Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Going Live

Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Going Live

Article excerpt

Over the months, we have discussed the various phases of the system lifecycle methodology, explaining how a "brilliant idea" becomes a computer application. Typically, it is at this stage that the computer operations staff enters the lifecycle and custodianship for the system is turned over to them. However, a better strategy is to involve Operations much earlier on so that an appropriate support structure is in place for the new system.

Step One in this process is to define, in the project plan, the appropriate roles and responsibilities for operations staff, and particularly to differentiate the roles of developer, operations and vendor. It also makes sense, in a project of any size, to appoint an operations liaison who will attend significant meetings, review major project deliverables and serve as a resource for the developers.

This is especially important in the client/server world, because the systems architecture will undoubtedly need changes made to the server, workstation or network configurations. Performance considerations are preeminent here, and the operations staff can advise on the feasibility of alternate designs. Operations' early involvement should also identify special support needs that the users might have.

For example, a major laptop rollout to a remote field staff carries with it significantly greater support challenges than if the same number of desktop machines were installed in the home office. Not only is it not possible to deal with the user face-to-face, but there are more variables that can affect performance in the remote world. The Help Desk, in particular, needs to be trained to handle these special needs.

Operations will also have to gear up to support a pilot - increasingly a feature of today's project plan. The pilot environment must be created to simulate the eventual production environment, and this may require special hardware installation, operating system changes, changes to security profiles and the like. Operations should be given a leadership role in the pilot phase to ensure close coordination and appropriate management attention.

Operations must take the lead in defining Implementation Standards that include all the checks necessary to ensure a smooth rollout. These include everything from naming conventions to call lists to signed-off test plans. Operations is really acting on the user's behalf in this regard, and must hold Development's feet to the fire to guarantee that all the I's are dotted and T's are crossed. This is a very sensitive time with everyone pressing to "go live," but great care must be taken with the new system or enhancement to protect the existing production environment.

Operations is also usually responsible for systems software - the special programs that create the environment within which applications run. These include operating systems, databases, transaction processors and the whole array of tools used by I/T to build applications and manage the operation. Operations installs new releases of existing systems software or new systems software products in a test environment prior to its introduction into the production environment. The tests determine whether such new releases or products operate substantially according to their documentation and specifications, their compatibility with other production systems software and their compatibility with production applications software.

Other operations responsibilities include Asset Management, which involves tracking a purchase of hardware or software from user request to vendor selection to purchase order to installation, post-installation review and inventory and maintenance tracking. …

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