Corporate Finance

One CFO’s advice: seek agnostic application managers

When a software vendor offers you managed application services as an add-on service, be careful, says Steve Barnette, chief financial officer of an...
A CFO InterviewSeptember 3, 2013

When a software vendor offers you managed application services as an add-on service, be careful, says Steve Barnette, chief financial officer of an Atlanta area school district. You may be making a deal with the Devil. Barnette serves as CFO for the Paulding County school district, which covers a northern suburb of Atlanta that has one of the fastest growing populations in the U.S. The school district’s annual budget is about $300,000, and it’s expected to reach $1 billion within a few years. Barnette says he is looking for a third-party provider that could manage and integrate the school district’s applications, which include the core application, SunGard IFAS, which runs human resources, payroll and general ledger; Infinite Campus, the student information system; and a system for student records. The district recently replaced its Novell system with Active Directory. The goal is to find an agnostic service provider, or to develop the expertise in house, Barnette said. “I don’t see the district ever outsourcing all of our services, but integration between these applications is a big challenge,” he said. “Finding a partner that helps connect those dots, which sometimes can be very far apart, is probably our biggest challenge.” What he wants to avoid is hiring a vendor that provides application management as an added service. “What we see is a lot of vendors who want to sell you a product, and in that product the value-add is the integration piece. They back into managed services by saying ‘We’ll also handle this part of it,’” he said. “So they, in a way, become your managed services provider. And they’re so imbedded in your operation you can’t get rid of them.” Because so many school districts have had to slash their technology staffs due to budget cuts, the offer of a free service can be very attractive. “So when someone steps up to the plate and says ‘Yeah, I’ll manage all these applications and their integration,’ you jump on it. But you don’t realize you may have made a deal with the Devil,” Barnette said. “I think that’s a big challenge; a big risk in this space, because of budget crunches.”

A Better Way to Do Ecommerce

A Better Way to Do Ecommerce

Learn how Precision Medical leveraged OneWorld to cut the cost of billing in half and added $2.5M in annual revenue.

Case Study: How Edgewood Tahoe’s CFO Saved 500 Jobs From the Ashes