Legacy Systems: Working in the Shadow of a Frankenstack

Posted: 05/05/2021

Managing the administration of research and getting the best value for your money has always been one of the sector’s greatest challenges. DVE are very excited to be working alongside EndPointIQ to bring cost effective solutions to HDR Student Management; Grant Management, Ethics Management; and Publications Management. With modules that can be purchased and run separately or as a total package, the solutions will see you giving your time and effort to actual research rather than administration. Have a look at the article below and feel free to contact DVE if you’re interested in exploring opportunities.

Working in the Shadow of a Frankenstack

by: Endpoint IQ

Application software must deliver return on investment on many levels. Increasing operational efficiency and reducing administrative burden goes without saying – but have you considered the often hidden costs associated with your IT systems footprint?

The Scenario

Large organisations often accumulate a wide range of legacy systems that have evolved over time. Starting out small these are often developed internally and have been stretched and expanded over many years to become mission critical pieces of software. Instead of exploring what new solutions match or can improve processes, large organisations have a tendency to warp or add countless bolt-ons (pun intended!) to the legacy system in an attempt to make them fit.

Many universities are plagued with these architectures.  One example is in areas like Research Management where independent systema are required for discrete functions such as HDR student management, grants management, ethics management and researcher focused financials. Finance and student management systems do not often provide the functionality required by these satellite systems and a complex ‘Frankenstack’ of system integrations emerge. This type of approach will open the organisation to a host of avoidable risks.

Key Person Risk

Frankenstack system architectures expose organisations to key person risk. We have all heard or experienced the story of the ‘one man band’ consultant or the ‘system guru’ leaving the organisation and no one being able to fill their shoes. These systems can serve their purpose in the short-term but as organisations and tech stacks’ grow, such band-aid solutions grow in complexity and impede an organisations agility towards optimal business processes.

In these situations, organisations are held at ransom and solutions are expensive and untimely.

Trust in Core Systems

Within Frankenstack scenarios, a multitude of systems daisy chained together for key processes significantly increases the likelihood of errors and/or system downtime. If one piece of the chain breaks or is modified – the whole system fails. This leads to bottle necks, when one system is down it can halt the flow of information and legacy systems do not offer the smarts to reconcile these faults.

This can lead to unreconcilable errors, massively increasing IT overheads and magnifying key person risk.

These are direct costs but in addition, extra downtime and lack of trust in key systems result in end user frustration. For research focused end users (where data integrity and reproducibility are core to their role) this can be detrimental to staff retention and subsequent pressure on the administrative teams. These are indirect costs, but equally if not more important.

Data Risk

Every bolt-on to the Frankenstack, introduces new security risks and integration complexities. Every bolt-on will need to be managed/patched individually, further increasing risk of overall systems downtime and back-office cost.

According to the 2019 Cost of Data Breach Report from the Ponemon Institute and IBM Security, the global average cost of a data breach is $3.92 million up 12% over the last 5 years, with healthcare having the highest industry cost of $6.45 million likely due to the amount of personal data held in those systems. This is a cost many organisations would struggle to recover from.

The Solution

Contemporary, end-to-end solutions written for the specific business function.  For example, software designed specifically for today’s research and development industry can overcome these issues. Out of the box integration capability within software products and elegant interoperability options tie key peripheral systems together and offer capabilities large ERP software systems cannot.

There are solutions that offer the ability to ‘turn on’ new modules as your organisation becomes ready. No need to start from scratch each time new modules are added. This means you can dramatically reduce overall license and setup costs. Furthermore, systems providing highly  configurable solutions will significantly reduce the total cost of ownership because you are not going back to consultants every time you need a change!

A single system that does everything may be the holy grail. However, strong consideration must be given to consolidating vendors where possible. In those considerations, partnering with agile, collaborative companies that understand your industry and risks will make a giant leap in transforming your digital footprint and making sure you do not get left in the dark ages, with your user community bearing torches and pitchforks demanding an end to the Frankenstack!


Copyright Endpoint IQ Pty Ltd 2021 Re-posted with permission