Did application landscapes move in the past few years? Certainly, but maybe not in the right direction. With the release of the 2014 edition of the Application Landscape Report, we now have the luxury of not only having an up-to-date snapshot of what the typical enterprise application estate looks like, but also being able to see what has changed. After all, the inaugural edition of the report is almost 3 years away and we consider that a sufficient time gap to do some solid delta analysis.
Here’s what changed.
1. The business once more embraces IT as a crucial enabler to innovation and change. Call it whatever you want – Digital Transformation for example – but it is almost a no-brainer nowadays for organizations to put IT in a pivotal role to any substantial business improvement. It wasn’t all that obvious just 3 years ago, when cost reduction and risk management set the main agenda. No doubt, the next generation of solutions around Cloud, Big Data, social and mobile has certainly whetted the appetite of the business to leverage technology for change.
That’s the good news. The bad news? The enthusiasm is often not exactly due to the IT department and its application landscape.  To quote a recent business client of mine: “We really love IT nowadays. It’s just those IT people …”.
2. Application landscapes only have become more complex. Although CIOs seemed to be determined already 3 years ago to rationalize their application portfolios and get rid of an excess of redundant, low-value applications, the situation in 2014 is actually worse. The average number of redundant or aged applications has only grown and more CIOs indicate their organization is in dire need of some serious spring-cleaning. Let’s be clear here: that new wave of fancy, cloud-based and mobile applications certainly won’t have helped to simplify. But still: IT execs largely failed to address the clutter of their existing application estate, often because of their inability to create a convincing, hard business case but also quite regularly because there always seem to be a few topics (security, data quality anybody?) that rank higher on the priority list.
3. Radical rationalization scenarios are now considered. So here’s the obvious unbalance: business likes IT more than ever but IT is too busy fighting clutter and inertia to adequately respond. Shadow IT is already lurking around the corner and unless done deliberately and perfectly right, it’s not what organizations should want. As a response, it’s interesting to see that CIOs are considering much more radical rationalization scenarios compared to a few years ago. Ripping & replacing applications tops the list – no doubt triggered by the new catalogs of attractive SaaS solutions – and it used to be a taboo as it forces organizations to challenge their established processes and business practices (we might consider that a good thing nowadays, though). Alternatively, CIOs plan to just leave the existing application landscape in its petrified state and use SMAC technologies or process management tools to build new, agile layers around it.
To us, these are the most notable changes compared to the inaugural edition of the Application Landscape Report. Much more to say and to analyze, so watch this space in the forthcoming days for more. In the meantime, have a look at the report: we’d love to hear your builds.