Organizations that maintain multiple tools and technologies for interoperability should consider a software consolidation strategy. Consolidation reduces labor and hardware costs, as well as maintenance, support and training expenses. Here are four suggestions to help get you started:
1. Eliminate Redundant Applications & Processes
Conduct an inventory of your interoperability tools; classify them by use case, Engineering IT function (i.e. CAD, CAM, CAE and PLM), manufacturing function (i.e. design, manufacturing, analysis, data management), and license type (node-locked, floating, server). Determine which applications can be re-purposed and reused for the greatest number of use cases across the company. Establish technical evaluation criteria and performance metrics to aid in the elimination of redundant applications.
2. Consolidate Applications Using Server-Based Technologies
Once you generate a list of approved technologies, use an interoperability integration platform to consolidate your applications. The solution should be vendor-neutral, SOA-compliant and deployed as back office application to maximize ease of use and minimize technical complexities. In Example 1.1, an interoperability software integration platform (ISIP) is used for consolidating vendor, third-party, and customized software applications:
3. Ensure that the Technology Is Accessible
Interoperability software is often procured as an “occasional-use, on-demand” asset. Consolidating applications into a server environment also means centralizing them, which allows you to maximize usage. In most instances, point solutions that offer batch processing capabilities may be consolidated under your server platform. If the use case requires you to distribute the interoperability software to workstations, serve up these licenses from a single location.
Once your interoperability applications are centralized under one platform, you can provide global access to your solutions and a simplified user experience by using web portals in order to reduce training and administrative costs. In the example below, users submit jobs via a simple, Java-based commercial-off-the-shelf application. By this time, the server-based solution has authenticated the users’ login, secured the transmission via SFTP, encrypted the intellectual property package, and ensured end-to-end ITAR compliance.
4. Interoperability Software Consolidation as an Engineering IT Operations Strategy
The strategies used for interoperability software consolidation often lead to operational improvements. By centralizing interoperability technologies, companies not only maximize software usage; they can leverage their purchasing power for enterprise licensing and consulting, while minimizing their technical administration and support costs. Ancillary benefits of centralization include creating operating environments that are more stable, secure, and scalable. Finally, in eliminating redundant software applications, interoperability processes are consolidated and improved.
Jamie Flerlage is a Senior Consultant for ITI TranscenData, an interoperability consulting firm specializing in strategic services and software products for Fortune 500 manufacturers. Since 1983, ITI TranscenData has assisted global enterprises with interoperability systems integration and software consolidation projects for vendor, third-party, and homegrown applications. For more information, visit www.transcendata.com or email Jamie, at firstname.lastname@example.org.