Up to this point I have covered Application inventory as a cost savings initiative followed by a discussion of Application inventory starts with a definition, and finally Application inventory, what do you capture?
Following the natural progression of:
Boundaries of what to capture
What to capture
How to capture
The "How to capture" is not a simple task completed in a week or two. For a company our size this task is still ongoing after fourteen months. And our progress shows us that we will need at least till the end of year to approach some semblance of sustainability. By sustainability I mean that the information, process and people will be in place to keep the data in a fresh state so that true data-based decisions can be made at near real-time.
Every day the clarity of our inventory gets sharper and sharper as we identify and pull in the data owners. The quality of the information becomes more focused as more of the profile is filled out. There are internal systems that are starting to rely on the data we have captured. That data is being transformed into true business information which has value and can be used to make the right decisions at the right time. At times, it still feels like an uphill battle. Each day we stand side-by-side with those who see the value and push on the back of our partners as we slowly progress up the hill.
Now knowing the definition and what data we want to capture we could have progressed in a multitude of ways:
Distributed work-load, individual owners
Focused work-load, our team owning (interviewing)
Centralized gathering (combination of above, driving people to a single location)
We chose to adopt the creation of a simple to use, centrally located (Intranet Application), that stored the data we needed. As mentioned in the past, we did our analysis by looking at applications on our enterprise that already contained the types of data we were interested in. What we discovered was that none of them had the flexibility to store the additional information nor the development resources to alter their systems. This pushed us to obtain permission to build a new application.
At this point you may be saying, "You built an application to reduce the number of applications?" Sometimes it is necessary to do the wrong thing in order to do the right thing. It would have been too easy to drop a spreadsheet out there and start gathering information. Short-term this would have cost the least and potentially would have allowed us to get part of the way there. The issue is the long-term sustainability and trust that comes from a solution like that. We would have security concerns, updating collision as well as the reduced ability to share the data easily with other applications.
Yes, we built a new application, using two people, in four weeks. Since implementation started we have supported weekly releases while expanding the data being captured, the usability for customers (and consumers) as well as enabling the removal of the majority of those other systems with parallel capabilities. We have great internal hosting solutions and have been operating non-stop since December 2006.
Our goal is still to do the right thing and properly manage our inventory through reduction. We were instrumental in providing the information and process needed to remove over 500 applications (and associated hardware) from our environment since we started our process.
In my next entry I will talk about some future enhancements to get us through the next year and the further reduction in application inventory we are charged with. Perhaps its time to start looking at how our original analysis for "Low Hanging Fruit" was successful and now we find ourselves making hard decisions in order to continue refining our inventory.
Have you had similar issues at your company? Do you currently have this challenge before you? I'm curious to hear some of those challenges and potential solutions.