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5 ways CIOs can rationalize application portfolios

Thor Olavsrud | March 17, 2014
The pressure is mounting for CIOs and other IT leaders to help the business enable new disruptive technologies like mobile, social, cloud and big data, but many CIOs are struggling to do so because maintaining and supporting legacy applications consumes the lion's share of the budget. Here are five recommendations for rationalizing your application portfolio.

"Look for opportunities to mutualize resources, improve documentation, refactor software, consolidate overlapping applications, eliminate redundant applications, replace aging and high-risk technologies, get rid of excessive customization and to improve development and application management productivity," Tolido writes in the report.

2. Consider More Radical Rationalization Scenarios

Despite efforts over the past few years to streamline the application landscape, Tolido says that, in many organizations, the problem has reached the point that CIOs need to consider "extreme" strategies. He points to two such rationalization strategies that more and more organizations surveyed by Capgemini have begun adopting: "enhancement" and "rip-and-replace."

In the enhancement scenario, Tolido says, IT leaves legacy applications in place but doesn't touch them or spend time adding new features. Instead, IT wraps next-generation technology - like a mobile front-end or cloud-based API around them.

In the rip-and-replace scenario, IT simply jettisons the old applications and replaces them with new, standard applications, often cloud-based applications.

"Though the first strategy is a pragmatic, relatively low-risk one that delivers quick results without massive change, it's radical in the sense that it moves the focus away from rebuilding core applications to the outer layers of the application estate," Tolido writes in the report. "The second strategy is much more radical though, and is likely to be ignited by the impatience of the business, frustration by earlier rationalization attempts and the availability of a new generation of relatively low-cost, easy-to-implement cloud-based solutions."

While Tolido notes that these strategies would have been unthinkable by most CIOs just a few short years ago, the pressure from the business is mounting these days and CIOs that are struggling to make progress in application rationalization need to consider more radical solutions.

3. Leverage Next-Generation Solutions

"In most cases, the single biggest reason not to be able to rationalize is the inability to create a business case," Tolido says. "This simply has to do with a lack of metrics."

But here, Tolido says, the business landscape has begun tilting in favor of CIOs. Social, mobility, big data and cloud solutions are big drivers of the need for application rationalization, and CIOs can use the perceived high business value of these solutions to build compelling business cases for improvements to the underlying core applications.

"There's much more pressure from the business side to rationalize the application landscape because they want to do these innovative things," Tolido says.

"Also, the new wave of applications typically comes with advanced (cloud-based) platforms that provide alternative ways to unlock legacy applications and link them to the new front ends," Tolido writes in the report. "Done in the right way, the application portfolio would be a convincing mix of new, high-value solutions and critical changes to the underlying foundation."


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