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The Abandoned Application Syndrome – by Mike Orzen

Once upon a time, there was an organization that perceived it would be much easier to obtain functional software by circumventing the IT group, than it would be negotiating the nearly two-year backlog of projects in front of their request. After all, the department had received numerous calls from vendors touting the functionality of their products and explaining how they could install, configure, and train staff – all at a reasonable price.

The functional business group was being held accountable to drive some critical results and perceived the IT department as a delay, if not an outright barrier, to achieving their objectives. They could not understand why it should  take so long for their internal IT group to respond to their high-priority request (2 weeks), when the vendor seemed more than capable of providing everything they needed in a “turnkey” solution and was available to begin immediately.

In order to keep the acquisition outside of the scrutiny of the finance department, the vendor agreed to take progress payments which were only 20% of the total purchase price; effectively bypassing the internal approval process.

The vendor was contracted, work performed progress payments made, and the project proceeded merrily along its way. About three weeks before going live, someone from the IT group overheard a reference to the new system being installed.

They informed their director, who accordingly asked the business what they were doing completing an IT project without informing the IT department. The leader defended their decision, citing what they perceived to be an unacceptable project delay and clear justification of why they circumvented the IT project proposal process.

When go-live day arrived, the vendor stayed on for another week to stabilize the system, packed their bags, submitted their final invoice, and left the building for good. It was then that IT discovered what they had just “adopted.”

It is a bit like someone leaving a baby on your doorstep. A family member inside the house hears what they think is a baby crying. They go to the porch to investigate, and discover a very young child abandoned and left, presumably for them to raise. The surprise comes when the IT department realizes that child speaks a foreign language! The new application, selected without the input of the IT group and installed by the vendor, uses a database and programming which is outside the current skill set of internal resources.

To make matters worse, the application runs in the cloud and presents some potential security issues which will need to be clarified before allowing the new application to communicate with core systems in the company. To add insult to injury, the company does not have access to source code, making it extremely difficult to fully understand and integrate with other systems. The vendor is asking for large sums of money for the source code.

And so it begins: the business people responsible for the acquisition of the software scratch their heads and say, “It can’t be that difficult! Why on earth is our IT group making such a stink about this?” Meanwhile, IT is expected to perform this work without allocated time or budget. The business doesn’t really get what they were hoping to achieve, and IT is thoroughly frustrated.

Sound familiar? It should, because it happens every day. Until the business and IT work in a collaborative fashion, understanding and accepting that they are both on the same team, these tragic situations will continue to occur.

About Mike Orzen 

Mike Orzen is a highly qualified and respected coach who delivers a distinctive blend of Enterprise Excellence, Lean, Six Sigma, Awareness, Project Management, and IT savvy to any organization he works with. He emphasizes the engagement of people, the daily improvement of business processes, and the thoughtful application of information technology … in that order. More about Mike at

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  1. Adam Preis says

    I experience this dynamic as part and parcel of my everyday working routine. Working at the business end of the spectrum, I find that what is lacking is a common language for defining and solving problems. This is frequently exacerbated by vertial organisational structures, which are designed to protect ‘territorial integrity’ of business and IT departments. What is needed is strong leadership that connects with the culture of both business functions, and a change capability that traverses both domains. Sounds simple, but is yet very difficult to implement in reality!

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