It is time to Rationalize that App – It’s costing you money and you need to know WHY!

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 | Technology Management, Technology Management | Scott Randall

I shared an article last week on LinkedIn about Application Rationalization – basically a process that gets to the heart of “Is this application being used? How and Why?” This is a process that should be a key step of the planning for any desktop or VDI rollout but is too often either glossed over, or compromised by legacy user requirements and questionable business processes.

Surveys suggest that users don’t even use half of the applications installed and according to a 2011 Application Landscape Report by Capgemini business “are forced to spend valuable IT resources on supporting an obsolete system from the past instead of focusing their assets on future growth.” An insane amount of IT resources are sapped by supporting, hosting or otherwise maintaining these unused applications.

So how does one go about Rationalizing Applications? I found a few really strong outlines to guide this process. A firm should take these as starting points. My word of warning at the very top is to watch out for the sacred cow – that legacy process or application that certain people within the firm cannot rationalize but just won’t let go of. No one will seem to care if it makes the IT department miserable but if a certain legal secretary is making her attorney miserable over it you may have lost a battle, right? As law firm IT leaders we need to do our job by using rationalization to eliminate unused apps while also demonstrating for firm management the costs of keeping that “sacred cow” in place. This is an opportunity for IT to not just respond to business demands but rather to become innovators for productivity within the firm.

Gartner Application Rationalization Visual

On with the Rationalization Process! Below are some great action points from Gartner’s “Application Rationalization Key Initiative Overview” on what this means to IT leaders:

    • Conduct regular portfolio rationalization reviews: Identify the applications with the worst performance in terms of meeting business needs in a cost-effective and reliable manner.
    • Determine a recommended course of action: Create an objective framework for assessing applications, and deciding whether to retire, consolidate, replace or modernize them.
    • Build a business case: Articulate the costs and risks of each potential rationalization project, including the opportunity cost of doing nothing. (Emphasis is mine!)
    • Segment the applications into pace layers: Reduce the cost of maintaining foundational systems of record, while allowing faster and cheaper delivery of differentiating capabilities. This may require refactoring and service-enabling applications.

Below are some helpful questions to ask when conducting the rationalization reviews, remember to include both users and IT support staff. They will have very different views on any given application and help you get at hidden help desk or support costs.

(From CIOs unaware of Application Usage & Performance, Alex Hobbs)

    1. Is anyone still using the application? If so, are they getting any value?
    2. Is the application redundant? If a replacement application was implemented, why was the older application not retired?
    3. What does it cost to operate and maintain these applications today? This should include operations, IT support, and business support costs. There are some roles that exist to provide input to computer applications that are not used by anyone.
    4. Does the existence of the application perpetuate obsolete technologies? If a business critical application relies on unsupported technology, there is a big risk to the business if this technology fails and cannot be replaced.
    5. Is there a commercial application that can replace this application and provide superior capabilities?
    6. Does the application provide the capability and flexibility currently required by the business?
    7. Is the application in-production simply to provide access to historical data to meet a government mandate? If so, what parts of the application are still required?

Rationalization should really lighten the burden across IT infrastructure and staff and when wrestling your lean application portfolio you will know your efforts were well worth it. After this initiative, keep the good hygiene in place with recurring reviews tied to desktop refresh projects or adjustments to VDI base images. Lastly, always use the opportunity that shadow IT presents by evaluating new applications that crop up from users. You never know where the next innovation will come from.

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