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Application rationalisation challenges

As business grow, the application landscape grows like wild mushrooms. Every need triggers a IT request and the cycle of applications springing up continues without control. It reaches a point where any organisation finds itself lost in a myriad of applications not sure where they are, who it's users are and why are they there ? You might find this a dramatic representation, but the fact that all who've worked in large organisation know that this happens day in and day out.

I've seen a case where an organisation had over 30,000 application in some form or the other. There were regional ones, global and static running on some individual systems. Guess what the IT department looked like ? It was chaos.

The solution to these lies in the application strategy the organisation takes up. A holistic plan for the entire business for the next 5 years with a strong application governance and financial control. Application strategy is not straight forward as application logic might not be easy to understand and if your landscape has legacy applications, it's daunting. With the advent of Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud ( SMAC) organisations are making that needed change to move in this direction. But the layers of applications built over the years founded on poor application governance is a a sure shot recipe for disaster.

Application strategy key driver is classification - categorising applications into a target applications class to have  sense of usage patterns and consumption ideas. For e.g. a set of applications
moving to a  cloud based CRM application which can be global and add language plugins to make it local as well. These way, handling each application class by class makes it easy to strategise, deploy and maintain. These application strategy decisions also get caught between choices business would have made over the years. If a COTS application is used for a decade and with every new customisation need, a layer of code is added. Consider the time where there is a need for the application to move from COTS to cloud, there is this opacity of the application driven solely by the customisations that the application class movement itself might be jeopardised. Application governance is another key factor here. Wrong application decision over the years being replaced by another application is like fuelling all the wrong choices that have been made. The application portfolio management is not an easy task but will have to be enforced top down by means of structured governance, logic, business case to invest in a particular application to the usability.

The challenges are galore, data migration, archival strategy, retrieval, data storage and access, new user training, cost of deployment and decommissioning and the large risk of what happens if a application is decommissioned and it had so much customised logic, none knew about it and all is gone with. So, sunsetting an application needs careful treading. Business owners, users and the operation expenses put together a business case has to be prepared to identify applications and then plan for their sunset. 
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