App Overload Hurts Flexibility, Adds Complexity

CIOs monitor a lot of metrics, but advisory firm The Hackett Group Inc. says there's one more to watch: the number of enterprise software applications per 1,000 end users.

CIOs monitor a lot of metrics, but advisory firm The Hackett Group Inc. says there's one more to watch: the number of enterprise software applications per 1,000 end users.

The best-performing companies have an average of 20 applications per 1,000 users, whereas run-of-the-mill companies have an average of 39, according to Hackett's benchmarking database.

Why is that important? A high number signifies a complex technology environment. That means IT has trouble quickly responding to changing business needs because it has to support so many applications, some of which may be duplicative or unneeded , a Hackett report said.

"By contrast, a low number implies an efficient environment and strong alignment between IT and overall business objectives," the report said.

Companies with a lot of applications also tend to suffer from too much complexity in their technology infrastructure, data models and software maintenance, the consultancy said.

Having a large number of applications can make it hard for a company to scale up or down quickly when the business climate changes. The recent economic crisis was a test of that flexibility , Hackett said, "a test which most companies failed, some miserably so."

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