Triage is a technique used in medical emergencies to help prioritise scarce care resources towards those most in need. Various versions of triage have been developed and refined since the concept was first developed in the First World War.

Similar concepts can be applied to the large range of software that some organisation end up owning.

Over time, most organisations acquire a large range of systems and applications to support their operations. These can be acquired from a number of sources:

  • Commercial, enterprise wide software (such as ERP & EAM systems)
  • Commercial personal productivity software (such as MS Office, MS Project, Photoshop etc.)
  • Formally developed bespoke software (whether developed internally or externally)
  • Formally developed customisation of commercial software to meet specialised business needs
  • Informally developed software (applications developed by “super users” outside the formal IT development processes)
  • Informally developed spreadsheets and reports

These will all have a range of good and bad characteristics, ranging from supportability and stability to performance and alignment to organisational objectives. They may also have a range of different perceptions of their value, which may or may not be correct.

Some organisations adopt large scale, enterprise wide projects to move from a multitude of older software onto a smaller number of enterprise wide applications. The costs and disruptive effect of these changes can be significant which is not a problem if the organisation concerned has sufficient physical and financial resources to achieve this. However, in todays economic climate, many organisations have very restricted budgets and have fewer physical resources to support such large projects, which therefore means that more care is needed in developing the scope of such projects.

In such cases a triage type system for assessing software could be deployed to identify:

  • Software which should be replaced
  • Software which should not be replaced
  • Software which could be replaced, if a suitable business case exists

Factors to include when developing such a triage system for your organisation include assessing:

  • Stability
  • Supportability
  • Quality of vendor support
  • Performance
  • Capacity
  • Compatability with operating systems, hardware and infrastructure
  • Compatability with other software
  • Alignment to process and objectives
  • Usability
  • Availability of an “off the shelf” commercial replacement

This last factor is possibly the most important. Two applications I know of would certainly fail most of the previous assessment steps, but are still in use due to the fact that there is no commercially available alternative. This indicates that any scoring system developed as part of your software triage process should include weighting to reflect the differing importance of the assessment criteria.

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