11 years, 25 days ago

Rationalising Application Rationalisation


Application portfolio management

Application proliferation/sprawl

Application Rationalisation/Reduction

These are phrases that are so often used within IT. The latter normally used in the context of an ill-defined goal that sits on top of an assumption that there are far too many apps and if only we could get the number down everything would be better.

The goal is often talked about and not actioned, when it is actioned it often doesn’t meet the expectations or flimsy, arbitrary targets that have been set.

If you have heard the phrases used above, if they are perhaps phrases that you use yourself then I think its worth asking yourself one question:


Do the users who get the value from the information system foot the bill for their use of the information system?


If the answer to this question is no (and there are a lot of orgs where it will be) then good luck!

If the answer to the question is no then you have found yourself in a situation where someone (it might even be you) has created and maintained a set of circumstances where there is a fundamental conflict between two actors in your organisation. 1) the users and 2) IT, because the decoupling of the realisation of value and the cost of delivering that value means one party feels only gain whilst the other feels only pain.

You will always have an uphill struggle to rationalise application portfolios as long as your user only experiences the positives of the application. Imagine persuading a drug addict that he needs to reduce his consumption because its really killing your bank balance paying for his habit. 

You need to re-couple the value cost relationship. One way of coupling value and cost back together and removing the conflict from the relationship is chargeback.

An impediment to implementing a chargeback mechanism is that it is often stated that chargeback is difficult. No its not, chances are its probably already happening elsewhere in your organisation and you don’t even know it. And you know what? Chargeback is getting easier and easier. As adoption of cloud services and the associated move to revenue spend increases, understanding the cost of usage gets easy. Even with on-premise applications the level and granularity of monitoring platforms today mean that it is achievable to trace usage back to cost. if you aren’t doing this then you obviously just don’t think its important enough, in which case you should stop whining about application proliferation and go and fight some other battle. 

Another perceived impediment to chargeback is a concern that a lack of ownership of cost will lead to even more applications. The ‘If marketing get to foot the bill for their apps we’ll end up with 5 different CRMs’ scenario.

Er, newsflash, if that was true you wouldn’t be talking about application rationalisation in the first place.

Application proliferation isn’t a symptom of uncontrolled spend.

Application proliferation and duplication of functionality is just a symptom of the fact that IT isn’t doing its job very well.

It is a symptom of:

– Poor engagement with your internal customers

– Lack of understanding of business need and the ability to offer effective solutions.

– Lack of appropriate change and architecture governance

If application proliferation and rationalisation is a hot or recurring topic then start by looking within, look at the type of relationships you perpetuate through inaction and challenge your assumptions about what might be the impediments to change. The biggest impediment to solving the problem will be your willingness to change the way you think of the problem.