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Application sprawl

(also software sprawl)

Application sprawl definition

Application sprawl is an out-of-control proliferation of software within an organization that threatens the efficiency of its operations. Past a certain point, additional software stops being an asset and begins bogging down processes, introducing unforeseen security vulnerabilities, and requiring disproportionate maintenance.

Application sprawl typically occurs when new software is introduced without proper planning, leading to a chaotic and inefficient IT landscape. For example, different teams within an organization may independently adopt different software without considering the overall IT strategy, resulting in multiple apps covering the same core functions.

See also: hybrid IT management, IT security, IT governance framework

Application sprawl problems

The most obvious issue caused by application sprawl is redundancy. An organization may end up with multiple applications that perform similar tasks, resulting in wasted resources such as storage space, computing power, and personnel training.

Furthermore, as the number of applications increases, so does the complexity of managing the host IT environment. The organization’s IT department may be forced to work full time to integrate different applications into the common system, detect data silos, and resolve any interoperability issues.

Finally, application sprawl may produce serious security risks. It is much harder to police multiple applications, each with their own vulnerabilities, than to have a small selection of approved software used in a uniform manner across all departments. Unused or obsolete applications that are not properly decommissioned can become potential entry points for security threats.

The above issues eventually result in significantly increased IT costs, both in terms of additional assets (hardware, software licenses, and IT personnel) and extended maintenance.