There is no better time to clean up than the spring.  The days are longer, the air is warmer,  and there is a sense of renewal and freshness in the air.  It's time to think about clearing out the old and ushering in the new.  During this time,  many of us go through a process of dividing our things into three piles:

A pile of things that we really don't need anymore,  and should really throw away;

  • A pile of items that are useful to someone,  if not ourselves,  that can be recycled or re-purposed;
  • And a pile of things that are still valuable and useful and that must be kept,  at least for another year.
This process,  quite apart from the therapeutic value,  has the effect of simplification, of removing redundancy, reducing costs and of increasing effectiveness and efficiency in our lives.

And while we are thinking of cleaning up at home,  so should CIO's and IT Directors be thinking of cleaning up their IT landscapes.  There are clear benefits,  but the problem is,  just like spring cleaning,  we just sometimes don't get round to it.

It takes investment, will and confidence.  Investment in time,  resources and energy;  The will to succeed (commonly understood as "buy-in") ; And confidence in making good choices about what to put into each pile, and the impact of doing so.

In the IT world right now,  we are in a cost cutting and consolidation cycle.  Many senior managers are looking at the proliferation of systems,  infrastructure and technologies,  with the realization that for all sorts of good reasons, during the almost recent expansive phase, their IT landscape has become a spaghetti like interaction of systems with overlapping functionality, with a  huge technical debt.  Their sights will quite rightly be on consolidation, simplification and TCO reduction. The real question though is how to achieve this with minimum investment and minimum risk to the operation of the business.

One answer is to consider spring cleaning.  Putting in place a strategic decommissioning program that will assess the entire IT landscape and place the systems in one of three piles. A key deliverable of this program is the prioritization of  systems and tools and technologies in the first pile, by cost and risk.  Once this list is in place,  it is possible to then start the process of migrating users and functionality,  and shutting down systems that have no further value but have continued costs.

Putting such a program in place requires an up front investment, and an understanding of the return time horizon.  It would be reasonable to expect a cost neutral first year,  with real savings being seen in second and third years.  And what is key here is to establish,  like spring cleaning,  a point at which to stop,  a point a which enough has been done (for now at least),  and where further effort will yield smaller rewards.

Running such a program is no easy task,  as there are many obstacles such as a huge amount of investment in time and energy, a depth of experience,  and a variety of agendas around candidate systems for decommissioning.  Senior management support,  a strong technical team, excellent governance process and well defined and understood cost model are all essential for success.  In some organisations a program such as this is best run by an external agency, and in some an internal team,  brought together specifically for the purpose,  is more appropriate.

If you are thinking about spring cleaning your IT landscape,  then the Excelian, here,  and get out your feather duster!