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5 ways to flip the 80/20 maintenance/innovation IT spending trap

By E.G.. Nadhan

In InformationWeek’s Global CIO Top 10 CIO Issues for 2011, failure to address the 80/20 maintenance to Gymnast.PNGinnovation spend came in as #2 on the top 10 list. It’s no surprise that this is a hot topic on the minds of many CIOs and IT professionals. It’s difficult to have an IT discussion these days without the 80/20 dilemma coming up, especially if you’re talking about the need for Application Transformation.


We know it’s a problem. We know it’s on our “to do” list of things to fix. But what I don’t read or hear a lot about are real-world, practical suggestions on how to actually flip this ratio, which made me wonder if I could come up with a few tips of my own. So here goes my attempt at 5 practical tips to help you flip the 80/20 IT maintenance/innovation ratio:


1) Automation, Automation, Automation:  By automating repeatable process steps that are manually intensive, you can see significant improvements in productivity and efficiency that reduces the overall maintenance overhead. Automation opens up avenues for innovation that results in tangible business benefits including reduced cost, increased accuracy and faster response to changing customer demands, which is more important than ever in our Instant-On, we want it NOW, World


2) Re-factoring: Pull back the covers and look at the underlying code for the applications being maintained. Identify unused code or dead code that is not serving a useful purpose. Investigate alternative, more efficient ways of restructuring the code to make more efficient usage of the limited resources available thereby increasing the overall efficiency without changing the functionality.


3) Rationalization: Ask yourself the question, What are the business processes being enable through the applications being maintained? Employ tools that automatically detect the frequently traversed user navigation paths. Focus on these processes and determine the optimal number of applications required to enable theses processed. Define a roadmap for rationalizing down to a reduced number of applications to be maintained.


4) Modernization: Employ one or more of the various modernization strategies to change the technological domain for the applications being maintained. Reduce the amount of custom code to be maintained in favor of off-the-shelf functionality from commercial software packages.


5) Pattern analysis: analyze the types of incidents detected and problems encountered to identify trends and detect patterns that can be used to predict the probability of similar errors occurring so that preventive measure can be taken in advance.


 To flip your maintenance/innovation ration, you might also want to consider an Application Transformation journey that might be challenging at times but well worth the effort in the end.


I hope you'll find my 5 practical tips to flipping the maintenance/innovation ration helpful. I'm interested to hear your own suggestions. What tactics have you tried to flip the maintenance ratio? Where they successful or not? Any reason why you think these tips won't work? Are there any tips you can add to my list?

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