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CIOs take new look at sharing IT infrastructure, apps

CIOs take new look at sharing IT infrastructure, apps

Sharing IT services with other companies in your industry is back in vogue, thanks to cloud computing, the economy and new ways to collaborate.

As a nonprofit, NetHope operates on grants from companies such as Microsoft and Accenture as well as annual membership fees from its participants. Members pay between $8,000 and $20,000 annually, depending on their size. NetHope recently conducted an ROI study for its members and determined that the typical participant achieved a return of more than 475 percent on their membership fees, says Grainger-Happ.

ERP, Community Style

Some academic institutions have looked to shared software development to provide applications that drive down IT and operating costs. In early July, Colorado State University and San Joaquin Delta College each implemented an ERP-style financial system that they codeveloped with other members of the Kuali Foundation, a group of 31 colleges and universities that also includes the University of Arizona, Indiana University and Cornell University. Collectively, the group has invested $9 million toward software development for the project, says Brad Wheeler, vice president for information technology and CIO at Indiana University.

The "soup to nuts" system includes general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable and other financial modules. The Kuali Foundation ran the ERP project as a community initiative, and next month, Wheeler says, it will be made available under an open-source license.

For its part, Indiana University contributed five software developers from Wheeler's 700-person staff to help with the ERP project from its launch in the summer of 2005. While the project demanded a lot of time and attention from Wheeler and other founders--including defining the modules that would be developed and setting time lines--he says it was worth the effort to build a system that better fit higher education business processes.

Wheeler observes that some large universities have invested more than $100 million to purchase and install third-party ERP systems in recent years. Besides saving each of the participants millions in software licensing and implementation costs, each of the participating college IT staffs know the ins and outs of the Kuali system, says Wheeler. Although each institution will host its own system, a core group will continue to share software development.

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