoping HP will change its corporate mind is a sure way to end up on the unemployment line. Planning and strategizing may not be something you like to do, but it is something you must do if you want to be the master of your destiny.

Thoroughly research all transition options

“Build” means re-writing into newer technologies. Be sure to include any extra manpower requirements, timelines, costs (including new software, hardware and databases) and risks (especially to the project timeline).

“Buy” means purchasing packaged applications. Be sure to evaluate the full costs, including implementation, module additions, training and impact on the business.

“Port” or “migrate” means translating or moving your software to another platform. Include timelines, resource requirements and total costs, including new software, hardware, databases, and migration tools.

“Stay” or “homesteading” means indefinitely continuing to run and enhance your applications on the HP 3000. Be sure to include the impact analysis and risk assessment of this choice.

Seek advice from experts. There is a lot of free advice available; but beware that even “free” advice comes with a price. Consider hiring someone instead to specifically do an independent study, working along side you. They can help you see the risks and rewards of each option.

In either case, if you bring in a consultant or consulting organization, remember they all generally have an agenda. You have to manage the consultants and vendors. Do not let the consultants and vendors manage you. Use the tools available from HP and its partners: Web sites, white papers, Webinars, technical documents and even magazine articles.

Evaluate for yourself all available platforms when considering the “Build,” “Buy” or “Port” options; do not let someone else make this decision for you. Following your ISV is essentially a “Buy” situation; so consider other vendors of similar software in your analysis.

Questions to evaluate your organization

Are you an small to medium-sized business (SMB), a large multi-national, public, private? Are you risk averse or leading edge? Does your organization have tolerance for change or is it set in its ways? What is your organization’s financial status? It is possible your organization cannot afford the “best” solution. Understand whatever constraints you will be working under. It is important that you involve your financial people in your discovery and planning process.

What about your application software? Do third parties supply your primary application software with you adding little or no homegrown code? Do third parties supply the software with you adding significant homegrown enhancing surround code? Is your primary application software homegrown and developed, possibly with third party utilities or tools incorporated?

Evaluate the quality of your software, both homegrown and purchased. Be brutally honest. Compare the functionality of your software to what your organization’s competitors do. Compare it to software you could purchase. Pretend you are outside looking in. While you are evaluating your software, take the time to make sure your user and internal documentation is accurate and complete.

In-house talent: Build vs. Buy experience

Evaluate your in-house talent and experience. Any plan you develop should take into account your in-house talent and experience. Catalog your platform and language experience. If you have homegrown applications, then you have “build” experience. Rather than port aging applications, you might want to consider taking advantage of new technologies while leveraging your knowledge of the business to “build” new, modern applications.

If an ISV provides your primary applications, you have “buy” experience. If you are already using third parties for support, then you have some of the experience you need for homesteading. Search your career history. You may already have some port experience. After all, how did you get to the HP 3000? Catalog any outsourcing experience you have or experience working with outside contractors or consultants.

Things to consider or develop

Here’s the list: Impact Analysis, Risk Assessment, Return On Investment (ROI) calculations, Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) calculations, an outlined Project Plan, a budget outline and a spending schedule tied to the project plan. A few of these merit a closer look for the HP 3000 manager.

For example, in your impact analysis and risk assessment, consider the risks in buying a replacement application — studies show that as few as 10 percent of ERP implementations actually finish on time and on budget, and 35 percent are cancelled outright. In the case of a migration, consider the risks associated with customization and the costs of the required tools and consultants.

In homesteading, consider the risks in staying put. These include support, how to handle significant changes in your business, the viability of third-party software vendors and how all are affected by time. In all cases, consider how to best mitigate these risks.

ROI is very difficult to measure in a transition project. Consider such things as future stability and growth potential of the IT infrastructure as well as the value that growth brings to the organization. Consider also the value of being able to do new things easier and cheaper. Try structuring your ROI calculation as a comparison of alternatives. Figure TCO over at least three to five years, not just in the first year or two.

The project plan is critical and must identify and itemize all aspects of the transition plan. Be sure it includes hardware, software, tools, databases, and other resources. Identify measurable project milestones (goals and dates), critical paths and potential danger areas. Pay particular attention to the availability of resources; for example, the possible contention with other activities such as fiscal year-end closes or busy seasons.

In your budget, include both current annual costs and fully-burdened transition project costs, including software, hardware, support, tools, contractors, personnel and training. Create a multi-year budget, and be sure to include parallel costs if your plan includes maintaining two environments for any period of time. Be prepared to compare budgets for all the alternatives. Your spending schedule must be closely linked to the project plan, and those expenditures need to reflect the project milestones.

Next Month in Part 2: A detailed look at all four options. Plus, what your ISV and HP do not want you thinking about, and some mistakes to avoid. 

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