How Do You Reduce Application Support Costs Over Time?

Enterprise application portfolios can be vast and complex, reaching into every corner of a large businesses. Inevitably, applications require ongoing support, whether to fix problems or to customise these applications to match changing business needs.

The costs associated with application support is significant and businesses rightly want to reduce these costs over time. But how can a business reduce application support costs without damaging how effectively these applications operate in the long run?

Catalogue your Application Portfolio and Consolidate

The reasoning is simple: don’t pay to support applications you don’t need. Large, sprawling companies can have equally sprawling application portfolios, often with little central record of who uses what. Consider doing a full review, touching on the following points:

  • Start an inventory or refresh an existing inventory. Survey both the users of applications as well as financial data, as some applications expenditure might not show up clearly. This provides an opportunity to identify areas of duplication, and applications which are no longer needed.
  • Check associated service agreements. Many applications will come with ongoing service arrangements, some with very tight (and expensive) service level agreements (SLAs). Rationalise where possible and reduce service level expectations where these are excessive. Some application may no longer need ongoing servicing.
  • Assess outsourced maintenance costs. Maintaining custom applications can be expensive and gone unchecked outsourced providers can end up charging exorbitant rates. Check whether your organisation still receives good value for money from ongoing arrangements.

Excessive application maintenance costs can often come down to a mere lack of control. Getting a grip on your application portfolio and checking whether your business receives good value across the board is a good start.

Opt for a Flexible, Modular Application Portfolio

Forethought and planning can help enterprises set up application portfolios in a way that minimises ongoing costs. A flexible, modular approach is key. Too much dependency on single vendors and application suits and a monolithic approach can cause long-term lock-in. Instead, consider:

  • Modular, looser integration. As much as various systems such as ERP and CRM must be integrated, this integration must allow for flexibility. If one application becomes too expensive to maintain or unsuited to business needs, a business should be able to flex it out. Rigid solutions on the other hand can lead to high maintenance costs.
  • Flexible software architecture. Modern software architecture including microservices and service oriented architecture (SOA) gives businesses more flexibility. Deployment is quicker and application portfolios can more rapidly adjust to changing business needs. In contrast, though building applications in a “monolithic” style is effective, it can lead to higher costs in the long run.
  • Adopt the cloud. Large businesses can still be heavily reliant on software running using on-premise equipment with high maintenance costs. In contrast, cloud-hosted solutions can scale more easily and allow for far easier and less costly application integration. Cloud-hosted applications also often benefit from friction-free, costless and ongoing software updates.

With fewer restrictions and limits on application flexibility a business can adjust application usage in ways that minimise maintenance costs. Lock your portfolio too tightly via restrictive architectures and vendors and you may find that ongoing support becomes very costly.

Don’t Neglect Application Maintenance

Finally, application maintenance should remain a top priority throughout. Stale, neglected application portfolios can hide steep future costs. Leave legacy applications in place too long, for example, and your business may find getting the required labour extremely costly.

Ongoing application updates are essential too, older versions of applications can pose a security risk and trip up the integration of new applications. In effect, the less a business maintains in the short term, the more expensive maintenance becomes over time.

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