Why do most decommissioning projects fail? Part 1

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Robert Reuben, Managing Director, Proceed Group Decommissioning

Our thirst for IT solutions has grown exponentially in the last two decades, with the continuous acquisition of applications an inherent part of business life. However, organisations don’t have the same thirst for decommissioning legacy applications and are suffering severe software bloat to such a degree that their applications portfolios are becoming an expensive drain on their business.Without change, these portfolios will continue to grow, a process that will be wholly unsustainable in the long term.

Cloud computing has added further complexity. As we continue to move to cloud-based applications to run our businesses we’re likely to leave our on-premise based applications to fester on the network.There they take up storage and leave the business open to risk, as they reach their end of support period and security patches are turned off. The IT department is faced with providing the business with new applications that can deliver more functionality, mobility and analytics, whilst retaining an ever-growing amount of applications that continue to be a drain on the business.

Successfully running a decommissioning project is often seen as complex and expensive, and despite cost savings offered by the process, a lack of expertise means many of these projects are avoided or fail.Of course, the major reason why businesses keep applications in place, and are concerned about the risks of decommissioning, is that the data within them remains critical to the running of their enterprise.Fortunately, there are tools that can extract that data and put it into a secure, lower-cost repository where it can continue to be reported on and be of value to the business.

With the compelling need to move data centres from on-premise to the cloud, the opportunity offered by leaner, modern applications is clear.Therefore, many organisations are having to face down their fears and begin the process.

With this in mind, we’ve developed a two part blog on the actionable steps you can take to ensure success when undertaking a decommissioning project, here’s our first key steps:

  • Keep your roles separate

Recently, Gartner coined the term ‘application undertaker’ for those tasked with removing ‘dead’ applications and their data. Instead of the same team being responsible for the implementation of a new application Gartner recommends having a whole separate body of people that take ultimate responsibility for the decommissioning of an application. To truly separate and distinguish the importance of the role of the decommissioner is the first step to achieving success.

  • Develop a strategy

A firm strategy from the outset is key – whether you’re decommissioning a single system or a hundred, the absence of a decommissioning strategy is by far the biggest single point of failure for anyproject. Ensure that the strategy is shared across the organisation, identify all stakeholders across the business within operations and IT and engage readily with them.


In my next post, we’ll be looking at who you need to keep informed and why, as well as the need for outside expertise where necessary.And finally implementing a phased approach to ensure each element is focused on at the right stage of the entire project.

Decommissioning legacy applications can be a contentious subject, but with the right approach it can offer valuable savings in both time and finances as well as addressing some critical business risks.

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