Appoint an Undertaker to Decommission Applications

Between 2016 and 2020, IT organizations will decommission more than three times the number of applications they have decommissioned since 2000.

After 40 years of continuous acquisition of applications, with a very low rate of decommissioning, most large organizations have application portfolios that are bloated, expensive and slow to change.

This is unsustainable in the medium to long term without substantial decommissioning, said Andy Kyte, vice president and Gartner Fellow, at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Dubai today.

“Unfortunately, too often the ‘replacement’ project successfully implements the new application but fails to eliminate the old one,” said Mr. Kyte. “CIOs and application leaders need to rethink the process of decommissioning applications.”

Over the next few years, the adoption of new modes of working, such as bimodal IT, and the adoption of cloud-based solutions and business process outsourcing will drive a massive amount of application decommissioning work that will require dedicated policies, procedures and services. Such is the scale of the legacy transformation that that Gartner predicts great change in the near future.

The emerging role of the ‘application undertaker’

Decommissioning an application generally involves two distinct activities:

  1. Implementing a new application or service to replace the functionality of the old one’; and
  2. Removing all traces of the old application while implementing access mechanism for any data that must be retained for regulatory or legal purposes

This traditional approach occasionally works well. But, a more common outcome sees the new application go live while the old one remans in use. Often, the cost and complexity of implementing the new application is underestimated, leading to reduction in functionality to attempt to cut costs and delivery time, and so the old application cannot be decommissioned, since it has to be retained to fill the gaps.

There are, of course, many variants of this scenario. Since the traditional approach doesn’t work, CIOs must consider alternative models.

Before an application can be properly decommissioned, it needs to have no live use. It should be, for all intents and purposes, ‘dead’. The project manager who is responsible for eliminating the need for an application by implementing an effective alternative is the ‘application assassin’. The assassin’s job is to kill all need for the application to be used for live data processing purposes.

After the application is dead, there may still be some activities that need to be undertaken to ensure that the last traces of the application are removed from the estate and that the historic data finds a home that ensures compliance with regulatory requirements. This is the role of the application undertaker.

By separating the role of application undertaker from the role of application assassin, CIOs can focus their attention, and measure and manage application decommissioning activities using appropriate metrics, rather than trying to manage several major application replacement projects with the hope that decommissioning might happen.

Gartner clients can read more in the report ‘Decommissioning Applications: The Emerging Role of the Application Undertaker’.

Andy Kyte is speaking at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Dubai this week.

Gartner Symposium/ITxpo is the world’s most important gathering of CIOs and other senior IT executives. IT executives rely on these events to gain insight into how their organizations can use IT to overcome business challenges and improve operational efficiency.

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