People want to innovate, not clean up


Co Van Leeuwen

October 30, 2015

Interview with Alex Wortmann and Nico van Marle on Application Rationalization

Organizations like to look forward. That is also true of the IT departments that have to rationalize

Everyone wants to innovate, but almost no one stipulates the necessary condition: bringing something new in? Then something old has to go! Enough attention is still not being paid to the rising costs of the growing application landscape. Alex Wortmann is responsible for the Center of Excellence for major rationalization programs. He talks frequently with CIOs from around the world. And when he starts by asking how happy they are with their application landscape, no one says that everything is in order. The problem is widely acknowledged. But how do you unravel all the tangles? Where do you start and how do you make sure it is a success? Nico van Marle, Program Director, is working on just such a process.Together with Alex he draws up the balance: “We continue to use well-founded and proven approaches, but we do make them pragmatic and bring them close to the client in his own environment. Succeeding quickly is important. That is why we developed the ‘elephant path’.”

The problems are very recognizable. The scope of the application landscape is too large, ranging from about 400 to 4,000 and sometimes even 20,000 applications. This has driven management costs up terribly, while you really want to be investing as much as possible in innovation. The complexity also causes things to go wrong operationally. There are many interfaces that are often poorly documented. It takes too long to add a new product line as a result, for instance. A quick time to market is in fact extremely important to stay ahead of the competition. Alex: “When you explain it to them this way, they all nod in agreement. I sometimes compare it to an old city. There has been a great deal built and refurbished at the request of the city council, but nothing has ever been torn down.You end up with an old city with gloomy alleys and dark corners. That is also the case with many application landscapes. Customers sometimes add to the metaphor and say they even have slums. The consequences of forty years of unbridled construction are as clear as day. Poor version management, duplication of systems, excessive customization, takeovers of other businesses and unstructured expansion means the CIO now has a legacy of a lot of similar functionality. But how do you fix that?”

Elephant path

“We advise that it be tackled thoroughly,” adds Nico. “There are different solutions available for different situations. The aim is to improve productivity and effectiveness, bringing down costs at the same time. This prevents repeat work and improves reuse. Capgemini looks at the situation from the perspective of value. It has to have impact. Based on a hypothesis for the solution, an in-depth analysis is carried out over six to eight weeks, which results in an approach and business case that resolves the challenges. Like many other service providers, we have a thorough approach, but it can also be done much more pragmatically. Clients often want to see a result quickly. The problem is big and complex, just like an elephant. You don’t eat something that size at one sitting, you cut it into pieces.

And that is why we take the elephant path, a practical route focused on the result, where when necessary, we deviate from the paved roads, which are unnecessarily longer. We have successfully introduced this at a number of clients now. In this pragmatic approach we make a concise overview of the landscape, which is then discussed with the domain architects. This gives rise to the opportunities list, which is tested with the principal(s). After the list is tidied up, the financial element is tackled. That is often quite a challenge because there is insufficient insight into the direct costs for each application. The opportunities are then made into a matrix, which shows clearly what possibilities there are for rationalization. This provides a good visual brainstorming aid in order to extract the actions and decide which elephant path will be taken, and which quick wins are achievable. Some clients want a thorough, integrated approach because their problem is large and impenetrable. Other clients prefer instead a more pragmatic approach.”

Self-funding program

“No one likes cleaning up,” says Alex. “So starting small with quick wins works well. First the flywheel has to be put in motion and the savings that are freed up can be used to take the next steps. People want to see an incentive, something that spurs them on to the next action. At the beginning we usually look at the improvements that can be made without the business. IT can use these to demonstrate the success and exposure to the business is increased. This makes it easier to involve the business in the next steps, because you cannot avoid that. A vision of how rationalization is to be approached, supported by the business, is indeed important for moving on from there. It works even better to mandate someone from the business to take these decisions. The trick therefore is to start small and do it, increasing the scale if necessary. The elephant path is a good way to go, headed straight for the goal. Results are made visible and successes are celebrated. And that is how you have to do it, because cleaning up is not pleasant work. But the result of that work is necessary.”

This article was written by Co Van Leeuwen from CapGemini: Capping IT Off and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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