As you look down at your smartphone, you’ll probably find that you have several pages of apps downloaded. Which of these apps do you use most often? Which provide the most value day to day? Do some apps serve similar purposes? Can you delete one or more apps and function as you normally would?
When we think about technology and application rationalization in a business environment, we apply a similar thought process to a more complex landscape. Organizations, large and small, often have dozens of applications and technologies they’ve built or acquired through mergers and acquisitions, temporary business needs, and/or organizational changes. Some of these are critical while others may be redundant or even a cause for operational inefficiencies. At best, these redundant applications require maintenance and absorb valuable computing capacity; they may also make data management more difficult, introduce security vulnerabilities, and cause other headaches.
Application rationalization is the active review of an existing technology portfolio with the goal to consolidate, retire, or reallocate applications and data stores. As businesses seek to utilize data for driving decisions and proactively responding to challenges, having an inflated technology portfolio reduces agility and may hinder the ability to keep up. I’ve seen the negative impact of having redundant or unnecessary applications in a few ways:
- Increased manual processes
- Complex data ingestion processes
- Unnecessary and costly IT spend
- Data integrity and validation issues
- Inability to effectively forecast and plan
An effective application rationalization strategy is vital for the future success of a business. The key steps to prepare for this type of organizational change are:
- Inventory of Current Applications – Document all current applications in the technology portfolio regardless of whether the application is currently being utilized
- Assess Business Value & Functionality – Understand the functionality and purpose of each application
- What data flows through the application?
- How is the data being used downstream?
- Who are the primary consumers of the data?
- Determine Costs – Identify all costs associated with keeping and maintaining each application, including ongoing maintenance, computing resources, security analysis, etc.
- Develop Decision Making Criteria – Develop a scoring criterion based on business goals for which applications can be retired, consolidated, or kept standalone
- Future State – Develop, document, and socialize a future state architecture that meets business goals. Ensure that end-users have resources to help them bridge the gap from old to new in order to maintain the technology landscape long-term and implement a sustainable solution
As you continue to use your smartphone over the next few years, it is safe to say that evaluating the number of apps and storage space you have is not a one-time exercise. A year from now, you’ll find more unused, outdated, or duplicate apps. This is also the case with businesses application rationalization – the process must be ongoing in order to reap the largest benefits. A few of the advantages I’ve seen come out of application rationalization initiatives have been:
- Automated processes and increase in efficiency
- Reduced complexity and redundancy in the organizational IT landscape
- Increased agility
- Reduced and/or reallocated IT cost
- Improved data quality
- Reduced training requirements and cost
In conclusion, we could all use a little bit of application rationalization for the betterment of our own processes. In the context of business management, it is an effort that can produce immediate relief and cost savings; and an effort that must be cyclical to keep up with the rapidly changing technology requirements and landscape.