Every business has applications they rely on to keep their business running. Often these applications span years and it’s easy to forget they exist as they seamlessly integrate with all the other ‘business as usual’ systems. But what if one of these business critical apps suddenly stopped working? Would your IT team know how to fix it, or even be able to identify where the problem lies? We worked with forward thinking international engineering consultancy Cundall who were keen to ensure this wasn’t a problem they’d ever have to deal with – here’s how…
Cundall have grown rapidly as a consultancy practice over the last few decades. As they’ve grown, the business’s requirements have evolved and changed and they’ve developed a large number of bespoke applications to speed up their business processes and reduce overheads. Cundall has an in-house IT team but they wanted to ensure that this team was available to add value throughout the business and so decided outsourcing the development and maintenance of legacy applications to a trusted partner, Waterstons, made good business sense.
We’ve had the pleasure of working with Cundall for over 10 years supporting their global IT infrastructure, so we’re in a great position to understand Cundall’s business and their requirements. Our first job – discovery. To understand their legacy estate and how it operated within the business we needed to do an applications audit, find out what they all do, how they integrate across the business and work with any third party application vendors to support key line of business applications.
Through the audit it became clear that there were many bespoke applications interacting with key line of business applications that allowed internal teams to work more efficiently. Our assessment allowed us to understand where they sat on internal infrastructure and who was responsible for them. Logging was used to understand when applications were used and how often. From this information it was possible to work out what was no longer needed and rationalise the environment. Our audit included reviewing all of the underlying data storage, looking at how data flows through all of Cundall’s systems and how applications linked together. Working collaboratively with the in-house IT team we were able to build a picture of what each application did, why, where and how they existed and who used them and when.
Once we had the full picture we were able to explore the best way to support Cundall. Due to the high number of legacy applications, we recommended that the best way to ensure the smooth transition of support was to embed one of our bespoke development team, part time, within the Cundall IT team. By having this resource within Cundall, as well as full time support from our dedicated service desk, it’s possible to respond quickly to any problems, but also assess any future projects or upgrades to the systems so that we can understand whether that change will have an impact on any legacy applications.
Now we’ve been looking after the legacy application estate at Cundall for some time, we’ve been able to develop further applications and integrations to meet with ongoing business needs as well as adding additional functionality to the legacy application estate to interact with newer versions of the business applications.
When taking on responsibility for legacy applications the technology generally isn’t new – we’ve seen a lot of c# and .Net applications before – what’s important for us to understand is the way that the business operates and the way that the users use the software. If there are quirky settings or strange errors often pop up when using the software then we need to know. If there are specific account permissions requirements or business-specific keywords that users use to describe what they do, then that’s important information for us to understand. These are the common obstacles that can often take hours or even days for a support consultant to discover by themselves. However, if applications are documented and appropriately handed over to our support team, then issues can often be resolved on the spot resulting in satisfied users and more efficient working. Knowledge transfer is key when dealing with any legacy applications and that’s why we spend a lot of time making sure that we get all the detail that we need.
Cundall’s in-house IT team now sleep soundly at night – knowing that all their business critical applications are looked after, that any changes made will take legacy applications into account and that we’re always on the lookout to recommend any new applications or integration solutions to help keep their business running smoothly and where possible, ahead of the game.
Having access to the full depth of skills and resources through Waterstons’ team has enabled us to quickly grasp business advantage by rapid development of new technologies, as well as reducing the risk associated with supporting our legacy applications. Changes were completed in weeks without compromising operational activity, and thorough change control and documentation gave us confidence in the supportability of the environment.Graeme Padgham Global Head of IT and BIM