In an earlier blog, I discussed “app bloat” and made the point that every company’s app pipeline has finite capacity at all points—so if the narrowest point in that pipeline has capacity for n apps, the n+1th app will adversely impact the entire enterprise app portfolio.
In this blog, I’d like to focus on a particularly problematic source of app bloat: Inorganic app growth.
Inorganic app growth is the accumulation of apps through M&A activity, indiscriminate SaaS purchases within LOBs, and the like. This inorganic growth is distinct from the apps companies add “organically”—i.e. via strategic development or licensing aligned with core business objectives.
Yes, it’s really an issue
Inorganic app growth is a genuine (albeit perhaps under-recognized) issue for several reasons, including:
1) All forms of app bloat choke innovation and fritter away IT resources on activities that contribute little or nothing to the business.
2) The cloud keeps making it easier for LOBs to unwisely add to the enterprise app portfolio. Many apps are now “free” or close to it—heightening the temptation to the unenlightened.
3) An increase in M&A activity—which, according to KPMG, could grow about 20% this year—is also like to exacerbate the problem.
The intense competitiveness of the application economy makes it more important than ever for companies to ensure that their app pipeline resources are optimally allocated. All of us therefore need to get serious about app bloat generally and inorganic app growth in particular.
What to do?
In my experience, few IT leaders take a truly pro-active and disciplined approach to the mitigation of inorganic app growth. But now that the problem is becoming more serious, it’s worth doing so.
Here are four particular measures that may help:
1) Education. You can’t expect non-IT folks to intuitively realize the true consequences of excessive app acquisition. They need to be educated. Security, compliance and resource contention are pretty easy to explain to “laypeople” if you do it right (which means doing it non-condescendingly).
2) Policy. If IT takes an ad hoc approach to limiting inorganic apps, it can feel very arbitrary to the business—thereby fomenting resistance, rather than cooperation. IT and the business should therefore work together to forge a coherent policy regarding inorganic apps. This promotes the executive/LOB buy-in so essential for success.
3) Vigilance. Every IT organization should have some means of discovering inorganic additions to the enterprise application portfolio. This can be done with technology—but can also include manual inventorying as an integral component of due diligence during M&A.
4) Process. IT should have a well-defined process that it consistently applies to inorganically introduced apps. This process should start with detection and continue through a rationalization process that expedites transitioning/sunsetting of redundant apps—as well as appropriate modification of new apps that turn out to be complementary and useful to the business, so they conform to enterprise standards as required.
I’m interested in your experience and perspective on the inorganic app growth issue. So please feel free to drop me a line at the email below and let me know if you’re seeing it emerge as a more serious issue—and what, if anything, you’re trying to do about it.
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