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Gartner urges planned parenthood for business apps

IT needs to get a grip on the sprawling number of computing applications springing up on corporate networks. They're often costly in the long run.

ORLANDO, Fla.--You may not have looked closely at yourself in the mirror recently, but it appears you have a bloated applications portfolio.

When it comes to companies adding new abilities to their computing infrastructure, not enough thought goes into deciding whether it's really a good idea to do so and what the true cost of that change will be, said Gartner Vice President Andy Kyte. He spoke here Monday at the Gartner Symposium, a hub for information technology staff.

"Both business and IT managers are very happy to engage in the process of acquiring new applications," Kyte said. That has unfortunate consequences once the applications are running, though, he said.

"We're not interested in responsible parenting; we're interested in making babies," Kyte said. "The result: hundreds of orphan applications that wander the corridors of your enterprise, approaching every adult they see and saying, 'Are you my daddy? Are you my mommy?'"

Andy Kyte, a Gartner vice president
Andy Kyte, a Gartner vice president Stephen Shankland/CNET News

IT spending is flat these days, but the number of applications in corporate computing increases between 4 to 7 percent a year, he said.

Speaking to an IT audience, he pinned some of the blame on corporate business types who call many of the shots. They're easy prey for computing companies looking for sales, he said.

"Application vendors have understood they can sell profitably to business users bypassing the traditional IT organization," Kyte said. "You have to get control over this process."

How? By showing financial decisionmakers the true cost of running an enterprise application over a 15-year lifespan. Of that, only 8 percent of the expense is for getting it started, he said.

But won't that make new projects harder to start? "Duh," he said--meaning that you're better off with a realistic assessment of what you're capable of taking on.

He proposed this new parenting rule: "Every application (should be) a wanted application."