Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Software Procurement Categories

Magazine article Mortgage Banking

Software Procurement Categories

Article excerpt

IN LAST MONTH'S COLUMN WE WROTE about the benefits of defining software procurement standards. We outlined a three-step process for procurement: evaluation, request and implementation. Finally, we described the approval levels: corporate standard, restricted and unsupported.

In this month's column we describe the categories of software that need procurement standards, or the components of a software architecture.

Components

Generally speaking, most firms have clear-cut standards on hardware procurement. Most users have learned not to care what servers are selected, since this hardware should be under the care and keeping of the information technology (IT) department. As for the client workstations, it is the practice to have three to four standard configurations. This would include a standard desktop (for almost everyone), a standard laptop (for remote sales and/or executives as well as certain IT support personnel) and a "power user" configuration with enhanced speed, memory or display.

It is on the software side that procurement standards become especially important. It is helpful to think of the software components as forming a set of concentric circles, with the most powerful and significant software at the outermost circle. This would be the operation system (OS) layer that identifies the containing architecture that provides the backbone communications/processing environment. The choice of OS will be the prime determinant on which other software is selected.

Today, the leading choices of network operating systems (NOS) are Novell's NetWare, Microsoft's Windows NT(R) and the various brands of Unix. Linux (see the Technology column, Mortgage Banking, July 1999) is likely to be a contender over time. Each of these OS has different capabilities, capacities and support requirements. NetWare, for instance, is still the OS of choice for office automation software, especially for non-Windows products such as Corel or Lotus. Unix is particularly prized as a database environment because it can handle calculation-intensive activities and has a sophisticated level of system administration options. It is thus possible for a firm to allow multiple OS within the overall architecture, but to standardize by server type.

At the next level, the database component has applicability across many departments or functions. If at all possible, a firm should strive for two database choices. The first is a production-quality environment such as Oracle or SQL Server, which are fully functional, robust systems that can support a wide variety of applications. They require specialized expertise, including the services of a database administrator (DBA) who will ensure there are adequate safeguards on data integrity, security and performance.

The second level of database is used for departmental or individual applications, typically for tracking or reporting. Microsoft's Access or its Excel spreadsheet are frequently used for this. These are usually created by users and are not administered or supported by IT. The key is to remember that there are no safeguards on this data and that these databases are productivity aids and not systems of record.

The next level of component is the so-called groupware or knowledge management tools. These include e-mail, calendaring, scheduling, browsers and the like. …

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