Six Reasons Why Applications Need To Be Retired (and Why It Saves, If Done Correctly)

Why do applications need to “retire”?
Anyone who runs an IT department will tell you that, over time, applications become redundant (or even obsolete). When this happens, one or more applications become underused…or cease to be used at all. Those unused applications can create severe problems, especially for highly regulated industries.
For example, redundant applications are frequently a result of:
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Product lines or services being discontinued
  • Departments being disbanded
  • Other assets/business lines being divested
  • Applications being replaced with more up-to-date alternatives
So applications become outdated and go unused…but so what? Can’t the application simply remain as-is, just in case it or some of its data are needed?
Generally, this is a bad idea. There are several reasons why these legacy applications need to be retired appropriately and not left to linger on systems.
Reason #1: They Are Business Risks
The technical skills required to maintain a legacy system are often in short supply. For example, between 2012 and 2017, nearly 23% of the workforce with knowledge of mainframes retired or left the field, according to Deloitte. Finding people with legacy tech skills can be costly, and keeping them in-house can be difficult. The Deloitte study also found that 63% of those “legacy mainframe” positions remained unfilled at the time of the study.
Many legacy applications are also incompatible with more current systems and software. Thus, legacy systems might only work with older operating systems and databases, which themselves have not been updated with the latest security patches or software updates. This is both a stability issue and a cybersecurity risk.
Reason #2: They Are Costly
Gartner estimates that the annual cost of owning and managing software applications can be as much as four times the cost of the initial purchase, with 75% of their total IT budget spent on maintaining existing systems and infrastructure. In some instances, software vendors will charge more for supporting older versions. IT personnel’s extra time resolving problems associated with less-familiar systems can also create high support costs.
Reason #3: They Raise Regulatory Compliance Concerns
Around the world, there is rising concern about data governance. Regulations such as SEC 17a3/4, FINRA 4511, GDPR, and many other government mandates have forced most companies to pay closer attention to managing data and protecting data privacy. Older applications may not provide the security levels required to control sensitive data access and may be incompatible with modern access requirements.
Businesses must also balance the two priorities of data minimization and compliance with long-term retention requirements. A legacy application typically lacks the necessary controls to meet these requirements. In contrast, a purpose-built application retirement repository will incorporate data lifecycle management capabilities to handle things like data retention, data destruction at the end of life, eDiscovery, and legal holds.
Reason #4: They Suck Up Time and Talent That Could be Spent on Innovation
Supporting legacy systems is a distraction from modern business and IT initiatives. Retiring legacy applications not only frees IT personnel from firefighting problems on systems that have little value to the company, but it also reduces the overhead needed while allowing the IT team to focus its energy on innovation.
Reason #5: They Can Devalue the Customer Experience
Legacy systems are often isolated from other pieces of customer data, which means that customer requests can be slower and less efficient—especially if customer service teams need to log into multiple systems to access customer information. On the other hand, a single content repository for legacy and current application data provides secure access to all information in one place.
Reason #6: They Are a Lost Opportunity for Business Insights
Most organizations have a mountain of operational and customer data hiding in legacy systems. That data could deliver valuable business intelligence…but only if it is accessible in the right ways. Decommissioning or retiring an application offers a way to bring together diverse information from disparate systems into a single location. Once combined, the data can be mined using analysis tools or interrogated using artificial intelligence.
But Is There an ROI for Application Retirement Solutions?
Naturally, there is no general answer to this question. Whether or not your organization can benefit from an application retirement solution depends on the number and scope of its legacy applications, its exposure to risks around data retention and compliance, its current spend on these applications, and a number of other factors.
One way to begin that ROI calculation is to consider four categories of potential savings:
  • Direct savings. This is the money saved through elimination of legacy support and maintenance tools and services.
  • Efficiency gains. These would include efficiencies that evolve when business users have access to all data in a central place. This would include increased efficiency for customer service. (See Reason #5.)
  • Innovation gains. This category is more difficult to figure out but is worth having in the calculation. First, what would be the return on having new insights into customer/user data? (See Reason #6.) Also, what could your technical teams work on when they “get their time back” from not having to service legacy applications? (See Reason #4.)
  • Avoiding regulatory compliance costs. These could be potential fees avoided by having appropriate compliance in place, especially where data retention and data privacy are concerned.
In many cases, the direct savings and efficiency gains alone are enough to justify an application retirement solution; innovation and peace-of-mind are the cherry on top.
The case is clear: Applications do become redundant or obsolete with time. It is costly, and risky, to let them sit there on the system. Retiring them appropriately and archiving the data they contain is the only way to maintain security while keeping appropriate access.
Interested in finding out more about application retirement, and how Infobelt can help with this critical service? See what we offer.

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Rijil Kannoth

Head of India Operations

Rijil is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of Infobelt India Pvt. Ltd. He has been integral in growing Infobelt’s development and QA teams. Rijil brings a unique set of skills to Infobelt with his keen understanding of IT development and process improvement expertise.

Kevin Davis

Founder and Chief Delivery Officer

Kevin is a co-founder of Infobelt and leads our technology implementations. He has in-depth knowledge of regulatory compliance, servers, storage, and networks. Kevin has an extensive background in compliance solutions and risk management and is well versed in avoiding technical pitfalls for large enterprises.