CIOs Lack Control Over Obsolete Apps?

By Michael Vizard

CIOs have been struggling to cope with the number of applications they need to manage as far back as the emergence of the first client-server applications. Of course, with the rise of applications in the cloud, a case could be made that there’s more urgency than ever for retiring some of those legacy applications. After all, a fair amount of the functionality in many legacy apps is now clearly redundant.

Convincing the owner of one of those applications, however, that it’s time to retire the app is not so easy.

“A big part of the problem is that so many people hate change,” says Judith Hurwitz, principal analyst for Hurwitz & Associates. “It’s just not a simple process.”

Studies would suggest that most CIOs are relatively powerless in terms of getting business users to give up their outdated applications. For instance, Capgemini recently published a global study in which 48 percent of the 1,115 CIOs surveyed said their organization had more applications than needed.

Ron Tolido, senior vice president for application services at Capgemini, says many CIOs are seeing a lot of the functions in custom legacy applications superseded by software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications running in the cloud. It’s only a matter of time, says Tolido, before many of those legacy applications head for retirement.

“Sooner or later, you realize you need to restructure your foundation,” says Tolido. “We think 25 percent of applications could be retired.”

Much of the savings generated by retiring applications could be plowed back into funding the next generation of business applications, Tolido points out.

Too Much Focus on New Apps?

The real issue, according to some IT service providers, is that most IT organizations are much more focused today on deploying new applications rather than retiring old ones.

Lee Mainman, vice president of sales for Bits in Glass, an IT services provider based in Edmonton, Canada, says many organizations are not very interested in saving $250,000 when there’s a big data project that could drive a billion dollars in revenue.

“The focus today is on agility,” says Mainman. “That means there’s more focus on best of breed applications in the cloud.”

But when it comes to the cloud, many of the decisions about what applications should be used are being made outside of the IT organization.

“It’s kind of the Wild West out there,” says Ryan Hoegg, an integration consultant for Confluex, a provider of IT services based in Seattle. “IT organizations are having a hard time maintaining control.”

Hurwitz notes that while organizations may be overly focused on the latest shiny new thing, they don’t always appreciate the security risks posed by older applications. “A lot of these applications are ripe for exploitation,” says Hurwitz. “Even though very few people are accessing them, they still could be a security threat.”

Despite that risk, Hurwitz urges CIOs to not turn applications off with consulting with the app owner unless, say, the application hasn’t been used in three years or longer.

“CIOs shouldn’t decide to retire an application without consulting with the business,” says Hurwitz. “You never know when somebody on the business side is suddenly going to decide they need that application.”

About the Author

Michael Vizard is a contributing writer for CIO Insight. To read his previous CIO Insight article, “Private Cloud Fuels Formula One Racing Dynasty,” click here.

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