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When it comes to shutting down out-of-date, risky or unnecessary applications, James Gordon, vice president of technology and operations at Needham Bank, doesn't mess around.

Cisco's 2005 acquisition of Scientific Atlanta was a good example of application overlap. Using the system information exchange, Huegen identified duplicate functionality in each company's order management system. "By showing the cost and pain points of staying on separate systems, we were able to convince Scientific Atlanta business leaders that they should adopt Cisco's system," he says.

Users, in his opinion, don't cling to systems for purely emotional reasons. "They made an investment, learned the tool and made it align with the business," he says, adding that newer systems don't always include all the customization built into legacy systems.

When switching to a new application, Huegen will invite key users into a conference room to help construct a mock-up that includes the features and functionality most important to them. This process, used for both off-the-shelf and cloud-based systems, makes users feel more invested in and comfortable with a new application.

The SaaS effect
and the cloud are strong selling points. Huegen explains that infrastructure to support new projects can be available in 15 minutes vs. the 12 weeks previously needed for provisioning. He adds that consistent and standardized applications foster a far better experience because they don't need to bring in a chief architect every time a user requires support.

These arguments swayed Cisco's Human Resources group to let go of a costly legacy application and hop onto an affordable SaaS-based platform.

Nate McBride, vice president of IT and chief cloud architect at AMAG Pharmaceuticals, also invokes the benefits of SaaS to pry aging and redundant applications from strong user grips.

When he started at the company in 2008, he made it a mission to eliminate the data center and go entirely to the cloud. Instead of starting with a small-fry program, McBride went big and retired Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint in favor of Google Apps.

Users resisted so McBride took it slow with some parts of the migration, such as document storage. "We went to Google Docs but kept local file servers as a compromise," he says.

He had less patience for obvious redundancies, including project management applications. With three or four packages floating around the 170-employee company, McBride urged everyone to settle on a single platform — the Google-supported Smartsheet.

Saying bye-bye to applications
Application management is an ongoing task. However, IT must consider every angle when deciding to axe a program. Here are some tips for determining an app's importance in your organization.

How many users or customers interface with the application? If you have a large pool of either or both, then consider the ramifications of taking it away.

What business processes are tied to the application? Some applications are in place as a way to get data from Point A to Point B. Make sure you understand the interdependencies of the application before eliminating it.


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