Why do most decommissioning projects fail? Part 2

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Robert Reuben, Managing Director, Proceed Group Decommissioning

As we continue to see an explosion in application acquisition, we’re seeing a resulting level of software bloat.Decommissioning is vital in containing sprawl, but avoidance is becoming far too common.As decommissioning projects continue to get shelved, the financial drain on the business continues to grow.We lift the lid on a process that properly instigated, can be straight forward and can offer huge financial return.

In my last post I talked about the inherent reasons that decommissioning projects fail, and the first of the key steps needed to achieving success. Check the first blog out here, which talks about keeping decommissioning roles separate from the rest of IT to developing a strategy that all stakeholders have are engaged in the process.

That leads us into the final steps, which I’ve outlined here:

  • Pay attention to the reporting needs of your stakeholders. Many businesses may decide not to decommission applications because relevant data still sits inside an old on-premise application, and it’s still considered ‘useful’ to them.However, with the technology available today, the data can be easily extracted to a new repository where it is completely accessible by stakeholders. It’s imperative to understand your stakeholders’ needs and reporting requirements early on to ensure they are met.
  • Hire in expertise. Failed decommissioning projects can often be based entirely on lack of expertise. It is imperative that those that take the responsibility of the role of ‘application undertaker’ have a deep knowledge of legacy systems and prior decommissioning experience if the project is to be a success.
  • Keep stakeholders informed, and outline expectations from the outset. Businesses are focused on success, and IT is increasingly being seen as a keydriver – innovative applications that offer insights and analysis are key tools to improve business performance, especially with digital transformation taking hold.Whilst innovation is the focus of the C-suite, removing obsolete technology is often seen as a necessary evil that will resolve itself quickly and remains firmly within the IT team.However, the opposite is almost always true.It is imperative that communication lines remain open with key stakeholders, including the C-suite to manage expectations and measure success.
  • Implement decommissioning in phases. Experience shows that careful planning, the right methodology and due diligence are the key elements of this complex process.Breaking this down into project phases ensures each element is focused on at the right stage of the entire project:

- Application identification – identifying all the applications that are good candidates for decommissioning.Due diligence is vital.Identify more than just a list of applications, also consider their business function, current and future costs and usage.

- Will any new application assume all functionality of this older version?

- Discovery and analysis – once you’ve identified your applications, this second phase gets into the detail of your business data, required retention periods, and gives a clearer picture of the work required, potential savings and any disruption.

- Decommissioning strategy – once you know which applications are on your list, this next phase should consider all the elements discussed earlier regarding stakeholders, potential business disruption, legal requirements for data, ROI etc.Without this strategy you risk missing important pieces by diving straight to the details.The consequences can be lost time, money and needless organisational disruption.

- Decommissioning design – once you’ve developed your strategya detailed design will save a tremendous amount of work on the implementation.Ideally from a technical standpoint, detailed instructions on how to accomplish the decommissioning tasks, will help the development team. The technical specifications created in this phase are important documents not just for development, but also for creating a detailed record of the old architecture, the new architecture and the process it took from getting from one to the other.From a business perspective it also offers traceability that ensures every business requirement is accounted for in the technical design.

  • Project implementation. The main criterion to starting implementation is “do I have all the plans necessary for this piece of decommissioning effort?” This includes training where necessary, planning documents being in place, and stakeholders being communicated to.Your project will not be complete however until proven and validated rigorous testing with a complete documentation trail. Only then should the application be certified, ‘decommission ready’.

It has never been more timely to undertake a decommissioning project as organisations face unprecedented challenges.The ensuing financial impact of Covid-19 is a compelling reason to reduce software bloat and all the related costs.Application decommissioning can be challenging.However, with the right experience, strategy and implementation guidance real financial rewards can be reaped.

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