Perfect Partners—At Least for Now

Legacy Systems and Client/Server Computing

Legacy systems are nowhere near dead, yet six out of 10 technology managers who responded to a recent Technology Managers Forum International (TMFI) survey said they believe that client/server computing will eventually replace their companies' legacy systems. The survey, sponsored by ComputerWorld and parent company International Data Group (IDG) Research, went out to 500 members of TMFI, an association of technology managers, and received a 40% response rate. The members interviewed are senior to mid-level technology managers.

The majority of respondents said they believe that legacy and client/server systems must coexist for now because companies need to migrate their data from proprietary systems to the desktop where it can be used to improve business processes and results. Of those responding to the survey, 99% have moved or are planning to move to client/server.

A variety of factors is driving the client/server strategy. Of the respondents, 56% cited the need to re-engineer business as the principal factor. When asked where their companies were in terms of client/server penetration, 66% responded that they had implemented new systems on a business or enterprise level, and 49% said they had put in new systems on a departmental level.

Providing users with desktop access to centralized or multisourced data and tying disparate database systems together were rated as equally important by 69% of the respondents.

Two out of three respondents said they believe that both Information Systems (IS) and end users are pushing the move to client/server computing and that non-IS management is playing little or no role in the decision.

About 73% of the respondents said that their current client/server applications run Windows 3.x on the desktop (see Figure 1) and use Novell NetWare as the LAN server operating system. Within 18 months, however, 49% of the technology managers interviewed expect to be running Windows 95 on the desktop, and 35% of the total respondents plan to have Windows NT as their server operating system. NT plays a role on the desktop as well: One-third of the responding managers said they plan to be using Windows 3.x in 18 months, and another one-fifth said they will be using NT on the desktop. Novell NetWare users will drop from 71% to 57% of the installed base within 18 months among the surveyed managers (see Figure 2).

The biggest unexpected cost that technology managers found in implementing client/server applications comes from retraining technical staff and educating users. Despite this, respondents anticipate an increase in client/server applications.

Preliminary cost indications suggest that 60% of every corporate technology dollar goes to infrastructure (i.e., hardware, software, installation, and maintenance, at all levels--desktop, mid-size, and large system). Client/server application development, implementation, support, maintenance, and training receive 40%. Only 28% of those surveyed expect that client/server computing will cost less to maintain in the future than it does now.

The survey also showed that client/server is well out of the pilot stage and is spreading upward through organizations; many client/server applications--not just one--are being implemented at one time. Respondents reported an average of 11 client/server applications in production throughout their companies. In fact, 37% have more than 15 applications in use, with the most common applications based in accounting, finance, and decision support.

A full 75% of the respondents said they have implemented client/server computing at the department level. While 67% have client/server at multiple sites, 50% have it at the division level. And 80% said they expect that client/ server computing will improve the way their companies do business.

Demographics & Methodology
The survey grew out of a year long task force created by Priscilla Tate, executive director of TMFI, and was co-chaired by George Roukas of the Windows Support Group and Adrian Kole of AGK Associates. The task force sponsored focus groups and meetings at industry events to explore issues related to client/server implementation, costs, and decision making, and to obtain broad industry input into the discussions.

The survey was sent to 500 members of TMFI, 30% of whom work in financial services, insurance, and real estate. About 51% work for companies with more than $1 billion in sales, and 30% work for companies with sales of less than $500 million.

Of the respondents, 82% identified themselves as the people who evaluate and recommend vendors for their companies. Also, 76% said that they were the ones who determine the need for client/server-related products and services for their organizations, 71% set standards for their businesses, and 67% select vendors. Half of the respondents are CIOs, vice presidents, and directors of technology; the other half are mid-level network and PC managers. The study went out in May and stayed in the field until the end of June.

Technology Managers Forum International
TMFI was founded in 1994 to help managers benchmark themselves against their peers and share information and concerns about corporate buying, managing technology, and professional development. The group holds a fall conference, runs regional professional development seminars, and publishes a quarterly research report and newsletter. For more information, contact TMFI, 212-787-1122, or by email at [email protected]

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