From green screen apps to the cloud: One CIO's challenge

By Kevin Fogarty, CIO |  Career, career, CIO role

The core business application -- a homegrown pharmacy management application -- was character based and accessibly only from dumb terminals. Because the data was difficult to extract and use for capacity planning, scenario planning, market analysis and other business-intelligence functions, Crescent did without.

It did without a lot of things.

"Most of the real business applications were homegrown and a lot of it had to be replaced," Michalak says.

"The idea [from top managers] a wholesale legacy replacement -- to create from scratch a pharmacy management system that is essentially soup to nuts, that touches all aspects of the functional business departments," he says. "The original intent was to do all the development with a cloud based solution to get the cost and efficiency benefits available there and a path to other initiatives."

"We went through the legacy systems to try to evaluate what were the true business processes they represented and how well we could replicate that with Force.com services," he says. "It turned out there was a certain percentage of business processes that could be handled through a specific cloud environment, while others created some challenges for us."

Tradeoffs Part of SaaS

That tradeoff is an unavoidable part of any legacy migration to commercial software, but especially migrations to cloud- or SaaS-based applications, according to Patrick Kuo, a Washington, D.C.-area consultant responsible for the cloud infrastructure at political-news site The Daily Caller. "The important part is to not try to fix something right away like an emergency," Kuo says. "I try to take a step back and ask where do you want to go in six, 12, 18 months and figure out a plan to get there and not worry as much right away about what technology to use."

For Crescent the first step was to gather, clean and recycle the company's data to make it usable in applications other than the homegrown versions. So the first thing on the agenda, rather than a cloud platform, was to build a data warehouse to receive the data, install Salesforce.com to automate business operations and add some business-intelligence features to help plan operations and marketing.

"The initial approach was to do a full Force.com development, but as we moved through that we had to make some adjustments based on specific requirements that didn't quite fit the cloud plan," Michalak says. "We followed the goal as closely as we could, while accommodating immovable priorities that meant we had to reconfigure some areas."

One of those was replacing the green-screen pharmacy management system with something more modern -- in this case, the CPR+ from Definitive Homecare Solutions -- a specialized set of applications designed for patient- and business-management.

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