When our new ExpertConnect site was launched a few days ago, several people asked me what – for heaven’s sake – I mean with ‘seeking the Zen within technology’. Well, first of all I must admit I know nothing about Zen: I have not even found a glimpse of the Ox’s hoof marks. I do however like the emphasis of Zen on disciplined training and a continuous polishing of the basics (more about this on our earlier ‘Wax-on Wax-off’ blog item). It contains a highly relevant message towards our own profession: a carefully crafted, yet simple foundation of infrastructure and core applications is a must for anything fancy and innovative on top of it.
Zen teachers often tend towards pragmatism. I particularly value a lesson I once learned: whenever you buy a piece of clothing, get rid of two others first. In this way, getting something new also creates a welcome opportunity to clean up. It’s crucial to deal with the inertia of chaos, to stay in control, even improve your grip on things.
Why not apply this principle to applications? We know all too well that the petrified, cluttered application landscapes of today keep us from moving forward. They are like clothing closets that are completely packed; so much that we don’t even dare to open its doors. We would love to build new applications that better serve our business users, applying new technologies and tools. But we must create the headroom for it first, by sanitizing what we already have.
Whenever you want to add an application, get rid of two others first.
So how is that for a rule of thumb? Quite a useful guideline when creating the portfolio strategy for next year or when somebody jumps into your office with a brilliant idea for a new project. It legitimizes the noble craft of applications retirement and links it inseparably to implementing new ones. You build something, you retire more.

Getting rid of your once beloved babies can be an almost emotional process. In practice, we have found that it is not only a matter of having good tools, the right applications intelligence and a solid business case (all of these are crucial, though): it is also a matter of being emphatic to the change dynamics of the organization and the personal drivers of the people involved. More about this at HP Software Universe in beautiful Barcelona (November 30 – December 2), where we will be introducing a joint effort around applications retirement. It involves both state-of-the-art tooling – records management, database archiving, project and portfolio management – and a wide-angle approach that considers all the crucial success factors.
Yet much more to be said about this topic. What happens once applications actually have been marked for retirement? (often nothing, because few people have real experience with shutting down applications, let alone that they have documented procedures for it). And what will be the impact on retirement when the We have an App for That philosophy starts to hit our desktops in the forthcoming years? Just a few questions around a vital theme that no doubt will have more spotlight in 2011. So free your mind, open the door, and we will quickly be back on this blog with more thoughts about how to clean up that closet.