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Srinivasan Thiagarajan, Assistant Vice President, Global Managed Services, Cognizant.
Application maintenance is one of the most critical services delivered by IT service delivery organizations with various engagement forms ranging from fixed-bid, to managed services, to business outcome-based models.
Among the many operational challenges corporations continually face is the question of how much time and money they should allocate to application maintenance. It is imperative for organizations to free up their IT maintenance budgets to allocate funds to fuel business growth.
In today's digital age, responsiveness and agility are vital for businesses to remain competitive in consumer-focused market conditions. With a complex application landscape and infrastructure bloat, it is going to be all the more challenging to serve the business purpose.
To address these challenges, businesses need to look beyond the traditional practices of IT cost optimization. The application portfolio needs to be modular and componentized to handle any changing business requirements. The infrastructure should be optimized to meet the "right" demand. And finally, IT should be able to deliver value and make an impact on business performance and not merely focus on IT service level agreements (SLAs).
"Zero maintenance" is a philosophy that underpins application maintenance models and helps reduce the cost of maintaining applications by eliminating effort as well as work. It is not sufficient to eliminate the effort required to maintain applications, but to invest in increasing resiliency and building the functionality needed for business growth to improve the "technical value" and "business value" of the portfolio.
The maintenance of applications is generally in the following order of maturity: Move from a "fail-and-fix" mode (for example, restoring a server after it has crashed) to a "predict-and-prevent" state (for example, using alerts to prevent the failure of a system by taking corrective action or auto-upgrading of disk space when it reaches its threshold), and finally to a "fail-proof" state (for example, back-up infrastructure kicks off automatically when the primary fails, providing a seamless experience to the end user).
Zero maintenance aims to progressively improve the IT portfolio maturity to a "fail-proof" state by:
a) Reducing non-discretionary spend,
b) Optimizing discretionary spend, and
c) Delivering business outcomes.
Reducing non-discretionary spend is about eliminating activities that are not absolutely necessary and automating those that are. This is done by eliminating the effort for delivering a service (by reducing the incidents) and optimizing the infrastructure by reclaiming unused or underused infrastructure.
Optimizing discretionary spend focuses on lowering the cost of enhancing the applications to make them stay relevant and reducing the time-to-market for new functionalities. The framework measures technical value of the application portfolio and has interventions to make them 'fit for use', significantly reducing the waste induced by multiple factors such as complexity, heterogeneity and quality.
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