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Whittle down application sprawl

Sandra Gittlen | March 7, 2014
When it comes to shutting down out-of-date, risky or unnecessary applications, James Gordon, vice president of technology and operations at Needham Bank, doesn't mess around.

The multiple in-house subscription and fulfillment services applications also got the boot as all operations were outsourced to CDS Global, which specializes in these areas. Even the organization's Oracle database was shifted to the cloud-based Intacct service for accounting and finance.

By the time this IT overhaul is complete later this year, Edge expects to have only a single on-site server for DNS and other network functions. All other applications will run off of virtual servers in a CenturyLink (formerly Savvis) data center, be SaaS-based or be outsourced.

While Edge can't share numbers that validate the drastic changes, he says the benefits are plenty. Data has been pulled out of silos, fostering collaboration across the enterprise; IT now focuses on the business vs. application upkeep; and users have access to up-to-date, compliant and best-practice-based programs.

Convincing the boss
This change wasn't without its struggles, though. Edge had to educate the board of directors and senior management about the positives of a leaner IT and infrastructure. He worked closely with the organization's treasurer to ensure there was an ROI.

Then he established partnerships with all the business leads and explained how much simpler their jobs would be with a streamlined, cloud-based operation. In cases where he got pushback, he offered up numbers. For instance, to anyone that wanted to keep old data, he showed that no one had looked at 80% of the data in five years. He explained that he would archive the data, which would keep it from wasting backup and staffing resources.

He found his own IT team to be some of the toughest to convince because they worried they would lose their jobs and that they would be ineffective without their favorite tools. Eventually, he says, he persuaded them that IT's value is not in supporting technology, but in understanding the business and using technology to achieve business goals.

Architecting success
Like Edge, Craig Huegen, senior director of IT for Connected IT Services at Cisco, works hard to avoid the effects of application sprawl on the company's internal IT budget, but acknowledges that sometimes redundant, inefficient and out-of-date programs pop up.

His team uses a system information exchange — modeled using Troux Architect software — that maps all business processes to applications, infrastructure and other enterprise resources. "We track where data comes from and where it goes to so that we can monitor application interaction," he says.

For instance, the system information exchange illustrates the interdependencies between the company's order management system and service management system. This includes all the data flows among systems, such as open service requests and current orders and status. This insight is essential when Huegen has to consolidate or retire applications.


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