Real-World Advice On App Consolidation

Former GM CIO Ralph Szygenda on the two main approaches.
There are two kinds of application consolidation efforts. One changes how a company gets its business done; the other changes how IT works. Either can add value, but CIOs should be clear on which kind they're doing, advises former General Motors CIO Ralph Szygenda.

Szygenda's insight is hard earned, as a veteran of app consolidation efforts and broader IT transformations as CIO of GM and Bell Atlantic. He retired from GM last fall.

The most effective approach is the first type, one that involves business process change, not just technology consolidation. "You have to determine what you can leverage," says Szygenda. Is the CEO pushing for greater supply chain efficiency, fewer layers of decision making, more global business processes?

Connect those goals to technology change, and fellow business unit leaders will be much more interested in eliminating apps that don't fit that vision. For example, if the CEO's goal is to have more global business processes, it gets much easier to kill an app that serves only one geography. "You find a lot of systems don't fit that vision," Szygenda says.

But vision isn't enough. The CIO must figure out how to make the IT element of this change measurable and should issue progress reports. Does the supply chain group have 100% global systems and the finance department only 60%? That gets business leaders' attention and makes them more open to change.

The second kind of app consolidation is mostly done within IT, what Szygenda calls a "tech consolidation" to "get the clutter out" and lower IT operating costs. From there, the CIO might be able to get notable-enough cost savings to win support for broader business-backed app consolidation.

But CIOs shouldn't kid themselves: They can't force broad process and system change without first getting their fellow business unit leaders on board. Says Szygenda: "It takes tremendous management support."

Editor's Choice
Brandon Taylor, Digital Editorial Program Manager
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Terry White, Associate Chief Analyst, Omdia
John Abel, Technical Director, Google Cloud
Richard Pallardy, Freelance Writer
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek
Pam Baker, Contributing Writer