How to Rationalize Your Application Portfolio

A majority of enterprises have hundreds of applications deployed on their network, but most tend to actively use far fewer than that. This application bloat is a significant and growing problem that costs many organizations millions of dollars a year. Here's how to combat the application sprawl.

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Fri, October 19, 2012

CIO — Is your application portfolio bursting at the seams? Chances are that it is, and it's likely that many of the applications in that portfolio are either unused or underutilized, and that could be costing you millions of dollars.

"These findings point to the need for IT to get a grip on application bloat and think twice about whether they need to add new apps," says John Newsom, vice president and general manager of Application Performance Monitoring at Dell's Quest Software, which in conjunction with Harris Interactive recently surveyed enterprises about application bloat. "If not, they might cost the business more than they help it."

Enterprises Have a Tendency to Application Bloat

Enterprises tend to accumulate applications. Often applications are deployed for the right reasons—to give users access to new capabilities that, in theory, allow them to do their work better or more efficiently. Sometimes applications are added to the portfolio as part of a merger or acquisition. Organizations also tend to custom-build applications to support their unique business processes. The problem, Newsom says, is there's little provision made for the rationalization of older apps. In some cases, a group of users may continue to use an older app for reasons of familiarity or even feature sets that a newer app lacks. In many cases, apps are unused or underused because of a disconnect between the business and the IT teams that design and build the applications. Whatever the reason, unused or underutilized apps remain on the network, consuming resources.

"When Alcatel merged with Lucent, we inherited an IT landscape where most applications were duplicated or multiplied given the history of previous purchases," says Pascal Bataille, enterprise architect at Alcatel-Lucent, France. "Yet we had to connect and maintain them to support all our customers and all business specificities from Day 1. It took some time to deal with the usual politics in this situation and assess them technically against the strategy of our new company, and come up with a strategic landscape and validated decommissioning plan."

Half of Enterprises Have More Than 500 Apps, Many Unused or Underused

Harris Interactive surveyed 150 senior IT decision-makers from organizations with $500 million or more in annual revenue. Fifty percent of respondents said their enterprise has more than 500 applications deployed (34 percent have more than 1,000 applications deployed). Yet 57 percent of respondents said their users use fewer than 249 applications on a typical day and 28 percent said their users use fewer than 50 apps a day.

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