Letter to the editor

Following is a response to an FCW.com poll question that asked: "Is the Bush administration on the right track with the concept of consolidating IT projects?"

We all understand the Bush administration's hope that information technology consolidation will save money. However, I would hope that the Office of Management and Budget is benchmarking with other companies that completed their consolidations more than a year ago.

Many companies have traveled the consolidation path, and many have a long lessons-learned list. The money savings are there, all right. But IT consolidations bring considerable risk in less-tangible areas.

There is the potential for a lot of knowledge to walk out the door with the redundant employees. Consolidation also risks the loss of what may seem like nonessential "extras." For example, documentation updates often halt when IT consolidates. Why keep up documentation on a system that may be going away?

Another potential loss area is internal efficiencies, primarily those that rely on product-specific features or interfaces.

Many of these loss areas are not calculated into the equation when determining the cost-effectiveness of a consolidation. Yet they may add up to an overwhelming amount of wasted people-hours in searching for how to do what used to be routine tasks, or lost time in retrieving critical information in a crisis.

Some of these effects are not visible until after the consolidation is completed. Sadly, some companies have been in the unenviable position of reinventing their original systems at a higher cost, while the new employees they were forced to hire are climbing the learning curve of understanding their new organization. And all the while, they are paying retirement and unemployment benefits for the people they dismissed.

Borrowing the lessons-learned list from companies who have lived through consolidations will definitely help avoid many costly mistakes. We can only hope that OMB doesn't have to place this task as the first item on its own consolidation lessons-learned list.

Connie Abeln SBC Services Inc.

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