IT: The In-house or Outsourced Debate
Editorial by Bill Bittner, President, BWH Consulting
Many companies are struggling with their IT budgets. Some have literally chosen to give up on all or a portion of IT and turn it over to outside firms.
At the same time, IT specialists are practically, if not literally, becoming a-dime-a-dozen as high schools, technical schools, junior and four-year colleges, as well as graduate schools, turn out thousands of new workers with the skills necessary to operate, connect, and build computer applications.
The focus within IT has shifted in recent years to the design of service-oriented architectures (SOAP) that are enabling applications developed by different organizations to speak with one another through the web.
Much of the effort involved in today’s applications is centered on interoperability. In order to assure an application will run on every single platform, it has to be tested on various browsers, web and database servers, as well as operating systems. New applications must be able to communicate with other applications running in their own environment (the piece covered by SOAP). Application design has to be based on a developer’s view of the business processes and the challenge of overlapping functionality between various applications must be addressed.
What if, instead of trying to make all these disparate pieces work together, a company simply said, “Let’s design it the way we want it?”
Instead of buying an application that is capable of running anywhere and on any hardware, suppose companies wrote one for their business and the hardware they plan to use.
Instead of having to understand the terminology used by different groups of developers, applications would be designed to meet the company’s needs with its terms and processes in mind.
Instead of requiring developers to understand a variety of computer languages and design methodologies, companies could use a single methodology for their business. Software vendors may even begin to offer “par-developed” applications that leave the detailed user interface portion to the business user so they can better fit it to their environment.
Maybe this idea is not so farfetched. I actually had this thought before I read that Sainsbury, the large British retailer, has made this very same decision.
Moderator’s Comment: Is it time for companies that have outsourced IT to bring it back in-house? How big must a retailer be to consider customizing a
purchased application or building its own?
I really believe Sainsbury might be onto something by bringing its IT back in-house. I’m not advocating companies no longer buy applications, but rather
manage and modify them in-house.
You could look at applications the way you would a house or a car. The developer or manufacturer builds the basic unit (the application), but you use your
own interior designers or “motor pool” to customize and maintain it. As a result, you can have the benefit of both worlds. The bulk of the heavy lifting is done by the software
vendor to create the applications, but companies would use internal personnel to create a custom look and feel that fits its way of doing business. You don’t have to continue
paying maintenance contracts and, if you like someone else’s solution, in a few years you can always change. –
Bill Bittner – Moderator