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Assessing and rationalizing the IT applications portfolio

Big numbers get attention, so how does this one hit you: in order to clear the backlog of maintenance to bring the application portfolio of all companies up to fully supported, it would cost about $500 billion. By 2015, that number will be closer to $1 trillion. The post’s author, Frank Scavo, first heard that statistic through an associate, and both of them thought it was an over-exaggeration if not an outright fallacy. However, Scavo notes that the statistic does highlight the current state of application portfolios. He recommends that CIOs take a formal approach to evaluate the entirety of the applications portfolio and assign categories: retirement, consolidation, freeze, 3PM, SaaS, and Upgrade. There can be more categories, clearly, but this is a good list to start with. But as Scavo explains, it’s not a simple matter of putting like applications together: On the other hand, it is not always an easy matter to put applications into the right category. Users may have one opinion on the business value or technical quality of the application, while the IT organization may have another. How to evaluate in-house written systems and modifications to packaged software further complicates the problem, as the IT organization may have considerable pride-of-ownership. In conducting such assessments, we have found sometimes widely differing opinions about whether the problem is the application itself, how the application was installed or configured, or the business processes that use the applications–or all three. In many cases, therefore, it helps to have a neutral third-party participate in the evaluation. While Scavo might not agree with Gartner’s prediction, he certainly sees the need to rationalize and “clean up” the application portfolio. As is generally the case, any tool or process within a company will become stagnant and inefficient with time. It’s through the process of evaluation and assignment that a CIO can avoid the extra cost and poor visibility caused by lacking control in portfolios.

About Matthew Kabik

Matthew Kabik is the former Editor of Computer Aid's Accelerating IT Success. He worked at Computer Aid, Inc. from 2008 to 2014 in the Harrisburg offices, where he was a copywriter, swordsman, social media consultant, and trainer before moving into editorial.

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