The Big Obstacle to Application Decommissioning

When I talk to IT executives about application decommissioning and application archiving, I sometimes feel as though I have fallen through a rabbit hole. Because just like Alice, I cannot make sense of a lot of what my eyes and ears are telling me.

It seems to me that decommissioning applications that are no longer serving a useful purpose to the enterprise should be the most obvious and easiest thing any CTO can do to reduce cost and complexity. Why wouldn’t you decommission an application that is costing you tens of thousands of dollars — or a lot more — if you do not use it anymore?  What would stop anyone from moving forward with a decommissioning effort?

That question gets even more pointed when you add an additional benefit — reduced risk — to the cost savings and the reduction in complexity that decommissioning delivers.

The best application archiving solutions reduce regulatory and legal risk because they include retention management and litigation hold capabilities that enable compliance with record keeping requirements.

But something certainly gets in the way of decommissioning projects.  In a recent survey we completed at Everteam, more than half the respondents indicated that they have at least one enterprise application in place that is no longer being used. That is an awful lot of applications that could be decommissioned but are not.

In that survey we also tried to uncover the reasons why they are not proceeding with decommissioning those applications. The answers were very revealing.  In fact it revealed the single biggest obstacle blocking application archiving and decommissioning initiatives: Lack of clear ownership.

The reality is that IT and business units share ownership and responsibility for applications, and both are stakeholders in any discussion about decommissioning.  In a typical scenario, IT may feel that an application should clearly be shut down, but may be blocked by the business. And the reason for that is typically that the business users are not comfortable with the prospect of losing access to the data stored in that application’s repository. Despite assurances, they worry that they will not be able to find and retrieve documents, records and other content stored in the old system.

Since it is hard for IT to proceed with decommissioning over the objections of a business leader, and easier to “wait another six months” than risk any chance that some information needed becomes unaccessible, that is just what happens. Decommissioning is put off, but at the cost of budget and resources that should be going to net new initiatives.

What to do?  Well, for this challenge there is no simple answer. The irony is that properly archived application content will not just remain accessible, with the right solution it will actually be easier to search and the content will be better managed, based on retention policies and in accordance with overall information governance guidelines.  So the best approach is to prove that archived content is available for reports, to be searched and to be accessed, and to show clearly the benefits in terms of cost savings and reduced risk.  And the best way to do that is a proof-of-concept project.

This is how we usually proceed when we work with customers who select everteam.archive for application archiving.  We select an application that is a candidate for decommissioning, we connect everteam.records to it, and we extract a copy of the content.  Then we demonstrate how the archive allows the content to be searched and accessed, analyzed with content analytics and managed based on good record-keeping policies.  We also mix in a little education about how important defensible destruction is, and why retaining content indefinitely is a really — REALLY — bad idea.  

A successful pilot or proof-of-concept project makes the business side of the house comfortable with the idea that their old apploication is going away.  They learn that they can save the organization money while still having access to any content they need, when they need it. It is the single best — maybe the only — way that I have found to overcomes the biggest obstacle to application decommissioning, which is the fear of losing access to content that “might” be needed in the future.

Ken Lownie
VP, Customer Success

Ask a Question