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We have six offices worldwide where Clarify is being used.

By
  • Sid Adelman, Chuck Kelley, Clay Rehm, Les Barbusinski
Published
  • January 08 2004, 1:00am EST

Q:

We have six offices worldwide where Clarify is being used. Each has a separate Clarify implementation and the databases are in no way connected to each other. Do you think it is possible to have a centralized database to support the six offices in six countries? What concerns, issues, and impact would such a centralized database cause? Has this ever been done? Is it recommended or do the risks outweigh the advantages?

A:

Sid Adelman’s Answer: The centralized versus decentralized question is not simple. You will want to look at:

  • National laws that limit where data can reside – some of the security and privacy laws in the EU are very strict.
  • The ease of supporting a centralized environment – it’s three to four times easier to support a system centrally compared to one that is decentralized. This includes the personnel at distributed locations who have to be trained and available for some level of support.
  • It’s much easier to integrate data when it is centralized.
  • Additional line cost for a centralized environment to communicate with the worldwide users.
  • Additional line cost for a distributed environment – the line requirement to synchronize distributed databases with the centralized database.
  • Possibly better response time for a distributed environment.
  • Possibly higher availability in a distributed environment when there are line outages.
  • Possibly lower availability in a distributed environment when the local people are not as adept at monitoring and recovering from outages or addressing performance problems.
  • A centralized environment usually demands more extended scheduled hours – it’s much more difficult to support a 24x7 than one based on just a few time zones.

Chuck Kelley’s Answer: I don’t think that you need to necessarily centralize the databases unless there is a good business reason to do so. If there is a need to centralize so that you can do cross-office analyses, then you could set up the central database to feed the six office databases.

The questions that you need to ask are 1) can you, in fact, merge the data – are they the same grain of data, are they the same type of data, are they the summarization/atomic levels? 2) Do you need to do cross-office analyses, 3) do we have the bandwidth and time do centralize all the data and then push the data back out to the six offices.

I don’t think in terms of risks and advantages in this case. I think in terms of requirements. If the requirements are such that you need to do it, then you need to do it. If not, then is there any good reason to do so (scalability, costs, etc.). Regardless of your choice, you need to have the mind-set of an enterprise data warehouse so that the data can be relatable. This is done by an actual enterprise data warehouse or conformed dimensions.

Clay Rehm’s Answer: It is possible to have a centralized database to support the six offices in six countries. However, there has to be a good reason why these six databases need to be connected. The benefit of connecting them must outweigh the costs.

Some items of concern are as follows:

Political. Do all six offices agree on standard terminology, concepts and ideas? For example, does everyone agree what a customer is, what a product is, what revenue is? For example, is revenue something that is earned but not received? Is there a standard definition for every data element that every office agrees with?

Geography. Since there are six countries, do all the offices speak in one language? Language barriers, currency exchange, and each countries economic climate can have an impact on integrating this database.

Ownership. Do all six offices have equal power and authority, or does one office control the others?

Les Barbusinski’s Answer: My experience with Clarify has been that a) the database structure varies significantly from release to release, b) its performance doesn’t scale very well, and c) almost every installation customizes the package to some extent. I suspect that each of the six Clarify installations you support are different from each other (i.e., differing release levels, degree of customization, transaction volumes, customer life cycle stages, type and classification codes, etc.) … and that they’re different for sound business reasons. Consolidating all six installations into a single implementation would raise the following issues and concerns:

  • Will network bottlenecks cause performance problems when the database and/or application server is removed from close proximity to the end users?
  • Will the combined transaction volumes from the six offices overwhelm the database and/or application server? Will "throwing hardware at the problem" mitigate this potential bottleneck?
  • Will consolidating all six installations under a single release of Clarify cause a disruption of business because of lost and/or modified functions, learning curves, etc.?
  • Does the customization that supports one office conflict with the customization that has been applied in a different office? If so, which customization do you keep, and how disruptive will it be for the other office(s) to adapt?
  • Do all six offices use the same type and classification codes? If not, will consolidating the data force each office to standardize its codes and classifications? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? How much will such standardization cost? Will business processes have to be standardized as well, and how much will that cost?
  • Is language support an issue? Can a single Clarify database instance and application server support multiple language delivery?

My gut feel is that you would be hard-pressed (from a purely cost vs. benefit perspective) in justifying this kind of consolidation … unless, of course, such a consolidation is part of a much larger business process reengineering effort that will yield measurable business benefits. Hope this helps.

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