Managing and maintaining the growing array of enterprise, cloud and mobile apps is taxing organizations of all shapes and sizes—and giving CIOs nightmares.
Frequently, the problem is exacerbated by legacy IT and a bureaucratic model that makes a CMO, CFO, COO or other leader—or the managers working for them—wait for approval over a period of weeks or months. When the need is critical (for storage or analytics, for instance), there's often no other choice but pull the strings on a purchase.
"Executives are under pressure to adapt to today's fast-changing environment, but then they run into a block wall," Guarino explains. "They are forced to decide without understanding the ramifications and risks. The next thing you know, you have a data breach on your hands."
Cracking the Code: Consolidation
The goal for CIOs should be to be to balance the enterprise needs for efficiency, productivity, cost control and security with convenience. Removing or undercutting the agility and flexibility offered by many of today's apps is unwise. Instead, CIOs should focus on consolidating applications and platforms based on who's already using an app, workflows, productivity issues and what benefits the enterprise.
Guarino says it's wise to conduct an audit of all enterprise and mobile apps in use by the organization; understand everything from usage patterns and licensing costs to security requirements; and then make an informed decision about how to consolidate and streamline apps.
It's also crucial for business executives to justify their need for a new app and make sure it fits within the organizational framework. Yet the process must include a quick response model for decision-making. In addition, owners of business apps should work with IT to optimize and customize systems so that they remain viable.
"You have to have channels of communication," Guarino explains. "The applications have to fit the needs of a department and be relevant to the way people do their work." Finally, he says, there's a need for unified threat management (UTM), next-generation firewalls, MDM systems and other controls, including the likes of Windows Active Directory.
Accenture Ghosh says that defeating app sprawl—and streamlining internal development initiatives—ultimately involves four important steps: understanding the user experience, including the perceived and actual value for users and the organization; gaining insight into performance and productivity through user and transactional metrics; measuring the performance of the app and how well it integrates into an entire ecosystem of apps; and understanding the level of security it delivers.
"If you do not address these issues, you wind up with a poorly defined strategy and different groups taking matters into their own hands," he warns.
Yet, it's also important to take a forward-focused view to app management. Ghosh says that the software landscape is evolving into a component-driven and API-connected framework.
"In the future, all apps will be liquid, and there will be more of a plug-and-play framework," he predicts. "Apps will be connected to one another, and they will connect more easily to the internet of things, social media and video feeds."
The upshot, Ghosh says, is that CIOs must begin to prepare for this framework by focusing on apps that automate, modernize and digitize processes. "It's a very different environment than the legacy application world that existed a few years ago," he concludes. "A clear strategy and a strong governance structure are critical."