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When it comes to shutting down out-of-date, risky or unnecessary applications, James Gordon, vice president of technology and operations at Needham Bank, doesn't mess around.

In fact, sometimes McBride himself will find a better app and ask department leaders if they'd like to try it. He says SaaS makes it easy to always use the best tool for the job.

What you can't see...

IT executives must have access to all technology-related invoices to be able to make an informed decision to buy, sell or hold.

Invoices give unmatched insight into licenses, maintenance plans and redundancy. Paired with traditional assessment tools such as application access statistics and vulnerability assessments, IT executives can make informed decisions about which applications to keep or retire.

For instance, Needham Bank's Gordon realized via invoices that his team was using multiple backup tools, including Symantec Backup Exec and Veeam. "They provide the same functionality and we only need one," he says, adding they settled on Backup Exec.

"CTOs need to have invoices come across their desk, be responsible for billing and be cognizant of application costs," he says. "It's very easy for an organization to spend money on two or three products that do the same thing." In addition to the support issues, this can mean the enterprise can't claim the vendor's licensing discount for multiple seats.

Gordon says he's fortunate to be in the highly regulated financial industry because it forces him to keep tight control over his application portfolio. But even in the span of a year, application sprawl or abandonment can occur.

"We'll suspect an application is going unused and log in to see that it has had 400 patches pending a reboot and all the services have stopped. Yet no one has called looking for the application," he says. Luckily, once unused applications are retired, because the environment is virtualized, all underlying resources, including CPU and storage, can be immediately absorbed back into the shared enterprise pool.

Invoices don't show everything, though, as Gordon found. His employees were using a freeware PDF creator. However, adware started to creep in and degrade the user experience. He explained the performance degradation and the security risk to company executives and received the go-ahead to purchase a licensed software package that does the same thing.

In most cases, AMAG Pharmaceuticals' McBride says, his users will approach him about buying and replacing applications. But as a safety net, he does receive invoices for review and has a close relationship with accounts payable.

If he spots or is alerted to an application he wasn't aware of, he approaches the user or department and suggests that they go through IT to improve the application experience. Benefits of doing business with IT include single sign-on (because IT adds approved apps to its Okta identity-management system), backups on Google Drive to easily save data and IT will often find a corresponding iOS app for simplified mobile access. These carrots, he says, make it compelling to work with IT instead of going around them.


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