Mar 18 2020

Are Agencies Making Progress on Application Rationalization?

The GSA is blazing a path for other agencies to follow when it comes to modernizing app portfolios.

Federal agencies are working to rationalize their application portfolios as they move to the cloud. However, discarding older applications or consolidating them into new ones does not mean that agencies will have to stop investing in IT. 

One of the core tenets of the government’s Cloud Smart strategy is application rationalization, which involves reducing an application portfolio by assessing the need for and usage of apps and a push to get rid of obsolete, redundant or overly resource-intensive applications.

“Decreased application management responsibilities will free agencies to focus on improving service delivery by optimizing their remaining applications,” the strategy states. “To support these rationalization efforts, the CIO Council will develop best practices and other resources.”

Indeed, last year the Federal CIO Council released an application rationalization playbook

“Agencies can determine whether the existing ‘as-is’ environment, or a proposed ‘to-be’ configuration is the best fit for their core mission, based on cost, business resiliency and service delivery,” a General Services Administration spokesperson tells Federal News Network. “This rationalization process feeds directly into cloud smart decisions. As we streamline existing data centers, efficiency decreases, eventually leading to closure.”

GSA Takes the Lead on App Rationalization

The GSA is the agency that is setting the pace for other federal agencies and departments when it comes to application rationalization, and IT leaders there have some advice for their peers to follow. 

“One of the main things I get people to concentrate on is not doing low-hanging fruit,” Stephen Naumann, senior adviser and data center practitioner with the GSA’s Office of Government-Wide Policy, said during a panel in December hosted by ACT-IAC and the IBM Center for the Business of Government, according to Nextgov. “That’s too easy. You’re just moving something from one place to another. And really annoying the technicians when you do that if you’re not getting the bang for the buck.” 

When agency IT teams are deploying new technologies, they are often advised to go for quick wins to demonstrate to agency leaders the value of the transition. However, Naumann advised against agencies doing so when it comes to application rationalization. Instead, as Nextgov notes, he said that IT teams should focus on pain points and the apps that everyone has a problem with.

MORE FROM FEDTECH: Follow the 5 R’s of rationalization for an effective cloud migration.

“Every organization has something in their enterprise that’s a problem child. Every Monday morning after a change weekend, something’s gone wrong or you’ve had a major outage,” he said. “Look at a problem child and then concentrate on that. If you go through the application rationalization process and you make their lives significantly better — whoever the users are for whatever that problem is — you’ve changed the culture, you’ve gotten buy-in on that.”

GSA is rationalizing its apps at a 9:1 ratio, CIO David Shive said in January at Cloudera’s 2020 Data Cloud Summit, and the agency will continue to invest in IT. For example, Shive said, GSA consolidated its customer relationship management system apps from about 1,800 down to 200, according to FedScoop

GSA can use the money it saves to focus on other higher-value digitization efforts, Shive said. The agency cut costs by 17.8 percent in 2019, with 53 percent of workloads and spend in the cloud managed by just 30 percent of its infrastructure stack, FedScoop reports. 

Meanwhile, the other 70 percent of agency infrastructure has been repurposed for work like cybersecurity and enterprise planning, Shive said, according to FedScoop.

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