At this time of year everyone looks forward to the holiday season and some quality downtime away from work with family and friends. It's also the time when budgets are being set and reviewed for the coming year. For most IT shops, the major line item is the sunk cost, or minimum cost to run the business. That's the cost of servers, workstations, software licenses, network and communications infrastructure, maintenance, power, cooling, backups, patching, staff, training and contingency planning to make sure that all the applications your business needs to function are available when and where they're needed. I'm sure you're used to seeing these questions as semi-humorous Halloween articles – and of course it's fun to chuckle at the zombie jokes. The end of the year, however, is the time to take a more sober look at the hard numbers. Can your infrastructure and applications justify themselves? Can you point to a piece of equipment or an application and answer five simple questions? – Who is the business owner for this system or application? – What is the business purpose or justification for it? – When is the need expected to end? – Where are the service owner, administrator, support resources, backups, business case, design, documentation and continuity plans? – Why is it configured or delivered the way it is? Could it be done better, or at less cost? Organisations often shy away from configuration control and portfolio management because it's time consuming and labour intensive to initially document the application estate, and an ever-changing nightmare to keep up to date – but the penalty for not investing the time in good management and control is a nebulous IT budget for a staff and infrastructure that are always busy … but not necessarily always productive.