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Fit for Purpose: Why Choose Application Rationalisation?

Brian McQuillan ‎03-29-2013 01:55 PM - edited ‎07-09-2015 08:29 PM

Redundant, familiar, sacred cows – is this an accurate description of some of your current software applications?  How can IT and its end users get past the emotion and overcome the inertia inherent in well-entrenched legacy software?  Many organizations are choosing application rationalisation because it affords a big picture view of how each asset uniquely contributes value to the business. It helps identify the most cost-efficient way to run a business process, even if it means that some existing applications with unnecessary or overlapping functionality are shown the door.  Could such a process be introduced to your application environment before its tangled vines choke off the IT value-add to your business?


I recently had the chance to watch this engaging interview with Phil Murphy, lead analyst on Application Transformation at Forrester Research. 


Phil was explaining the rationale behind the need for application rationalisation. With the years of legacy apps, IT is pulled between the need to maintain what's there and the need to innovate to push the business forward, because you'll never have enough resources (financial or personnel) to do both. But it's not just about reducing the 'anchor' or drag that your apps have on the organisation, or the sheer quantity of them. It's about, to paraphrase the former British Home Secretary Dr. John Reid, making sure they are "fit for purpose". 


Phil goes on to say that while application rationalisation may be a technical challenge, it's being driven by the needs of the business, and I couldn't agree more. As we strive to innovate and get things done cheaper, and faster, often we're burdened by what came before, and can't react fast enough to get in front of the problem and be proactive - the legacy just wears you down.


We all get so caught up in technology - that we sometimes fail to realize that it might not actually be the answer, so I particulary enjoyed his analogy of the mail room - do you invest a million dollars on an app for three workers there when you could get the same result for a third of the cost by tripling the staff?


His comments that application rationalisation is not a one time proposition - once started it's something we need to continue, certainly resonates. Things change – and, as they change, the context and circumstances change. The app that was flavour of the month this year will, in 3 years, most likely be redundant and in the process of being replaced by the Next Big Thing. Think of it like maintaining your home 'applications' because there will always be things that need done. For example,“I really should replace the old stove that was here when I moved in with a more efficient EnergyStar model that will save me money in the long run, but I can't get round to it just now as I'm trying to patch my roof”, and you'll see where he's going.



If we don't keep going through the rationalisation process then we find ourselves right back where we started with the same headache and costs. By taking this approach and focusing on business context, CIOs can have a conversation with their business counterparts about the value they bring and help them decide where best to concentrate IT efforts.Focus on the core competencies of how they run the business and maybe carve out and outsource things that don't drive business value. Reduce resources supporting things that don't differentiate me from my competitors and use my scarce resources where i'm going to get a better impact - I mean, who hasn't outsourced payroll to ADP or another service provider these days? And does anyone notice? After all - we still get paid. It's the end result that counts.


Most organisations, I think, realize this has to be done, but balk at the scale of the undertaking. I am reminded of former American Defence Secretary Don Rumsfeld's speech on known knowns and unknowns in how organisations might paralyze themselves into indecision. But, if you listen to Phil, he lays out a few simple things to look for and start with to get you going on that never-ending journey of application rationalisation.


I leave you with one parting thought, remember - when you start down this path of making your application landscape 'fit for purpose' - it's about making your technology work for your business - not your business, working for your technology. I strongly encourage you to view the interview.







For all things HP Project and Portfolio Managment, follow us on Twitter @HPPPM


About the Author

Brian McQuillan

Brian is a Product Marketing Manager for Application Development Management Solutions with and previously for Project and Application Portfolio Management, with extensive experience in presales and implementation roles.

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