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Before “Rationalization of Digital Estate” can even start …

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”. (Benjamin Franklin)

Today the vast majority of our financial, insurance, and other important personal documents are in a digital format, stored in a variety of online systems, secured by numerous passwords, multi-factor authentication and other security options. The problem is no matter how organized we think we are, or how familiar with technology we may be, without clear instructions, most of us will end up leaving a digital mess for others to sort out when we pass.  And that’s only on a personal level.  Think about this on a company level.  Enter a random company and ask for an overview of their digital estate.  Most companies have no idea where to start.  Which triggers an interesting question: “How can you rationalize what you have if you don’t know what you have in the first place?”

Digital Estate for a company is the collection of IT assets that power business processes and support operations.  During the road to Infinite Business (or a transformation journey if you want), this digital estate is needed to map the expected business outcomes to release plans and technical efforts.  It all must start with some sort of inventory.

On a very high level, there are 2 ways of approach this inventory:

  • Manual Assessment (Workload Driven)
  • Automated Assessment (Asset Driven)

Manual Assessment

This approach consists of traditional interviews with business and technical stakeholders.  This approach can and should be complimented with some sort of larger scale survey process.  The larger the company, the more complex it will get.  The challenge with this approach is you need availability of key resources.  Which requires a fair bit of planning.  The feedback is by design “anecdotal”.  Nothing wrong with that if you plan for significant validation. 

Automated Assessment

This approach is pulling statistical data from infrastructure assessment tools.  Or from existing configuration management databases.  If none of this is available and it needs to be setup at the start of the inventory, you need to give it the time to run.  Think of business processes that only run once a month. They can be business critical.  If you only run this type of assessment for one week, it’s a big risk of missing crucial information.

The hybrid solution

For one customer we were doing this type of inventory exercise.  We came across some sort of “time keeping application”.  According to the identified business stakeholder, this application we no longer in use.  When we analyse usage data, we saw that in the subsidiary in Germany, there was still significant use of this application.  We scheduled an interview with one of the local business owners.  To learn this time keeping application was even legally required.  The German business never moved to the new application because of a worker’s council dispute …  A hybrid approach to inventory services is highly recommended to avoid challenges later in the rationalization.

Big Bang or Incremental?

The larger the enterprise, the more complex this type of inventory becomes.  To the point where a “full inventory” would take too long to complete.  Or even be unrealistic to complete.  A “big bang” approach can work in smaller companies.  For enterprises, an incremental (may I say agile) approach is the way to go.  The “end state” is an inventory of applications, software, hardware, operating systems and how it all fits together.  But that is not enough to start a rationalization.

Quantitative analyses

This next step is where information gathered by tools is complimented by rather standard questions.  When the organisation is large enough this is the steps where survey tools come into the game.  Is the asset still in use?  Is it optimized? Is it sized properly?  What are the dependencies?  How is the performance?

Qualitative analyses

In this final step human intelligence is added.  This is where questions are along the lines of: “How well does this or that application support your business needs?”  You need business stakeholder/power users for this part of the analyses.  The better they have been involved in ideation and experimentation efforts, the better this part of the exercise will be.  This is where you get the return on investment from proof of concepts with businesspeople involved.

With all this information, the rationalization effort can start.  In one “big bang” approach or incremental.  But that is a full story on its own …

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