Defining your core apps and services mix
Enterprises today are dealing with change on multiple fronts. Increasingly, their employees are technologically savvy, geographically distributed, and highly mobile. Central IT manages everything from legacy software running on aging computing platforms to the latest cloud-based apps. Business units sometimes implement new apps without direction from IT. And communications have become more complex than what existing services were designed for, including voice, video, text, and document storage.
Many established companies face younger competitors that are unburdened by legacy systems, meaning they need a clear plan for transitioning to a more agile infrastructure and application portfolio. This outline defines the most critical steps needed to identify your core applications and the mix of services needed to support both apps and enterprise operations.
The mix of applications and services in any organization grows quickly as different use cases are addressed with specific technological solutions. Over time, the technology infrastructure that supports those applications changes, adding complexity to the environment and complicating attempts to modernize older solutions and bring them up to current standards. You can't integrate diverse applications in one swoop. You need to evaluate each app based on the value it generates and the level of difficulty involved in modernizing it. Once those evaluations have been made, you can start prioritizing core apps for modernization.
Identifying your core applications can be a complex task because applications that support critical business operations vary from one business operation to another. You can identify which applications are core and which are ancillary only when a full inventory of the applications has been completed. And conducting a full inventory is complicated by the fact that not every application in use is known to IT. Many business units have adopted software-as-a-service systems to meet immediate needs because they are offered free or at a low cost. And while it can be argued that these unauthorized systems are expendable, the departments that initiated their use may have grown to depend on them.
For all these reasons, you need a functional definition for "core application."
Core versus critical applications
While some applications may be critical to a particular function, job, or project, they are not necessarily core to the enterprise. Gartner defines enterprise applications as “designed to integrate computer systems that run all phases of an enterprise’s operations to facilitate cooperation and coordination of work across the enterprise." While these enterprise applications can be considered critical to the company’s operations, they may not be the only core applications in the portfolio.
At most established organizations, core applications reside on legacy hardware and have most likely been customized and expanded through the history of the company so that they are now part of a complex collection of multiple interconnected systems, the individual components of which have become nearly impossible to separate.
Deloitte describes these combinations of core systems as "often a tangle of complexity and dependency that is daunting to try to comprehend, much less unwind." Deliotte reports that the cost of maintaining these core applications is the largest single line item in an IT budget. Migrating core apps to more efficient and updated infrastructure that is part of a hybrid environment can lower expenses and result in a more agile set of services that are more attuned to a modern workforce and the needs of a competitive organization.
So, while line-of-business applications are usually already clearly core applications, the ease with which non-central IT has been able to develop and deploy applications using cloud services without the knowledge of central IT means that it is still necessary to evaluate almost all existing applications and processes in order to determine where they belong in the long term.
The services mix
Enterprises that want to compete in disruptive environments must be able to respond quickly to competitive threats. Core applications that maintain the underpinnings of the business are typically baked into the fabric of operations and rely on legacy communication and data storage services that are not easily adapted to change.
The challenge for IT is to incorporate new services that can integrate data and processes that support current operations while at the same time delivering on the promise of agility, because the data in legacy systems is critical for use with new initiatives.
Technologies like cloud, analytics, and digital transformation efforts are generally seen as higher value with lower expense than are core systems. But the fact is that the data that runs the business resides in those core systems and the newer applications depend on access to and integration with the resources stored there. As businesses add advanced facilities, they are building a hybrid environment that spans legacy and advanced infrastructure, technologies, and applications. The core systems remain as foundations for newer initiatives.
Efforts to enable a hybrid environment need to be undertaken with an eye toward the impact that data-driven technologies like customer support and targeted marketing can have on achieving company goals. Creating an effective combination of technologies to support every level of application requires the right skills and knowledge. Creating a private cloud environment can be the basis for establishing a set of standards to which future cloud services can be connected. And because the first step is private, it can be designed to closely integrate with existing legacy systems as well as existing IT management tools because IT has control of both environments.
The private cloud in combination with traditional IT can become the central hub connecting with public cloud services to make up the hybrid environment. The reverse can also be true, with apps that start in the public cloud moving back within the data center or to a public/private cloud mix.
The concept of flexible and scalable computing is a key reason to create a hybrid environment. It allows the enterprise to make incremental changes and experiment with new applications that can leverage existing core data for use in new ways without interfering with the operation of existing systems and at minimal expense
As the proper balance of services and core applications takes shape, users will seamlessly access the resources of the enterprise through applications that make use of the resources of both existing and new applications. The hybrid infrastructure enables presentation of unified views of data that simplify and speed innovation because users are able to access the information they need without regard to what program or application created or maintains the data.
A well-structured hybrid environment also simplifies the allocation of security privileges though overarching access control so that users can reach the data they need, but only as they are permitted. Overall, an increased utilization of resources adds value to the company by enabling it to leverage key assets to drive innovation and competition.
Defining core apps and services: Lessons for leaders
- Start with an inventory of applications and services.
- Core and LOB are not interchangeable terms.
- Proper balance of public/private cloud and central IT are likely to be the most cost-effective solution.
This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.