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November 16, 2010

Does your IT environment need a 2011 spring clean?

A recent survey by HP shines a light on app sprawl. Gary Flood looks at the implications

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As much as 5.8% of global IT budget in organisations with 1,000 employees is being "wasted’ on underused applications, according to research published this week by HP.

If the estimate is true, that could be quite a large amount of misused resource – possibly as big 16.9 billion for organisations of all sizes, and over $8bn for organisations with 1,000 up (those numbers based on IDC estimates of world ICT capacity).

The research also says that application sprawl is a "major issue" for European organisations. French firms seem to be suffering the most, here, with 83% of Gallic CIOs agreeing that application sprawl is a problem, as compared to 58% here in Perfidious Albion, while utilities and telecoms are said to be experiencing the issue more than other sectors.

Is this a problem? The survey says yes, claiming application sprawl or under-use is "tying up resources for maintenance that could be used for innovation". Almost 15% of applications in use across the business are underused and not providing real business benefit, while a third of all respondents suggested that the proportion of such spare applications was in excess of 20% of their entire portfolio.

Why? Because servicing and supporting these applications that deliver little or no value to the business leads to higher and unnecessary maintenance costs, that’s why.

The pollsters asked 500 European CIOs if they though they needed to modernise their applications environment to get rid of the problem, and over half said yes – though this group also blame their organisational management for being unwilling to loosen enough budget to actually do so, citing it’d be too risky.

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So we have a situation where (according to this data) no less than 97% of the CIOs contacted, across all countries and business sectors, say effective management of the applications portfolio is critical to business success. Why, then, is all this (alleged) waste going on?

Because of the complexity of the management of apps, says HP’s Stuart Bladen, European VP of Application Services in its Enterprise Services arm. "It’s a bit like your own PC at home," he argues. "Every 18 months or so, you clear out all the rubbish, rebuild it and find it gets back to being much faster and easier to use. The same thing is happening to too many CIOs, but they aren’t doing the Spring Clean they need to get rid of the waste and similarly benefit."

But how do I know which apps are "wasteful"? "All applications are not born equal, so they should be managed differently based on the business value associated with them," he argues. Good ICT housekeeping suggests you audit your application stock, looking to measure each piece of code on whether it is still delivering you competitive advantage, revenue benefit and cutting costs. If not – dump it, unless it’s something that you need to keep for business criticality (e.g. compliance) or user visibility reasons.

It’s sensible advice. We’ve put, as you’ll notice, waste in scare quotes, as we think it’s arguable if all of this is really as superfluous to requirements as the vendor thinks. But even if that $16bn figure is too high, any waste in this climate is not helpful.

Time to get out the software Marigolds and chuck out what you don’t need anymore, it seems.

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