More then ever the businesses are getting automated and enabled using IT solutions. Every part of the organisation are dependent on one of more IT solutions, some in house and some bought from the market. The IT solutions are made with the need for enabling the business and often leaving the useful ones rest are forgotten and left as legacy/archives to be referred only when needed.
With fast changing business needs applications are created, used and left even faster then we all could think about. Day in and day out business creates document libraries, project team rooms, intranets and a lot more. Over years this turns out to be a huge mess and close to unmanageable. The result is higher maintenance and infrastructure costs. Legacy / archive appls, as they are hardly used result in Loss of knowledge.
In the era of acquisitions and disentanglements to speed up innovation and change business directions, its even more essential to ensure companies have defined and controlled solution catalogue which is well managed and serviced.
For MNCs this is extremely essential as MNCs have multiple office locations, the applications appear like mushrooms in those locations and then grow into a huge architectural and landscape mess to manage and maintain. The issue starts with slight differences in global and local process and document needs. Ones allowed localize the changes continue one after another leading into a fully customized monster application and that too not just in one location but many. The result is enormous costs to maintain, control and change business applications and processes.
Application convergence can be addressed by addressing the following in order mentioned,
Bottom Up Dos
Ensure the As is application portfolio is clearly documented with ownership from IT and business
Collect relevant solution changes and yearly maintenance costs to ensure full visibility
Get the collected data well categorized by business process, functions, platforms, location etc.
Create some data analysis and reports showing number of applications in different dimensions of the categories to be able to see the duplicates, expenditure and other information useful to make decisions.
Ensure the 1st hand bottom up approach analysis and output is shared with the top management and local businesses alike in condensed and relevant manner.
Identify the champions that helped in bottom up approach and they should be used for the application convergence activities going forwards.
Identify the road blockers and how they can be kept in control or convinced that application convergence is good for the whole organisation
Ensure during the whole process that current business and activities are not affected as they will create –ve publicity and barriers for progress
Top Down Dos
At the company level define the Application convergence initiative ensuring full business buy in and management support throughout the organisation
Start with the Business process layer to define the core business processes. Ensure core functions, business processes are well documented and have clear global ownership.
Short list and select the required architecture and portfolio management tooling as these would be needed for ongoing use, structure, control and management.
Business process by business process start harmonizing the processes and select the best solutions from existing ones or new ones (from the market or built in house)
Focus on quick wins by choosing the valuable but easy transitioned business processes and start filling up the solution catalogue with global solutions. This also means start closing down by transitioning old solution towards new ones and launching them as one global solution
Focus on clean ups that can aid to reduce the infrastructure and maintenance costs and hence result in better use of resources across organization
All new business demands should fit in to new way of working with only one solution at company level.
Another important point to keep in mind is Application convergence in MNCs could take from up to 1 to 5 years although a lot will be achieved in 2 years while the complex applications convergence would require a lot of time and efforts and proper strategic planning to make it happen with business change.
If the above is done in write order with proper management support and control then it ideally should lead to globalised solutions which if made with agile and service oriented architecture would result in agility to cope with business process and tools changes done fast enough and efficiently across the organisation. On the other hand running application convergence will lead to whole IT landscape clean up and steam lining ideally resulting in savings.
In the era of fast changing world where there is hardly time to catch up breath, we still must care about the core and that is business process management. Business process management is used around identifying and documenting core business processes within the organisation. It also focuses on everything around core business process like roles, responsibilities, time taken from A to B, inputs required and outputs expected.
Although a lot has been done by companies to manage business processes effectively, identify core ones to keep in house and noncore to outsourced to manage through the vendors. With all the more fast changing needs and directions of business is making companies to increase their focus on business process management.
Business process management is important and seen useful because of following,
Good business process management ensures,
Great returns in terms of process automation and use of technology to enable & enrich the business user’s experience
Agility to be able to identify and change as per changing business needs
Ability to create one understanding of the business process flow across the organisation
Ability to identify and outsource or buy business as a service for non core business processes
Ability to better control and comply with audits and regulatory needs
Bad business process management leads to,
Poor response to changing business needs requiring business process change
Agility to adapt only for local situation leading to duplicity and unmanageable change
Duplicate business processes and their automation for various locations due to slightly different adaptation in different places
Increased business process management, trainings and IT costs
Unclear understanding of business processes would lead to control, compliance and regulatory issues
No matter how fast the change becomes, its still very essential to have full ownership and effective business process management in place. The value of the same is long lasting and could be the make or break of the success of the company.
IT continues its drive to add value by enabling the businesses and co creating business. It is one of the important enablers of competitive strategy for businesses. The traditional application development and lifecycle management still continues amidst approx 10 to 20% applications are taken and used standard out of the box. There are around 1 to 3% applications moving in direction of “Software as a Service”, pay for use.
While all of the above is evolving we have seen that our so called Smart Phones are becoming more and more powerful with ability to run most of the internet browsing capabilities as well as mobile platform for application development.
With iOS and Android’s ease of use to create mobile applications, we have seen a very high rise in individual mobile applications enabling us in all areas of life. Apple has millions of these appls sold and these come for as low as 1USD per user. Android based applications are increasing as well and used on various mobile platforms.
This is the start of applications becoming commodity / utility and it means that for all day 2 day applications as well as collaboration applications will move towards mobile platform and available on internet round the clock at very low cost and used in very high volumes.
On the other hand the business specific applications are moving towards pay for use “Software as a Service” model. A few examples of the same are, Concur for expense management, Salesforce.com for order management. SAP, Microsoft and Google are also working on creating Pay for use applications which are low cost, transaction driven applications. In conjunction providers are also working on leveraging Cloud Computing and Service Oriented Architecture for creating mobile applications.
Google has launched Google Appls Store which is not just for mobile appls but appls that can be accessed and used using browser online. Microsoft is in process of launching Office 365 online for working virtually from anywhere.
All of the above are showing the signs that we are on the journey towards creating and using Pay for use as well as mobile applications more and more. In coming years this would lead to a utility model of using applications based on the needs and opening a new way of using applications from an appstore provider instead of making a new one ourselves every year.
On one side this will give more agility to the business to choose the solutions off the shelf while on the other end it will create more flexibility and control issues to ensure we choose the right appls throughout the company for effective use. This is more important for MNCs adapting the out of box applications then for individuals/small/medium enterprises.
IT is increasingly seen as an essential business enabler as well as value creator + competitive advantage creator. In doing so one of the most important service blocks of IT is applications life cycle management. Within application life cycle management the IT divisions generally use various frameworks and technology platforms to achieve the desired results. The well known ones are,
Rational Unified Process (RUP) for requirements management
PRINCE2 / PM BOK for project management
ITIL for service management
Waterfall method for application SDLC
Agile development for agile way of applications management
SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) for modular/component development and making them available as loosely coupled to be used as service
In the area of technology platform there is a vast list. Some of the heavily used ones are,
MS SQL/MY SQL
On the other side we have seen the increase is standard out of box applications that we use day in and day out to get our daily activities done. A few examples of the same are,
Microsoft Office Suite
SAP (with needed customizations)
CA Clarity Tool
HP Open View Service Desk Tool
The latest trend shows a start in applications turning more and more out of the box for day 2 day activities and collaboration needs. More and more business starting with individuals, small & medium enterprises are going towards using standard out of the box applications to keep their appls maintenance and development costs under control. The MNCs (Multi Nationals) have started moving towards the same for the so called Utility applications.
The advantages seen in using standard out of the box applications are,
No internal development and maintenance team required
The standard functionality ensures easy upgrades and updates
Market standards are adhered to much easily
License costs benefits due to volume
Easier user training with standard vendor provided training materials
Easier acquisition on boarding to One company standard appls
The disadvantages to be handled are,
The standard appls vendor’s existence in market. If the vendor is small can be easily take over/go bankrupt
No control over how fast the issues & changes reported will be resolved and in which release
Very tight control on changes/customizations, all has to be within the boundary of what the standard appls environment allows
License costs year over year can increase/ License model can change for major releases
Data migration from other systems to standard systems could be very time consuming, complex and costly
The applications future continues to evolve and we already see many businesses moving in the standard out of the box applications for their day to day activities and collaboration needs. It is slowly moving towards adaptation of “Software as a Service”, pay for use model.