Maybe It's Time to Do an IT Detox

Loraine Lawson

Todd Biske, an enterprise architect and blogger, is admonishing readers not to go on the corporate equivalent of an IT starvation diet.

"Priorities have shifted to where cost containment and cutting are at the top of the list. While the knee-jerk reaction is to stop investing in any long-term initiatives, this could be a risky approach. If I don't eat for 4 days, I may quickly drop the weight I need to, but guess what? I still need to eat. Not eating for 4 days will only make me more unhealthy, and then when I do eat, the weight will come right back."


He contends that those who will come out on top will be those who recognize their priorities and goals have changed, but don't overreact by cutting IT to the bone.


I happen to know a thing or two about dieting. Currently, I'm on an 11-day detox that's very healthy - lots of fruits, vegetables, some lean proteins - but it cuts out all sugar, wheat and caffeine. It's supposed to cleanse me of toxins, but right now I want to curl up in a ball under the house and die. I can't help but wonder why I felt so much better with the "toxins" than I do without. If loving you is wrong, sugar, do I want to be right?


Now, this isn't supposed to be a long-term thing, but it is supposed to help me overcome my sugar cravings and eat healthier.


While I agree with Biske that you can't starve IT and expect to be a healthy organization, I do wonder if IT is in denial about its own fattening lifestyle? Is it binging on applications and overly niche data integration projects, when it should be building a leaner, healthier system? Is IT living with the fat because it's easier to do that than endure the turmoil of change?


I wouldn't recommend trying a starvation diet, but maybe it is time for IT to do a little detox. SOA, data integration, or master data management implementations are all prime time for detoxing your existing applications and systems.




Simple. Cut out the non-nutritious IT calories. Focus on what's healthy for the entire enterprise.


If you've ever tried to lose weight, you've heard the admonishment "a calorie is a calorie is a calorie." Wrong. I've cut calories. Two hundred calories of jelly beans is very different, and less filling, than 200 calories of broccoli. To give you an idea of how different 200 calories can look, check out this WiseGeek demonstration.


It's the same with your applications and your data. In a recent interview, Burton Group analyst Anne Thomas Manes said application rationalizing is a good place to start with SOA-but it's also a great place to start with an IT diet:

"The applications that provide very little value to the business, but cost an awful lot, are the ones that you want to start getting rid of. The other aspect of that is to actually understand where you've got duplicative application systems out there. It's like, okay, I've got 10 different applications out here to do billing and why is it that 10 of my applications do billing? Why don't I have one billing service instead of 10 applications that do billing in a different way?"


She saw the same thing with scheduling. Clearly, some of those applications are empty calories that IT's continuing to include in its menu. Sure, the business may be consuming these apps - but IT is the one carrying around all the extra fat.


Likewise, Philip Russom of The Data Warehousing Institute said he's conducted research at companies where department managers won't give up their niche view, even if they'll get a 360-degree, enterprise-view instead. Said Russom:

"People want their enterprise view, but they also want their kind of myopic departmental view as well. That in itself is kind of a mindset issue that is hard for some people to get past."


Talk about wanting your cake and my cake, too!


In either case, there's room for improvement. Why support multiple applications if a few, more filling and useful applications (or services, if you're doing SOA) will do the job? Why support 100 niche views of the data if you can offer one view that's more nutritious and healthy for everyone?


Why continue to eat the junk?


Does this sort of dieting pay off? According to this Experture Group article, "Killing Vampire Applications," republished recently on ebizQ, it does:

"Enterprises that have undertaken these exercises have eliminated up to 75 percent of their application portfolio, became more agile, simplified operations, reduced staff, and doubled their compute capacity for the same or lower capital and operational outlays. Additionally, executives found their software costs dropped significantly and that the software savings represented less than 50 percent of their overall savings."


Biske is right-this is no time to starve IT. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that some IT departments may already be starving themselves by supporting unnecessary applications and integration projects. You can't get healthy eating junk.


Look at how you can detox and get the most out of your IT calories. The Manes interview and the eBizQ article both offer great advice for how to trim down.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Feb 18, 2009 12:31 PM Francis Carden Francis Carden  says:

Before IT go on a diet, they need to exercise. That is make their applications fitter. Often, IT do not really even know what their users do with their desktop applications other than the fact they use, this set of 10, or that set of 20. Sure, they think they know based upon some server stats but if you have 1,000 or 20,000 users - do you REALLY  know what your users do? Unlikely!

My take is this; and I see customers being successful now Biz has control of a lot of the costs (because they have short term savings to make - like it or not).  You can now use tools like OpenSpan, and others, that offer, quick iterative integrations to solve immediate business pains that save $$millions and not only get you fitter, but help you stay so by putting you on the road to lifestyle changes (Architecture). Here are my recommend steps...

1. Monitor what your users are really doing (Desktop Event Monitoring).

2. Automate what they do for immediate efficiency gains (Desktop Integration and Automation).

3. Hide (the desktop applications) from the user, that you have automated (I bet the users don't miss them all).

4. The one's they don't need (or they don't notice are even hidden) can be now be moved to the server side and the automation funtionality you built in step 2, can be exposed as services (Yes, rich clients can now be turned into services)

5. If they still don't miss these desktop apps, re-architect these services (rewrite) as you see fit. i.e. your priority of SOA is built on usage, not guess work!

And then use all the $$millions you save on the way (thanks to significant user productivity gains) to either show your shareholders your doing your job or better still, use the savings to fund your long term architecture projects!

Getting Healthier, is a journey to getting Fitter.. Sound Familiar

Feb 19, 2009 1:43 PM Talend Talend  says:

Hi Loraine,

first, thanks for your posts you put up here! I see you live in Louisville, I usually go back on the TN-KY line when in the States. Always good to go back.

Interesting post you put up here. IT is somewhat on a diet as you say, and it is true we might be tempted to go down a notch on some of our spending. In our company we had been working with proporietary tools for many years, but our bosses have been telling us to cut down on our IT.

So we had to cut down on the proprietary tools and chose open source tools. For example, we stopped our Norton contract to use Avast (http://www.avast.com) for our anti-virus tool and stopped Informatica to use Talend Open Studio.

Talend (http://www.talend.com/) has been a pretty big plus here. Its an easy to use, professional tool that can be used by our tech team as well as our sales people and marketing. So all and all, I think the shift down has lowered our cost, still using performant software. So our diet has proven useful and I think we will be staying fit like we are now for a long time.

Thanks for the good article!


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