It is not unusual for enterprises to have 1000 applications and many more servers. Large enterprises can even have 10,000 or more applications. This portfolio of technology and applications often is referred to as the organization's technology or application debt. Every organization that uses technology carries some level of such debt.
Technology can be an asset, but when the debt gets too high it can become an impediment to business agility, says Accenture's Adam Burden, executive director of the firm's Cloud Application and Platform Service and a keynoter at Red Hat's annual user conference in Boston this week. Watch the video of his presentation here.
An overbearing technology debt is not an unavoidable byproduct of using technology. Here are six ways you can reduce your technology/application debt.
First, maybe you don't need all these applications and the servers required to run them in the first place. Stop to rationalize your applications. Look at their usage metrics. Assess what they are used for. You will find that some aren't needed at all or haven't been used for years. Others may duplicate what different applications do better. Get rid of them.
Second, eliminate shelfware. This is software that was purchased with the best intentions but never was adopted. Maybe the software is too difficult to use; maybe it doesn't serve your particular business process. For some reason, your people don't want it and have made it clear by voting with their feet. Get rid of it and find something they actually will use that does the job. Shelfware represents a problem with your software acquisition process or with your change management process or both.
Third, virtualize your server and storage environment. This effectively will increase your level of technology utilization while reducing the amount of servers and storage you need. The result: a boost in your technology ROI. No quibbling with that.
Fourth, look at open source software options. Open source will lower your software costs while giving you at least equally good functionality and quality. Have no doubt; open source software is generally enterprise-class and widely accepted.
Fifth, check out your cloud options. Many applications can be delivered more effectively and more efficiently via the cloud. As a SaaS solution, you get the latest, most up-to-date functionality while paying only for what you use when you use it. Check out the SaaS Showplace (now Cloud Computing Showplace) which has a searchable comprehensive directory of SaaS software options.
Sixth, transform and modernize the applications you have that are critical to your business. There are numerous ways to modernize your applications, from adopting a service-oriented architecture (SOA) to adding a graphical user interface. Or, consider platform migration, which reduces the cost of running the applications by moving them to a less expensive, more efficient technology platform.
To lower your technology/application debt and keep it low implement a process to regularly audit your technology/application environment. A rigorous annual review should be sufficient. Lowering your technology debt frees money to invest in new initiatives that enable business agility or flow down to the bottom line while getting better systems in the process.