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Move up to a mainframe. Downsize your operations with client-server technology. Integrate across platforms. We've been hearing the suggestions that we migrate our applications to different hardware for years. My principle belief is that we hear about these things because having once sold us a piece of hardware, the vendors think we must certainly need to purchase more today.

Two years ago, I personally touted the excellence in efficiency that could be obtained with the introduction of midrange computers with dual processors and other enhancements. My thoughts were that it would be easier than ever to centralize all functions, and deliver managed workflow and image capability to all users. A current reading of advertisements and columns might influence me to say that the trend should now be to move towards client/server. Distributed processing is now supposed to be the answer to all our ills. I don't concur.

Buying new equipment, operating systems and software is not the goal of every MIS director. Most individuals, having carefully mapped out an automation strategy for their firm are as unwilling to transition their efforts as the chairman of the board is to revamp all the systems in the shadow of the last hardware acquisition. Rather than being a new "toy," most major acquisitions have long runin periods, and show little compatibility at first with the extant systems. If an MIS director is to support a change in platforms and operations, the change should deliver both enhancements in productivity (the same people successfully carrying out new tasks) and increases in capacity (the same people handling greater volumes).

Those who spent the extra for "thinking" workstations as opposed to dumb terminals are in a better position. They have the opportunity to either emulate the main/mid-frame computer, or to process on a network. The prevalence of the IBM 386SX client pc, with its noticeable lack of disk drives, is evidence of the flexibility that many MIS directors wanted. However, the time is still not right, even for those who already have the capabilities to re-engineer their automation.

The key here is that the re-engineering effort we are looking at involves redefining the process and the role of the user. Before another dime or minute is expended in the streamlining/growth/downsizing movement, we must examine our operations. Where are the weak links (paper, interface with external partners, etc.)? Why are we retaining so many documents in servicing? Where are we making so many copies in origination? What do people know, as domain experts, that computers do not? And conversely, what do systems know that we have not designed reports to tell us? Each of these questions (and many more) must be answered. Then, having decided how things should go, we can evaluate whether distributing or centralizing the processing is the answer.

Every user wishes to get their job done when and how they want, with as little complications as possible. Depending on corporately managed peripherals and MIS programming cycles to obtain output does not sound as appealing as controlling most functions, most data, and most of the manipulation of that data from your desk. This wish for more control is to be expected, but also does not define rightsizing. While there is no doubt an advantage to having departmental reporting and peripheral control, the merit of this may not be as great as maintaining all users in the corporate technological plan. The cost may not be justified either.

Am I saying that mortgage bankers should not acquire new hardware? Certainly not. Most change is good (because it recognizes what is the matter now) and is something we are used to. Knowing the reasons behind the change, and what goals are to be accomplished by it is more important than the change itself. Every organization should have a technological component of its strategic plan, and I recommend that we examine whether the rightsizing goes along with that initial plan. Further, the goal has to be changing the processes we follow as opposed to the equipment we use.

So, when your vendor comes knocking with a machine that they say enhances productivity, don't forget to remind them that only people can change their productivity. Training, comprehension of the task and knowledge of the desired result are the tools that one must use to make technology decisions a method. The abacus, the slide rule, the calculator and the AS/400 can all perform similar functions with the right instructions. It is the situational application that dictates the choice of one over the other.
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Title Annotation:acquisition of new computer systems
Author:Hershkowitz, Brian
Publication:Mortgage Banking
Date:Jul 1, 1992
Previous Article:Software.
Next Article:Secondary market.

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