Is Application Consolidation Easier to Take When Prescribed by Outsider?

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Why Enteprise App Portfolios Get Bloated

Check out new research from HP and Forrester.

I suspect consolidating enterprise applications is like eating a healthy diet. Everyone agrees these practices are a good idea. Plenty of us think we already follow them, but the real numbers are far lower. Even the virtuous few among us will benefit by stepping up our commitments.


A Forrester survey commissioned by HP found a whopping 91 percent of respondents felt they would benefit from application consolidation, with 53 percent of them agreeing strongly. Yet most of the respondents said they were following practices that should keep the number of superfluous apps to a minimum. Eighty-eight percent, for instance, said they required new project budgets to fund the retirement of applications they replace. Seventy-seven percent said they have a formal application retirement process. Seventy-six percent said they replaced and/or retired obsolete apps in a timely manner.


That doesn't really mesh with what Honorio Padron, the Hackett Group's Global IT Advisory Practice Leader, told me when I interviewed him in April. He said Hackett Group finds that only about half of companies consistently analyze their application portfolios in a holistic way. Instead, he said, many companies focus narrowly on budget and specifications during their IT projects and neglect to retire applications that may no longer be needed following implementation of newer technology.


The recent economic crisis boosted interest in application rationalization, much as the leadup to Y2K and the passage of Sarbanes-Oxley did. But with the economy on the mend, Padron said it's not clear whether companies will make fundamental changes in their IT policies or go back to business as usual.


Just like a healthy diet, folks understand that it's good for them to retire old apps. But just as Ben & Jerry's and Cheetos make it difficult to eat right, recalcitrant users and other obstacles can throw a wrench into plans to do so. Forty-four percent of respondents to the Forrester survey said business users' attachment to obsolete apps affected their ability to retire/replace apps. Among the other reasons: too busy with other development work (43 percent), lack of budget for data migration and storage costs (40 percent) and leave apps in inquiry mode for data access/compliance reasons (40 percent).


Yesterday IT Business Edge contributor Mike Vizard wrote about the Application Value Ratio, created by HP to help its clients determine which of their enterprise applications contribute real business value. Determining the value is the first step in consolidating and/or eliminating apps that no longer meet business needs.


I agree with Rajesh Radhakrishnan, VP of Applications Portfolio & Engineering for HP Enterprise Services, who told Vizard most companies need help in getting the application rationalization ball rolling. Rightly or wrongly, it's the same reason many of us will follow the advice of a doctor or the author of a diet book rather than the same advice from a well-meaning spouse.


Some messages, even ones we don't like, carry more weight when they come from an outside authority. In many organizations managers find it easier to dispense -- and more importantly follow -- recommendations when they come from a consultant Hopefully consultants can also help establish an application rationalization process that will mean their help is less necessary in the future.