Having determined what your requirements are, it pays to take a broad view of the possible means of meeting them. Gone are the days when your only options were the purchase of heavyweight, monolithic applications that were costly and cumbersome to customise or the purchase of a range of “best of breed” applications where you faced a considerable overhead in getting them to talk to one another.
These days you may be able to fulfil your requirements in a range of ways other than purchasing applications.
We have used the term “borrow” as an option. What we mean by this is looking at ways to achieve your objectives without necessarily having to purchase applications or infrastructure and/or by using the expertise of others so that you do not have to do the work yourself. You might think about:
- Using cloud services
- Sharing services with other organisations
- Using open source products.
So-called cloud services are becoming an increasingly popular way of delivering infrastructure, administrative applications and services for learning, teaching and research. Part of the appeal is a different type of licensing model, referred to as “pay-per-use”, that can avoid the need for upfront capital investment.
It is possible to have services that are fully cloud hosted or to adopt a hybrid model where the use of cloud services at particular times can help deal with peaks in storage requirements. We discuss the use of cloud services in our cloud computing guide.
In some cases you may be able to deliver better quality or services that cannot be sustained through in-house delivery by sharing services with other organisations. There is a long history of successful shared services within the education sector and developments in technology are making it easier to operate across institutional boundaries. Find out more about this topic in the shared services guide.
One common form of sharing across different organisations is in contributing to the development of open and community source software. The open source advisory service OSS Watch provides more extensive guidance and resources on these topics.
Finally, rather than buying or borrowing a solution, we suggest you look at whether it is possible to adapt or “mend” resources already available to you in order to meet your requirements. Our resources on getting more from existing investments, or optimisation, cover a range of technical approaches that can facilitate this type of re-use. Key to this is the concept of Service Oriented Approaches (SOA): by applying certain technical standards, data from existing systems can be exported to a ‘service layer’ that can be used by a range of other applications.
In some cases using this type of approach to enable you to get a little bit more out of an existing system may allow you to avoid having to purchase a new application to carry out additional functions.