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Why obtaining a third-party IT assessment is a worthy investment

Obtaining an IT assessment from an outside source may find problems and benefits a company may not realize on its own.

How can an organization determine if it's making the wisest decisions? What industry trends are on the horizon and how can they be planned for? Business leaders and enterprise architects should get expert reviews before making final decisions about enterprise software and architecture projects. Sometimes the best way for an organization to prepare for the future is to get an outside opinion, experts say.

Each member of an enterprise IT project has a different perspective, but no single person can analyze the whole picture. "Every organization, no matter what they are doing, has to focus on the things they need to understand," said Carl Lehmann, analyst at 451 Research. "They are responsible for execution, they are responsible for deliverables, and they are responsible for performance metrics."

Benefits of obtaining outside guidance

Hiring a third party to assess what a company is doing wrong -- and right -- can be an investment that can make business leaders question its value. Some technology analysts say the potential positive outcomes from using an outside organization may be a smart decision in the long run.

You don't want to breathe your own oxygen too long, it can get pretty thin in there.
Carl Lehman

One of the key benefits to utilizing a third party is the fact that they simply bring a fresh set of eyes to an organization. "You want somebody to come in and make an assessment of what your existing situation is, and then make some decisions based on reality," said Susan Eustis, president and CEO and co-founder of WinterGreen Research.

Some business leaders may think performing an IT assessment is something that can easily be achieved in-house; however, experts say belief can be getting in the way of success. It's easy for members of a company to overlook things because they are too closely connected to the subject at hand.  When a person or team is closely invested in a project, for example, it may be difficult for them to give a fair, critical assessment. "You don't want to breathe your own oxygen too long, it can get pretty thin in there," Lehmann noted.

There are a number of organizations that can step in and be a company's second set of eyes. Some organizations that are familiar with IT assessments include Gartner, and for smaller companies, GreenPages. These specialists can help improve utilization, optimization and measure what a current situation is. "Once you take a measure, you want to look at the outer lie, look at the costs, and look at the comparative costs to make a decision based on the independent assessment on what the alternatives are," Eustis said.

Getting the job done

There are some things to keep in mind when selecting an outside source for guidance on enterprise software and architecture projects. Lehmann recommends taking a look at the experience each candidate has. An organization should seek out a source that has worked with similar organizations and projects. 

While thoroughly vetting any company before hiring them is an important step, the process is comparable to hiring a new employee -- if the person is someone the organization is familiar with, it may  not be necessary to waste time and resources if it's clear it will be a good fit. "If the client has experience with the vendor and is comfortable with that vendor, then they can forego a consultant consultation," Eustis said.

While there are certainly times when seeing a third-party IT assessment makes sense, there are circumstances when it may not be necessary, such as "when the business process in question is straight-forward and well-understood," Lehmann said, "and when appropriate BPM tooling is already in place and proven effective."

Regardless of whether an IT assessment is conducted internally or by a third party, some experts, such as Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst Craig Le Clair, say it's just important that the task gets done. "There is plenty of research around to support what the emerging best practice is for an organization," he said. "However you do it, it's something you have to look at."

Maxine Giza is the site editor for SearchSOA and can be reached at mgiza@techtarget.com.

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What has your experience obtaining a third-party IT assessment been like?
First of all, Thank you Maxine for bringing out this topic of IT system assessment. I think this is one of the most important part for the success of any IT system but organization tends to ignore it and would keep the boundaries of any IT system assessment internally. But, the positives of getting it done from the third party beings humongous benefits which helps in strengthening the overall organization IT strategy.
I have been a part of ERP system where we see our client tends to get its ERP system developed or modified without keeping the future course of their overall IT strategy. This have resulted in investment which later appears to be wastage as all those modifications were over written by big change as per their IT strategy. Thus, regular assessment of their system and alignment with IT strategy is need of hour for all organization.
Thanks for your feedback, Sandy! You bring up a good point.