By Alex Klamkin, Director, Systems and Information Security

Hundreds of professional services firms worldwide rely on 3E by Thomson Reuters Elite as their enterprise and financial management platform. Because the platform is responsible for helping firms manage all critical business areas, keeping the system up and running with no unexpected downtime is essential to achieve and maintain operational efficiency. Therefore, it would only make sense to not take any chances with the firm’s live production instance of 3E when tasked with troubleshooting performance issues. The better way to go is to have a non-production platform available and in sync with your production environment. Here’s why.

You may think it’s OK to have a test instance of 3E on standby. But if the data in your test system is outdated, it’s no good. Should the need arise to identify, troubleshoot, test, and, ultimately – correct a production issue, you’ll have to scramble to update the data. Not ideal. The solution is to keep a non-production environment current, so you can effectively troubleshoot and correct potential issues. Here are four scenarios to drive home more reasons why.

Scenario 1: Troubleshooting complex processes

Say there is a problem in your production environment that prevents finance from sending out bills. If the cause is complex, which it often is, your IT team would need to spend significant time investigating and troubleshooting.

Performing troubleshooting in the production instance is highly disruptive to regular business operations. Also, to do any meaningful troubleshooting, it is often necessary to process and complete transactions. Doing so may not be possible in a production situation where completing a transaction would result in an actual (and sometimes fully automated) real-life event like cutting a check or something similar. That’s when you want to work in a non-production system that replicates the production system’s data.

By running the same scenarios on a different set of hardware, you can figure out whether, for example, the issue is being caused by an infrastructure-level problem, or instead if it has something to do with a third-party process. There are multiple other possible reasons why. The point is that a non-production system provides a beneficial tool for troubleshooting.

Scenario 2: The trouble with clones

Sometimes you can set up a “clone” of the production environment relatively quickly. In some cases, firms have people on staff with the knowledge of how to do this. But there are a few problems with this approach.

Cloning is not a very simple process and requires a skill set that spans multiple disciplines. You can attend a training session on how to clone your system. Still, this training is typically done as part of the initial implementation project, and there is no “refresh” available. Meanwhile, tools and versions continuously change. Unless you stay on top of this, there is a relatively strong probability of things being different the next time you have to perform the task. Some can “wing” it with various degrees of success. But if something goes wrong, it could be days until the action is corrected and the new instance is up and running. Users in production are still unable to do their jobs in the meantime.

Scenario 3: Limited resources and higher prices 

The third scenario to keep in mind is that unless your non-production system is always up to date, you run the risk of not finding help when there’s an urgent need to update it. If your firm does not have the expertise in house and you look to engage a service provider, most of the time, consultants are booked well in advance. Finding someone in a hurry is not often possible and can lead to delays. Pricing tends to be higher, too, for urgent requests.

Scenario 4: Developing customizations 

Users always request some degree of customization to software and processes. When tasked with doing so, if you develop customizations on stale data, it will almost always lead to issues because of how diverse and complicated the financial system’s data is. Development systems must stay current with production data to ensure releases do not get returned to developers because of repeated data issues. Going through additional rounds of review with your developers could cost the firm plenty and may hinder your ability to reach development deadlines. This back and forth could also lead to business interruptions and cause unnecessary aggravation for users.

Scenario 5: Training environment  

User training is a necessity. After all, the way to realize the best return on your software investments is to ensure your people know how to use the software correctly and follow established practices for all business processes. It makes a lot more sense to train people on current data than show them something stale and does not look the same way in the real world – in the production system.

Getting help

Many firms either do not have the skill set or the capacity in house to do this work without drawing resources away from day-to-day work. Therefore, if I’ve convinced you that your firm needs to keep its non-production data in sync with production data, but lacks the resources to do so, then call on us.

Wilson Allen can plan and schedule refreshes of your non-production 3E environment(s) at regular intervals to clone the firm’s production instance of 3E to its non-production environment. This allows you to get an exact copy of the production instance available for testing, troubleshooting, development, etc., in an apples-to-apples manner.

Our team of IT systems specialists possesses decades of experience helping firms administer and manage their financial systems. This expertise allows us to discover common patterns and also to predict what some clients would want and need to do in the near future – before you realize it. To learn more or speak with one of our specialists, please contact us. To learn more about our Elite software services, please visit our specialized expertise page.