Spring cleaning in the IT closet: Cleaning up application environments

We have already reported it the other day: According to the Capgemini IT Trends Study 2016, the number 1 of the most important issues for CIOs this year is Application Portfolio Rationalization – a cumbersome term that basically means a thorough spring cleaning in the IT closet. But why is this so important?

Grown Systems

Every large company has started small, and in the beginning, it usually only has the IT systems that are needed for a small business and a small portfolio. As the business progresses and digitalization intensifies, however, new systems add up over the years. Some of them are stand-alone solutions, some have interfaces to other systems, and others are connected to external providers. Very often, these gradually grown systems resemble a patchwork with overlapping parts. Sometimes, the connections to the corresponding partner system are complicated. The bigger the company, the more common are applications that nobody needs anymore. This is either because the business model or the data structure has changed or the process is already being covered by another application.

But not only do the application structures change, but also the data. The amount of data processed by a large company today is many times higher than it was even a few years ago. This requires completely new ways of dealing with issues such as data processing, data backup, data security, and data cleansing.

Everyone who has not moved to a different place in a long time knows that from time to time, a big clean-up is indispensable. The same applies to data and the corresponding landscapes.

Saving Potentials

Spring cleaning sounds like a lot of work. Therefore, the question arises what the benefits are for a company that decides to take this step.

Let’s start with the obvious. Operating applications costs both time and money. Fewer applications mean less maintenance effort, and also fewer mistakes. Let’s be honest: No application is completely error-free, and if you find bugs, you should fix them, especially if the application processes sensitive data.

Interfaces to other systems cause especially high maintenance and updating costs. The reason for this is that an update for one system can affect all other systems. Every modification in the system leads to comprehensive tests and, if necessary, further modifications of other applications. The more complex the system, the higher the costs, and the other way round: The fewer applications, the faster a system can be maintained and updated.

Consolidating Know-how

Less obvious, but equally important is that grown, outdated systems also tend to use outdated technologies. Very often, the know-how of how to use these technologies disappears more and more within the company. If there is only one single employee left who is familiar with them, it is high time for the company to react.

Ironically, it is often exactly because of this lack of know-how that the applications in question are ignored. However, the company should act before it is too late. Otherwise it may have to pay a lot of money to buy the know-how from external sources.

Lean and Flexible

Isn’t it easier to find relevant documents in a well-organized office? The same applies to well-organized systems. If there are fewer interconnected applications, the system landscapes are faster and more agile. This saves time and money.

First Steps

The key prerequisite for the spring cleaning is to know what is there. Therefore, the first and most important step is a thorough inventory that not only records the technologies, interfaces and affected data, but also the usefulness of the application as well as concrete use cases.

Based on the actual state, the next step is developing a target state that analyzes where outdated data can be deleted, where several applications can be bundled into a larger one, where short-cuts can be created or unused applications erased, and where standard applications can be outsourced.

Preparing the Employees

A very important factor is that not only the technology has to be taken into account, but also the people working with it. Fear of change is one of the biggest drags on the modernization of systems. However, if the affected employees are informed and involved early on, this drag can be overcome quickly.


More and more, the basis and the motivation for starting a rationalization process is the strategic consideration if processes or data should be outsourced into the Cloud. Such a decision requires a thorough inventory of your processes and interfaces. How convenient! Because that means that the first step for the spring cleaning has already been taken

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