Everything You Need to Know About Application Rationalization

With the enormous growth of SaaS applications and cloud infrastructure usage, it’s more important than ever to know whether you’re running a lean, mean machine or if your IT ecosystem has become bloated.

That’s where an application rationalization initiative comes into play. Application rationalization identifies existing app expenditure and provides a roadmap on how to use that spend more effectively.

Organizations that undertake an application rationalization analysis report:

  • Lower software vendor costs as a result of fewer software applications
  • Lower IT personnel costs required to maintain fewer business applications
  • Lower operational staff costs, as the result of operational streamlining of business processes

Ultimately, application rationalization affects the bottom line, and without it, businesses would not be able to scale or operate efficiently.

What Is Application Rationalization?

Application rationalization is the process of reducing costs and streamlining operations by consolidating a broad portfolio of applications into a smaller subset of lean, vital, necessary, and cost-efficient software resources.

Application rationalization initiatives are most successful when they are focused on achieving business outcomes. The takeaway here is that IT exists to serve the business: an application portfolio process needs to keep that in mind.

Why Is Application Rationalization Needed?

We’ve written before about the explosion in SaaS usage, the impact of Shadow IT, and the need to optimize SaaS expenditure. The takeaway is that companies accrue many SaaS applications to serve the needs of multiple business units.

The problem is that it can quickly get out of hand and cause a host of issues, from wasted spend to SaaS security issues.

Here are two of the main issues organizations try to solve when they undertake application rationalization.

  • Increasingly complex IT environments can limit visibility, which ultimately leads to duplicate SaaS apps and underutilized licenses.
  • Lines of Business are responsible for 50% of enterprise tech spend, so undocumented SaaS applications have gotten a little out-of-hand,i.e., Shadow IT.

How Does Application Rationalization Work?

We can break down the Application Rationalization process into three steps:

  1. Application rationalization starts with the analysis of the business processes that are supported by software applications.
  2. The second step is to eliminate existing applications that are no longer required.
  3. The last step is to identify anchor applications (core applications that can integrate with smaller solutions) and SaaS applications that are fit for purpose for future business requirements.

As we mentioned above, application rationalization is carried out from a business standpoint. This helps ensure you don’t remove anything that is critical to the business. The trick is to balance the requirement to build a focused set of applications that are easy and inexpensive to maintain while ensuring you don’t gut the tools your team needs to get work done.

What Are Common Rationalization Considerations?

If you’re wondering how to decide what applications to remove from your environment, a deeper drill-down is required. Key considerations include:

  • Do specific applications have overlapping functionality?
  • How heavily integrated is an application with the rest of your environment? The more complex and integrated an application is, the higher likelihood that it will have broader implications.
  • How many users does an application have? And what would the impact of retiring an application be on those users? Many applications may only have a handful of users and can be very expensive to maintain and support.
  • The nature of the data processed by the application may pose additional implications for removing it. You need to assess whether it has a role in protecting or storing sensitive data.
  • How much is saved by retiring a given application? Analyze the support costs for each technology. If support costs for an application seem high compared to the business value provided, work with the business to consider replacing expensive software with a more cost-effective solution.

What’s Next?

Organizations must plan how to move forward to achieve these benefits after identifying strategic changes to their application portfolios. This process requires defining and prioritizing projects and defining a clear set of requirements for each project.

Derik Belair

As President and CEO, Derik leads the vision, strategy and growth of Augmentt. Prior to founding Augmentt, Derik was the Vice President at SolarWinds, leading the digital marketing strategy for SolarWinds’ Cloud division. Derik has been working in the channel for over 20 years, starting his career as a channel sales rep at Corel Corp. and eventually becoming the first employee at N-able Technologies in April of 2000.
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