Taking Control of a Vast and Complex Applications Portfolio
January 20, 2016

Brendan Crowe
Unisys

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Imagine you're sitting in a coffee shop and you notice that your smartphone is being sluggish yet again. Applications aren't opening immediately, there's a constant lag with everything and sometimes things seem to crash midway. Fortunately your smartphone has a "Manage Applications" tab that provides you with a list of all the applications running, the space consumed by each one and the last time you actually used any application. Powered with this knowledge, you can now make a quick and informed decision about the unnecessary applications that can be deleted to restore your phone to its optimal state.

However, when the same situation manifests itself at an enterprise level — where organizations have hundreds of applications they have acquired over the years — you could very easily be headed into a complex maze of blind turns without a possible escape.

Navigating a Complex Application Landscape

A typical IT organization expends close to 70% of its human and capital resources maintaining an ever-growing inventory of applications and supporting infrastructure. A lot of this effort is simply misdirected as the organization doesn't need a significant portion of these applications because they are simply not integral to the day-to-day functioning of its business. In many other cases, different departments within the company will implement applications on their own that have duplicate or overlapping functionality with other systems. It has been widely estimated that up to 50% of applications at a typical multinational could be shut down without the business knowing the difference.

Often times, this happens without IT even knowing about it and it creates challenges maintaining the authoritative source for business critical data. Most organizations have such complex application landscapes, that most IT teams have little idea about the number of applications in their inventory.

You need visibility into all your applications with key insights about each to make informed decisions on how to streamline, optimize and modernize them. Unfortunately, existing systematic and management processes typically do not provide a comprehensive, up-to-date view of the application portfolio for a number of reasons:

Business and Technical Fitness: Application information regarding business and technical fitness or related operational costs is incomplete or stored in multiple locations.

Inefficient Reporting: Unfortunately a lot of information is spreadsheet based, which leads to difficulties in flexible visual reporting.

Disjointed View: Most of the information is often managed separately at both enterprise and departmental levels leading to the lack of an integrated view.

Impact on Legacy Applications: Most organizations do not truly understand the impact of legacy applications on their business and continue to maintain them out of a fear of the unknown.

In addition, as internal IT teams are more concerned with putting out fires and showing short term cost savings, they shy away from engaging in a thorough application portfolio assessment. External IT vendors are engaged to provide application support and maintenance that helps an organization barely move forward while dragging along a bloated, expensive and often redundant portfolio of applications.

The Need for an Application Portfolio Assessment

The need of the hour is a multi-dimensional, top-down approach to effective application portfolio management. The first step is assessing the entire portfolio to create a comprehensive overview of your inventory. This includes the key insights and metrics needed to make intelligent decisions, and to develop a future state vision, strategy and roadmap. This type of roadmap is essential to drive efficiencies, fill gaps, eliminate redundancies, set the stage for modernization programs, and move towards those disruptive technologies and applications that will drive differentiation and competitive advantage for businesses today.

Including portfolio assessments as part of a traditional application management services engagement can help businesses proactively understand their applications footprint, connect the dots between legacy systems and functionality and weigh the benefits of retiring unnecessary applications. The next logical step in the journey is a rationalization exercise where a team of experts propose a roadmap that creates a lean, streamlined and efficient applications portfolio.

Working with your solutions provider from the very first step of assessment to the final stages of delivery ensures that all of the proposed business benefits and operational efficiencies are translated into timely and tangible business results. From the start, the intention should be to make the experience of managing applications as simple as pressing a button on your phone (almost).

Brendan Crowe is Global Application Services Director - Global Enterprise Services, Unisys

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