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Definition & Examples

Business-Critical Applications

Business-critical applications (BCAs) are all applications that are essential to everyday business operations.

What are business-critical applications?

Business-critical applications (BCAs) are all applications that are essential to everyday business operations. Most often it includes applications related to sales, finance, customer service, business processes, and logistics.

Business critical systems must run smoothly to support the organization. But even though any downtime will have a significant impact on the business,  it doesn’t cause immediate disaster.

To discover which applications within an enterprise can be considered “business critical,” IT teams can perform an application portfolio assessment.

During the assessment, architects can define all applications in their portfolio using the application criticality matrix—this ranks all the applications from least to most critical depending on how essential they are to the organization.

📚  Related: Build and Understand your Application Inventory

Characteristics of BCAs

When building your application inventory, there are certain characteristics that make an application business critical.

Some essential business-critical application criteria are:

  • Importance: BCAs are essential to many crucial areas of a business, and any disruptions or performance issues can have a negative impact on the entire organization.
  • Reliability: BCAs need to be reliable and available at all times. They must also be scalable and able to manage increasing workloads as necessary. BCAs need to be able to recover quickly from failure and disruption. 
  • Security: BCAs contain sensitive business data and are a very attractive target for cybercrime. That is why they need to be protected from breaches and attacks. They must also comply with industry-specific regulations and standards. Businesses should invest in extra security training.
  • Maintenance: Upgrades and regular maintenance are essential to BCAs. This is to make sure that the applications run smoothly and remain secure, reliable, and up-to-date.
  • Support: Many BCAs require specialized support to ensure the application runs optimally. The correct IT professionals must be employed who understand how they work and what they need to function.
  • Testing: BCAs must undergo testing before (and sometimes during) deployment to verify they perform as required.
  • Business Continuity: BCAs should be considered when an organization implements any continuity planning. There always needs to be a backup plan in case these critical applications cease to operate for any reason.

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Common examples of BCAs

Now that we know the characteristics of business-critical applications, let’s look at some examples of what might be considered a BCA.

Business-critical applications tend to change depending on the industry and what products and services are being offered.

Two different companies might use the same application but it might only be critical to one.

Common examples include a bank’s customer accounting software, a warehouse’s inventory management systems, or messaging applications used to help employees and customers communicate.

The most common BCAs are ERP systems that run an organization’s business processes.

Personal life comparison

We can find examples of BCAs in our day-to-day lives. A business-critical application synonym could be our smartphones and access to technology, or the ability to travel from point A to B.

When these things are interrupted (e.g. vehicle breakdown or lost smartphone) it causes significant disruption to our daily lives and plans. While these things are frustrating to fix, we can still go about our day — at least for a few hours — without them.

📚 Related: Assess Application Criticality Levels

1. Financial apps

Financial applications allow businesses to handle huge amounts of sensitive financial information and make transitions.

For a lot of companies, financial apps are a core BCA. Financial critical applications are crucial to the revenue and business operations of many organizations including banks, e-commerce, insurance companies, etc.

Financial BCAs are a prime target for cybercrime because they contain so much valuable and sensitive information. As a result, they need to be highly secure, confidential, and untampered.

Thus, it is vital that financial BCAs are consistently monitored for security purposes. They must be encrypted, up-to-date, and regularly audited for any flaws or threats.

2. Medical apps

BCAs are used in the healthcare industry to do many vital things. Medical critical applications help hospitals and doctor’s offices exchange confidential patient data, store nursing resources, automate medication administration, document cases, and manage care protocols.

In such an important industry, any issues with BCAs can cause a lot of problems for patients and doctors.

Patient confidentiality is of the utmost importance, often trumping security. Healthcare organizations are also challenged with delivering quality healthcare while also maintaining up–to–date technology.

To this extent, medical critical applications need to be identified in order for specialists to keep them reliable and secure. 

3. Messaging systems

Messaging and communication apps are regularly overlooked as business critical, but if they falter it can cause an enormous amount of difficulty for an organization.

Messaging systems connect employees, business partners, and customers; whether through email, instant messaging, phone calls, SMS, etc. When messaging systems are interrupted, a business can’t continue as it usually would.

Security for email servers and instant messaging applications is important because a lot of sensitive information is passed back and forth to continue normal business operations.

Email phishing and hacking are common forms of online security breaches. Messaging critical applications also needs to be efficient and reliable.

Using the criticality matrix you are able to discover which messaging software (and hardware) is essential to your business, and how best to secure it.

4. Legacy systems

Legacy systems such as enterprise resource planning tools (ERP) are the most common form of business-critical applications. Legacy critical applications make up the technical foundation of most modern organizations; which is why they must be monitored and kept up-to-date.

Legacy systems can cover everything from hardware, software applications, ERP systems, and file formats to programming languages.

Because legacy systems are so integral to an organization’s business processes, they are tricky to upgrade and can easily become out-of-date and obsolete. This can make these systems prone to issues and threats. Hence, it’s beneficial for an organization to upgrade its legacy systems even if it’s a huge undertaking.

For example, organizations using older versions of SAP ERP should consider the migration to SAP S/4HANA. The upgraded version system is more secure, reliable, and scalable than its predecessors.



Business-critical applications vs. other criticality levels

“Business critical application” is the label IT architects can assign to essential applications in their application portfolio. The other four labels are:

  • Administrative service applications
  • Business operational applications
  • Mission-critical applications

Business Criticality Levels available in LeanIX EAM surveys.

Business Criticality Levels available in LeanIX EAM surveys.

The LeanIX Enterprise Architecture Management tool (EAM) uses these four labels to create the application criticality matrix. IT architects and analysts use these to assess application criticality levels and systems within their organization.

The label names or scores will depend on the organization, which can be set based on the tool or process you follow.

📚 Related: Perform detailed Application Portfolio Assessment

Administrative service applications

Administrative service applications tend to be those that are low-priority and non-critical to everyday business operations. When these applications fail it can cause some problems but it will not affect the customer and can be tolerated a bit more.

Business operational applications

Business operational applications are the next label in our application criticality matrix. These are also fairly non-critical applications that contribute to running efficient business operations.

When they are disrupted it can cause problems within the organization but they are out of the direct line of service to the customer.

Mission-critical applications

Mission-critical applications (MCAs) are the most essential applications to an organization. Organizations rely on mission-critical applications to run their business activities successfully, and any failure or disruption can be catastrophic.

MCAs must be available to run at any cost, must be reliable, and must be maintained continuously.



Using the information above, IT architects and project managers can begin to assign applications as business critical.

Using the application criticality matrix, all applications in an organization’s portfolio can then be ranked based on how essential they are to the organization. This is a crucial step in achieving their target application portfolio.

This process is part of a wider application portfolio assessment, and the first step in application modernization, cloud migration, or app rationalization. 

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FAQs on the Business-Critical Applications

What are business-critical applications?

Business-critical applications (BCAs) are any applications that are essential to everyday business operations. They need to be reliable and secure to avoid any downtime, which could possibly lead to serious problems for the business.

What are examples of business-critical systems?

Financial applications, medical software, messaging applications, and legacy systems are all examples of business-critical systems. 

What are critical applications?

Critical applications are applications that are essential to an organization. They can be either business-critical or mission-critical.

What is considered business critical?

Applications that are essential to the everyday running of an organization can be considered business-critical. If they fail it causes significant disruption or delays.

How can businesses rank applications such as critical or non-essential?

Businesses can rank their application portfolios based on criticality. They can do this by creating an application criticality matrix to assign each application a score based on the level of importance it has within an organization. The matrix will list the applications from non-essential to critical.

How to define business-critical applications?

Business-critical applications can be defined by how essential they are to a business.

How to identify business-critical applications?

Business-critical applications can be identified using an application criticality matrix to find out which applications are mission-critical, business-critical, or non-essential.

How to rank business applications such as critical or non-essential?

When performing an application portfolio assessment, IT experts can then rank their applications based on criticality using an application criticality matrix. In doing so, they can see which applications need the most maintenance and resources to upgrade, monitor or improve.


Free Template

Application Rationalization Questionnaire

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