Article by Birgitte Agergaard, Senior Marketing Consultant, NNIT
With significant growth in software and applications, new needs and risks emerge in relation to the application layer. Operation, maintenance, software integrations and, not least, the formalisation of software processes, are just a few of the challenges. Add to those a considerable demand for increased IT efficiency, i.e. more IT of a higher quality at a lower price. This is the typical scenario – but how do you get it all to come together? Part of the solution is application outsourcing.Gradually, many companies have made outsourcing their infrastructure a matter of routine. They have become adept at measuring the value of outsourcing and have built up processes and documentation. For them, the next logical step is to move up the stack and let applica- tions go the same way as servers: Out of house. Here, it’s all about freeing-up internal resources, increasing quality and making savings too. NNIT has been operating infrastructure as well as applications for many years and experience an increased interest in application outsourc- ing from life science companies.
”Companies and organisations can have different motives for outsourcing their applications. Making savings is not always the driving force. It’s also about placing a time-consuming task out of house and freeing- up employees for other tasks. Naturally, the customers expect that we’ll do a better job than they can and that we will boost them in terms of quality. But of course cost reduction is part of the equation,” explains Robert Lauritzen, Associate Vice President, Life Sciences Application Outsourcing.One of the ways in which NNIT creates value for applica- tion outsourcing customers is by systemising the monitoring of the applications and their performance.
in a structured way with the applications and the data the monitoring yields. That is one of the major differences between keeping the application in-house and outsourc- ing it. We are 100% focussed on running the individual application optimally, and we have developed templates and processes for that specific purpose. That way, we can keep the margin of error to a minimum. If an error occurs we also have well-documented and targeted processes for dealing with that,” Robert Lauritzen tells us. Error recovery is crucial in relation to the business- critical applications where even the slightest disruption to operations has a negative impact on the business. “And how many companies have the internal prepared- ness to institute troubleshooting and error recovery in the space of a few hours?” Robert Lauritzen asks rhetorically.
Besides standard applications like, for example, SAP, Documentum and Microsoft SPS, NNIT also manages legacy and GxP applications. Companies with an in-house IT strategy may find it difficult to attract the necessary specialists. Typically, they will be forced to body shop expensive consultants to maintain the extremely complex applications. This may keep the applications running, but often operations are not systemised and optimised in relation to ITIL processes since it is expensive and time-consuming for the indi- vidual company. When NNIT takes over the operation, the customer automatically gains access to the much- coveted specialists and at the same time the applications are integrated into NNIT’s framework and ITIL process which elevates operations to a higher level. The dedication with which the outsourcing partner manages the application is one of the major differences between an in-house and an outsourcing setup:”In an in-house setup applications tend to become inferior to the overall IT operation. Although important, specific resources are seldom dedicated to the applica- tion operation and management. Applications may run, but they sometimes run in blind,” says Mette Steffensen and continues: “We ensure the daily operation and increase the quality to a degree an internal setup will find it difficult to match.”
Because many applications are so specialised, NNIT is sometimes asked about their ability to fulfil the desire for niche competencies. Robert Lauritzen comments: “We are good at IT, we are good at operations, and we are good at processes. And, we are actually good at acquir- ing new knowledge too. Any niche competencies we lack, we bring them in via partnerships or simply by requisitioning the customer’s employee with the special- ist knowledge we need – we then make sure that their knowledge is documented and implemented in a framework that is consolidated in the company.” For ad hoc processes, it is another story – although they provide the glue that helps the overall process toward completion, it is difficult to prove a credible business case, if they were to be part of the EDM system implementation.When the use of EDM systems expands to support eTMF, the challenges are inherited. To compensate for the lack of efficient support of ad hoc processes, it is recom- mended, therefore, to establish and maintain solid support options to be used by employees and third party stakeholders. This will offer a reliable alternative to e-mails and personal network drives and ensure that the digital content is safeguarded.
As part of NNIT’s efforts to achieve operational excel- lence in application outsourcing, the company has developed online application monitors to detect fluctua- tions in critical applications at Novo Nordisk around the clock. The monitor makes NNIT able to act proactively before any critical situations evolve. This monitoring principle will gradually be applied to other applications and other customers.However, people matter and communication matter – also in a highly automated IT environment. Therefore, the application teams have daily meetings. “We have China on the TV screen when we examine the status of the various teams down to the individual application,” says Morten Vollmer, Manager in Product Supply, Life Science Application Outsourcing. To sustain these meetings, several boards showing the application KPI and status are produced. And although it may seem old school with offline boards, this approach has helped improve cus- tomer satisfaction in a number of projects. Especially in projects where the application development and opera- tion is provided by integrated teams from NNIT locations such as China, Philippines or the Czech Republic.
NNIT offers an Application Strategy Review, whereby management consultants in partnership with the company establish an overview of the application landscape, which over time can branch off in all direc- tions. Once the overview has been created, NNIT brings the relevant specialist competencies on board, be they SharePoint experts, SAP specialists, FirstDoc or Documentum specialists. ”Compared with many of the major consultancies, our customers have the advantage that they can choose whether we take over parts of the process or if we should take care of the entire process. We can scale our services and don’t come along with a standard set-up that is perhaps excessive in relation to the customer’s actual needs,” says Robert Lauritzen before continuing:”Numerous small applications come into play in compa- nies and, typically, it could pay to hand them over collectively to us – either in an existing framework or as a new establishment. We are flexible. Our efforts are focussed on creating value for the customers. And, with regard to Application Outsourcing, we give customers quality and stability in the application layer so that they can focus on their business.”