Application Rationalization to Achieve a Digital Transformation

Moving forward effectively by understanding: The why and what of migration and transformation.

In order to make progress towards becoming a true digital enterprise, we need to focus on Application Portfolio Management and application rationalization in the context of the ever-changing digital landscape. Application rationalization can no longer be a 3-month project we assign to a PM or outsource to one of our technology firms. It needs to be part of our ongoing digital transformation and integrated into our business processes. Organizations need ecosystems that encourage new features and capabilities as applications and products continue to evolve, rather than restrict them.

We can use tools to achieve goals within our digital transformations. Example tools to leverage include modernized application architectures, DevOps, cloud technologies, virtualization, microservices, containerization, etc. However, robust, agile, modern applications require more than just the right platforms or processes; they need to be custom-fit to our business and its needs. Too often, we embark on transformational migrations with our teams, burn through thousands of hours and significant budgets, only to find ourselves on a new platform facing the same problems we were originally tasked with solving.

Organizations need ecosystems that encourage new features and capabilities as applications and products continue to evolve, rather than restrict them.

Take Your Head Out of the Cloud(s)

As digital transformation and adoption become the focal point of many IT organizations, the need to modernize applications and their platforms has grown significantly. Application portfolios are often very large and disorganized. Yet, these portfolios commonly consist of business-critical applications that no one owns or even understands. Additionally, over the past few years, a common trend has been to throw technology at issues and call them solved, which complicates the matter even more. After all, how could moving an application to the cloud ever be wrong?

Often, the reality is that moving an application to the cloud can create more complex problems, with a larger list of dependencies. Moving an application to the cloud does not necessarily change the application, nor does it change how it functions. Sometimes, it may even result in a less optimized version of the same exact application due to higher latency or authentication issues. In the famous words of Dr. Ian Malcom in Jurassic Park, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

The Importance of Aligning Your Organization’s Digital Transformational Goals

Modern migrations require far more focus on the alignment of our organization’s digital transformational goals. We need to understand why we are migrating, and what we are transforming to, before we can begin moving forward effectively. More than once I have decided to throw my 4 kids in the car and run to the store to procure some much needed elements for a large dinner party only to return home an hour late, hundreds of dollars over budget, and without the 2 specific items I was tasked with acquiring. The point: few, if any, endeavors go well when poorly planned and managed. However, statements like X problem will happen if not planned and managed properly, are also not helpful. These types of statements generally add a sense of impending doom to any large-scale project.

Unique Business Needs Are Best Met with Customized Solutions

Digital adoption has led to IT leading the way in business transformation initiatives. This creates a great opportunity to implement new technologies and adopt innovative practices. One of the largest barriers to these transformations is often a vast catalog of uncharted applications and systems. Much like my trip to the grocery store, it is understood that taking on a task of this magnitude requires a concrete understanding of your organization’s needs, the overall technology landscape, and what is available. When looking at our ever-evolving application and architecture needs, it is crucial that we look at the direction of the entire ecosystem, as well as the individual applications, tools, and systems. We need to make the right decisions for each application, each user group, and not fall into the trap of trying to lift and shift our entire portfolios as one problem to solve.

As more application owners and business units begin turning to IT for guidance and assistance, we need to be prepared to offer customized solutions that meet their needs, as opposed to simply responding with dogmatic mandates such as ‘you must go to the cloud.’ While tools like cloud-based infrastructure and SaaS provide very direct advantages, the best way to leverage these advantages is often much less clear. Our goal is always to solve key business problems and provide direct benefit to our end-users and clients. We now have the opportunity to do so in a cohesive way that also reduces operating costs, provides greater flexibility, and allows us to adapt to an ever-changing digital landscape.