Getting your applications fit for business

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In many cases, applications will have been created in what are now legacy programming languages, such as COBOL or C. Many programmers who are fluent in those languages are thinking about retirement.

Once they've left the organisation, it may become nigh-on impossible to maintain or upgrade those applications, with the risk that they become increasingly fragile.

And if they haven't been properly documented, not only can it be time consuming for a newcomer to understand how to work with or update them, but there's also the risk that they don't comply with current regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley.

It can be all too easy to lose track of how applications fit together.

This may be the case if applications have been developed in an ad-hoc or unstructured way; or if a company has gone through a series of mergers or acquisitions, leading to duplication and over-complexity in the application portfolio.

It may even be difficult to ascertain exactly what applications the organisation has and which servers they're held on.

Some organisations I know of have resorted to switching servers off in turn and waiting to see what calls come into the IT helpdesk.

And here's the killer: most large enterprises could operate equally effectively with half their current applications, but just like the old marketing adage, the issue is, which half?

Where does the real value lie?
Figuring out which applications to retire and where to focus investment budget is a challenge for any organisation that doesn't know where the value lies in its application estate.

Assessing the significance of each application in terms of how it supports business processes can be a daunting undertaking, and one for which it's often well worth engaging a specialist provider with the experience, tools and techniques to make it an efficient undertaking.

Typically, up to 80 per cent of an organisation's business processes are not differentiators.

So the applications and resources that underpin them simply need to be delivered as efficiently as possible.

That could even involve switching from an in-house solution to a third-party delivery option such as business process outsourcing or a business process utility.

Taking steps to modernise
Once the hard work of rationalising your organisation's application estate is underway, you can use the funds and resources released to better support the 20 per cent of processes that make the difference.

You'll also be in a good position to work out which applications would benefit from cloud-based delivery for greater flexibility; or which ones could be mobile-enabled to support new ways of working.

You may see an opportunity to upgrade operating systems or introduce more modern technology that lets you meet the expectations of tech-savvy users more easily.

Whatever the opportunities are, it's critical to align the applications portfolio with the strategic direction of the organisation. Knowing the value of your applications and the predicted demands from the business enables better investment decisions and a better service to your customers.

Liz Benison is vice president and COO for the UK and Ireland region of CSC

Pic: Hans scc2.0


Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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