Many of you will have started 2016 with a resolution in place; maybe getting the exercise bike out of the garage and committing to being more active, or cutting chocolate and cigarettes. These are great things to commit to, but have you considered that you should probably be doing the same for your business too? IT and cloud systems can also benefit from being a bit leaner, effective and fine-tuned, which is why application rationalisation should be a consideration.

Have you begun your process of application rationalisation for 2016 yet? Click to Tweet

Application rationalisation – or the process of evaluating applications to see which ones are needed and which can be discarded – is something you may well already have had conversations about. After all, who doesn’t want to tap into hidden cost savings or improved business performance? The problem is that such initiatives are often doomed to failure from the start due to poor organisation and failure to put a set of processes in place.

To prevent this from happening, here is a four step plan to follow for application rationalisation success:

  1. Think about the details – not just the big picture

As with your resolutions, the best way to achieve success is to know how you’re going to do it before you get started. It’s no good saying you’re going to lose weight, stop smoking and get fit all at once; you need specific targets, timeframes, and plans for how you will get there. Similarly, if you want to wean yourself off unnecessary applications, you need to think long and hard about your goals for both the short and long term. Is it cost reduction, or are you looking to consolidate which applications you are using to simplify processes, for example? The key is to set a goal right at the beginning; aiming to achieve everything at the same time is often a fast track to achieving nothing. Once you have this fixed in your mind, it’s time to put together a realistic plan and timeline on how you’re going to achieve these.

  1. Build up your support network

Once you know what you want to achieve you need to work out how you are going to succeed. To do so, you need to put together a team of people from across the business to examine which applications are needed and valued. This will help to determine which ones can be rationalised or updated. Having a cross-departmental team representing different areas of the business – from HR to Finance, Sales and Marketing to Operations – will enable you to learn how applications are used between and across teams.

put together a team of people from across the business to examine which applications are needed and valued

  1. Are your applications working together or operating in silos?

With a team of stakeholders in place, you need to look at your applications in detail. How are they working together? If certain applications are only being used by one team, are they needed? Are they supporting a single project? Can this be achieved elsewhere? Do you have two applications (or more) doing the same job? Asking these type of questions will help to identify duplication, or where teams are using different tools to provide the same function. This will be critical when it comes to selecting what stays, what goes and what can be merged.

  1. Application rationalisation isn’t just a New Year’s resolution

While conducting your application rationalisation, keep an eye open for insights to be used for the future. Though you may decide that some applications are more necessary then others, it is good practice to note where risk might reside, or how teams can work together more effectively by granting access to certain applications across teams. Above and beyond this, it’s an opportunity to put in place continuous lifecycle management for all applications, so you can revisit which ones you might need or not need in 3 / 6 / 12 / 24 months’ time. It’s important that the business as a whole decides whether it needs to update, change or remove applications, rather than just individual teams. For instance you might find that an updated operations application replaces something used by the finance team or vice-versa.

Continuous lifecycle management for all applications is important for #IT health Click to Tweet

Modern business relies upon a variety of specific applications to function, but some have overstayed their welcome and are undoubtedly holding back organisations, costing time and money. Application rationalisation is important, but it needs to be carried out with clear goals in mind to guarantee long-term success. Planning will help to remove unnecessary applications, which will help to improve long-term processes. Sharpening IT systems is a great resolution to make, just don’t give it up.