Many IT organizations are overly focused on which tactical step to take
next and are missing the ever-worsening bigger picture with respect to
IT modernization, according to Gartner Inc. Gartner foresees a
confluence of trends that, if ignored, will leave many organizations
unable to respond effectively to business demands.
“We are seeing the IT conversation dominated by what projects to
do next, status of existing projects and talk of maintenance
efforts,” said Scott Nelson, managing vice-president at Gartner.
“The danger is that many organizations are doing the equivalent
of looking down at each step they take, rather than picking their heads
up and seeing where the steps are leading. For many companies, the
potential for an IT train wreck is significant if the warning signs are
“It is easy for companies to turn a blind eye to changes in the
IT application landscape, but these systemic changes are unavoidable
and companies that ignore the signs will have problems with their
application strategies,” said Val Sribar, group vice president at
Gartner. “Understanding the key signs of change in applications
will help companies develop effective plans to modernize their
In order to help organizations recognize the signs of potential danger, Gartner has identified 10 key indicators:
- Sign No.1: Skills Shortage. Many organizations are
investing huge budgets in hiring programmers to keep an old system
running. Instead, companies need a strategy for supporting the business
that fully exploits, for as long as possible, the investment in the old
system, but which also recognizes that a replacement system strategy is
- Sign No. 2: Vendor/Product
Consolidation/Support. As the number of vendors consolidates and
products age, those products are retired by the acquiring company and
taken off support status, with the result of increasing maintenance
charges with little in the way of incremental functionality. However,
companies often depend on these applications, and switching to a new
application is both inconvenient and resource intensive. In some cases
it requires resources that the IT group does not have and as a result,
companies work harder to maintain more outdated but mission-critical
- Sign No. 3: Agility Metrics Decay. Agility
metrics for making a business changes decay as systems become more
brittle and the "piling on effect" worsens. Consequently, the business
cannot afford to change because the IT organization can’t support
the changes. The result is a loss of business agility in an
increasingly agile world.
- Sign No. 4: Operation Expenses
Escalate. Operation expenses become a larger portion of the IT budget
as the piling on effect worsens. As a result there are little resources
— money, people or time — to work on anything new.
- Sign No. 5:
Aging Technology Portfolio. The aging technology portfolio drifts
further away from the desired "future state" architecture standards.
The technology vision laid out by the enterprise architects becomes
impossible to achieve. The result is an increasingly outdated set of
systems and infrastructure that becomes the source of more problems.
- Sign No.6:
Difficult to Access Information. Information becomes increasingly
difficult to access and analyze as data structures age. Modern business
users are highly information-dependent. As the data becomes more out of
date, less accurate and more difficult to access, the business is
increasingly forced to work without the information needed to make
- Sign No. 7: Legacy Capacity Risk. Legacy
capacity needs increase as new interfaces, such as Web connections,
drive up transaction volumes, resulting in greater spending on
traditional processing and storage and so forth. Ironically, this
legacy capacity is usually priced at a premium compared with newer
technologies riding the consumerization curve.
- Sign No. 8: Regulatory
Compliance Issues/Risks Increase. Compliance is an issue even in
traditional lightly regulated industries, and legislation shows that
any company may be at the mercy of outdated systems that can’t
meet the needs of increased regulations.
- Sign No. 9: IT
Costs Increase, Agility Decreases. Direct business purchasing of
IT-related services drives up central IT costs and drives agility
- Sign No.10: Green IT. Today’s CIOs are
likely to have targets that will involve substantial infrastructure
changes to achieve green IT objectives. These changes will almost
inevitably carry implications for the application portfolio.
To avoid the so called IT train wreck, Gartner advises that
organizations put IT strategic planning, rather than tactical budgeting
at the heart of the CIO management agenda.
“By developing an application strategy and focusing on retiring
older systems, CIOs will be best placed to fund an IT modernization
program that works to drive the IT organization to achieve a desired
state,” said Andy Kyte, vice president and Gartner Fellow.
Additional information is available in the Gartner report “Signs
Indicate a Train Wreck Is Coming, Unless You Modernize IT." The report
is onGartner's Web site >>>