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Opinion Applications are the glue that connects people with IT, that much is obvious, and in turn software has a powerful influence on business performance.

Yet, to our surprise, a survey of UK enterprises revealed blind spots in the deployment of applications. We talked to 200 UK CIOs and IT leaders, and discovered that these blind spots come at a cost of £1.8bn per annum to enterprises.

Specifically, the top three risks of poorly designed and integrated applications are reduced productivity (according to 67 per cent of respondents), increased employee frustration (63 per cent) and decreased customer satisfaction (45 per cent).

These failings put pressure on businesses, leading to increased costs and loss of revenue. The issue has the potential to escalate unless companies are able to address key pain-points around new and legacy applications, which are no doubt keeping IT leaders up late at night.

In terms of legacy infrastructure, Windows XP in particular hosts a number of business critical applications at risk today, from those that have operated under the radar of IT, to others that seem too costly to migrate to modern platforms.

With only 14 months to go until the end of official Windows XP support, 52 per cent of enterprises do not have formal plans for how to address what will quickly become a legacy problem – one which accounts on average for 43 per cent of enterprise desktop infrastructures in the UK today.

The lack of a business case was cited as the key barrier to Windows XP application migration in 79 per cent of these organisations. This is why large volumes of unsupported applications post-Windows XP are a concern for 80 per cent of CIOs and IT leaders.

The emergence of multi-device application environments, born from Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) platforms, are also introducing similar and entirely new legacy risks. Indeed, 91 per cent also say their business is at risk from application platform problems in the move towards multi-device or BYOD environments.

If businesses are able to find a more holistic approach for application development and maintenance, not only will they prevent future legacy issues but also more confidently adapt business processes to embrace these new mobile and consumer technologies that are transforming the workplace.

Turning up with your own device? Meet Bring Your Own App

In a similar manner to BYOD, whereby employees are driving adoption of workplace technology, the survey also looked at the fast emerging trend of Bring Your Own App (BYOA), in which business managers purchase applications such as Software-as-a-Service that are not directly provisioned by IT.

BYOA is present in at least one quarter (27 per cent) of UK businesses today and growing to almost three-quarters (72 per cent) by 2015. However, with one in three (33 per cent) BYOAs in the enterprise already unsupported by IT, there is another looming gap in application strategy.

Regardless of who owns the application, whether it’s the employee or IT department, the challenge for businesses is accountability for that application. CIOs must seek more effective application strategies to help address these and other problems highlighted in the survey.

It is important to recognise that it is about tough transformation and execution. When introducing a new application, the first step is to understand why the original application needs improving or changing, and the value this will deliver to the organisation.

It is then important to assess this against any remediation effort, and the impact of a new application. Only then can a decision be made. Real advantage comes in having the ability to make the assessment process efficient, and develop a model for remediation or replacement.

According to the survey nearly half (49 per cent) of enterprises today don’t have a formal application strategy. This is why I would urge IT leaders to review their existing application estate and aim to develop a more holistic strategy for management and deployment of applications.

Not only will this allow businesses to reduce risk and costs but also maximise their investment in both legacy infrastructure and new exciting technologies that can significantly improve employee productivity and customer satisfaction. ®

Nic Merriman is financial services CTO at managed services provider Avenade. His previous roles include head of enterprise architecture and design for wealth & international at Lloyds Banking Group and head of architecture (retail) at HBOS.

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