Application Strategy: Taking Accountability For Your Apps

Dependency on Information Technology (IT) has been driven by a thriving ecosystem of diverse, innovative and powerful software applications. Applications are the glue that connect people with IT, and in turn have a powerful influence on business performance. With this in mind it was surprising to discover trends in a survey of UK enterprises, which revealed some financially impactful blind spots in application strategy.

In this survey of 200 UK CIOs and IT leaders, we discovered that application strategy blind spots come at a cost of £1.8billion per annum to enterprises. Specifically, reduced productivity (67%), increased employee frustration (63%) and decreased customer satisfaction (45%) are listed as the top three risks of poorly designed and integrated applications.

Hence blind spots in application strategy can mount pressure on businesses leading to increased costs and loss of revenue. Nevertheless, this survey revealed that the issue had the potential to escalate unless businesses are able to address key pain-points around new and legacy applications, which are no doubt keeping IT leaders up late at night.

In terms of legacy infrastructure, Windows XP in particular hosts a number of business critical applications at risk today, from those that have operated under the radar of IT, to others that seem too costly to migrate to modern platforms.

With only 14 months to go until the end of Windows XP support, more than half (52%) of enterprises do not have formal plans for how to address what will quickly become a legacy problem – one which accounts on average for 43% of enterprise desktop infrastructures in the UK today.

The lack of a business case was cited as the key barrier to Windows XP application migration in 79% of these organisations. This is why large volumes of unsupported applications post-Windows XP are a concern for 80% of CIOs and IT leaders.

The emergence of multi-device application environments, born from BYOD platforms, are also introducing similar and entirely new legacy risks. Indeed, 91% also say their business is at risk from application platform problems in the move towards multi-device or BYOD environments.

If businesses are able to find a more holistic approach for application development and maintenance, not only will they prevent future legacy issues but also more confidently adapt business processes to embrace these new mobile and consumer technologies that are transforming the workplace.

In a similar manner to BYOD, whereby employees are driving adoption of workplace technology, the survey also looked at the fast emerging trend of Bring Your Own App (BYOA), in which line of business managers are purchasing applications such as Software-as-a-Service that are not directly provisioned by IT.

BYOA is present in over one quarter (27%) of UK businesses today and growing to almost three-quarters (72%) by 2015. However, with one in three (33%) BYOAs in the enterprise already unsupported by IT, there is another looming gap in application strategy.

Regardless of who owns the application, whether it’s the employee or IT department, the challenge for businesses is accountability for that application. CIOs must seek more effective application strategies to help address these and other problems highlighted in the survey.

It is important to recognise that it is about tough transformation and execution. When introducing a new application, the first step is to understand why the original application needs improving or changing, and the value this will deliver to the organisation.

It is then important to assess this against any remediation effort, and the impact of a new application. Only then can a decision be made. Real advantage comes in having the ability to make the assessment process efficient, and develop a model for remediation or replacement.

According to the survey nearly half (49%) of enterprises today don’t have a formal application strategy. This is why I would urge IT leaders to review their existing application estate and aim to develop a more holistic strategy for management and deployment of applications. Not only will this allow businesses to reduce risk and costs but also maximise their investment in both legacy infrastructure and new exciting technologies that can significantly improve employee productivity and customer satisfaction.

Nic Merriman has 22 years’ experience in the IT industry delivering enterprise solutions for business benefit. He is currently the CTO for the financial services sector at Avanade UK where he is focused on the development and delivery of solutions. Prior to joining Avanade, Nic held senior positions in enterprise IT organisations including the CTO of HBOS Retail. Nic holds a 1st Class Honours degree in electrical and Electronic Engineering from Newcastle University.