Keeping business systems updated and in sync: An ongoing IT challenge

Businessmen

You undoubtedly have a long list of applications in your IT landscape, and chances are that list isn’t getting smaller. They vary from large enterprise systems to small niche applications, and each one is important to your business — but it’s a large job to keep them up-to-date.

There’s a good chance that many of your applications are running on older versions, and this can complicate things when you are integrating with other systems. Which version of your ERP application is supported by the current version of your enterprise content management (ECM) system? What about your customer correspondence management (CCM) software — if you upgrade to a more recent version, will your other systems support that version?

It can get complicated very quickly when you’re updating interconnected systems.

Create a priority list

All systems are not created equal in terms of your business, and this translates into their place on the priority list for system upgrades. You have your top performers like your ERP or more vertically-oriented applications like Esri, Epic or CAD. These systems are generally updated more quickly when a new version is released in order to take advantage of new features that keep business moving forward. And some large enterprise applications have less frequent releases, so it can be a major change to upgrade — especially when these “upgrades” are really an entirely new product.

Then you have second-tier applications that slide down the list a little in terms of upgrades. Email and other productivity applications like Microsoft Office or SharePoint don’t always impact users greatly from upgrade to upgrade and just aren’t at the front of the line for you to keep up-to-date. But whether or not you update these applications right after a new release, you want to be free of any limitations imposed by other integrated systems.

The questions you need to ask – up front

If you’ve integrated your customer relationship management (CRM) tool with Outlook, for instance, will rolling out Outlook 2016 break this integration? Will you have to keep users who rely on that integration on Outlook 2013 until the vendor updates the CRM integration? When will that be – does anybody know?

It can be frustrating to even get this information from a vendor, making it difficult to plan ahead. But as we all know, planning ahead is extremely important in the IT world.

And then there are the applications that get very little love. Maybe you have a niche product with only a few users or the application came through an acquisition. It might not even be on the list at all. It might not even have a new version if it’s a legacy application. In these cases, you want to be able to upgrade integrated applications without breaking the connection between the two – is that even possible?

This is where it gets tricky to keep your systems integrated. The integration methods you use have to be flexible enough to account for upgrades that introduce major changes. If you have a robust enterprise content management solution, you have probably integrated it with all of your business-critical systems to help manage content related to the data in those applications.

Fortunately, OnBase has an annual release cycle that allows it to stay current with the newest versions of integrated applications. Most recently, OnBase 16 introduced updated integrations with Office 2016, Guidewire, SAP, Epic, and many, many more applications that customers use in relationship with it.

That solves many problems with most of the first and second-tier applications in your IT landscape – but what about the third-tier applications that are out-of-date but still critical? Will upgrading your ECM system make it difficult to connect with these systems?

With OnBase, integration tools are backward-compatible to allow for connections with many legacy technologies. And these integration tools are tested with each release to make sure you can upgrade without missing a beat.

It’s a tough job keeping your IT landscape up-to-date and in sync. Whether you’re using the latest cloud-based applications or an old AS/400 system, it’s important to know how they connect to minimize any upgrade surprises.

How do you ensure your systems stay current? Do you have a plan in place for updating your business critical (and not-so-critical) applications? We’d love to get your comments below.

Carolyn Kane

Carolyn Kane

Carolyn Kane has been an OnBase product evangelist since 2009. With a background in digital communication and design, she specializes in integrations, electronic forms, signatures, and correspondence management. She shares her enthusiasm about OnBase with people all over the world during training events, conferences, and on the OnBase Community.

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