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Whittle down application sprawl

Sandra Gittlen | March 7, 2014
When it comes to shutting down out-of-date, risky or unnecessary applications, James Gordon, vice president of technology and operations at Needham Bank, doesn't mess around.

When it comes to shutting down out-of-date, risky or unnecessary applications, James Gordon, vice president of technology and operations at Needham Bank, doesn't mess around.

"Users will tell us we can't get rid of certain programs because they always use them. [IT] then asks them to define 'always'," he says, and then conducts a simple test: "We shut off the application's server to see if anyone notices."

While this might seem drastic, Gordon finds it the best way to rebut a claim that a program is a must-have. "If we can prove that access to an application hasn't been attempted in six months, then we can argue that application isn't necessary," he says, adding IT powers the server back up as soon as the first call for the application comes in.

Around half the time the IT group has to re-start the app, Gordon says. "Sometimes it will be off for two months and then we get a call, and have to eat crow," Gordon explains. "Other times we power it down and the app is forgotten."

Go for the gusto: An expert's advice

Don't get caught up inventorying every single application, advises Andy Kyte, vice president and fellow at Gartner. Instead, focus laser-like on the largest applications, or what he calls the elephants in the portfolio.

"If you go around killing off the smaller applications, or mice, there is little impact on budget, agility and responsiveness," he says. Instead, he recommends tackling 50 to 100 of the most complex and bloated applications, such as ERP and health administration, and their associated business processes. They might take more effort, but are sure to improve the stature of IT and the business overall.

He adds that no legacy application is above scrutiny. "Smart CIOs will look for ways to afford modern systems that are used for purpose rather than cementing themselves in legacy architecture," Kyte says.

Large organizations that have grown through mergers and acquisitions — and consequently have application portfolios with extensive duplication — should be able to achieve savings of at least 30% through ruthless focus on business process standardization, Kyte says.

— Sandra Gittlen

IT executives today must keep close watch on software usage as out-of-control application stacks can jack up costs, introduce vulnerabilities, add to infrastructure complexity, jeopardize licensing and waste staffing resources.

"Fewer than 20% of applications account for more than 80% of IT's budget," says Andy Kyte, vice president and fellow at Gartner. Optimizing that 20% by eliminating redundant, inefficient and wasteful software could yield significant cost and efficiency benefits.

"You have to manage all applications for value. Know what you've got, why you've got it, what it costs, what you plan to do with it, and how you're going to continue to manage it," he says. Individual applications and application portfolios have to be held at an affordable price with good service to users.

 

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