Developing an Application Inventory

Why start with an inventory?

  • Redundant applications are difficult to identify without a complete inventory
  • Difficult to make informed portfolio decisions without an inventory
  • Identify stability, backlog requests, # of trouble tickets, # of annual help desk calls, most significant support issue, etc. of each
  • Record labor against individual applications
  • What applications are in use supporting the business?
  • How well do applications map to current business operating functions?
  • Which applications score best and worst for function and technical quality?
  • What applications are based on ‘at risk’ technology?
  • What applications cost the most to maintain? Where are the best opportunities to control cost?
  • What applications should be retired, consolidated or extended?

Value of an inventory

  • Even low-tech inventories can expose opportunities to reduce cost
  • ID application owners – find out what people are spending their time doing
  • Determine how much you’re spending on maintenance. How many developers are working on each application?
  • ID application not supporting the business. Identify ‘champion’ applications – those with existing significant footprints

Inventory Do’s and Don’ts

  • “Collect inventory and metrics information using automation if you can; collect it manually only if you must”, is a common best practice. ACTION ITEM: With a show of hands, how many of you have ever seen or heard of a tool, piece of software, or ‘sniffer’ than could identify:
    • IT owner / business owner’s name, phone number, office number, or email address? You know, the folks that should be in the best position to know the pros / cons of the application…
    • Detailed functional description
    • All level 3 / 4 business processes supported
    • Year first implemented / year of last major upgraded
    • Number / type / direction of ALL interfaces
    • Business users #1 complaint
    • Business risks
    • You get the idea…
  • Don’t collect information for which you cannot articulate a specific need to support future strategic decisions. ANALOGY: If you were in HR, what information would you need to determine whether to RIF someone, keep them, or re-assign them? Collecting information that “might be interesting one day” will drag down discovery and turn it into an academic exercise – don’t do it!
  • Approach transformation as an ongoing process, NOT a onetime event. Instituting an Application Portfolio Management (APM) capability will allow continuous strategic management of this asset – one of your firm’s largest and most expensive assets!
  • An inventory is developed with significant input from your staff. Author’s Note: In 2007-8, I led an application assessment in which we interviewed / engaged over 400 people in the client’s organization
  • Many existing application lists are incorporated / combined to begin a base line inventory of ‘candidate applications’

Managing an every-changing master inventory requires meticulous hands-on governance

  • Combining two lists into one master list can be done relatively easily. Combining several dozen lists into one master is a significant challenge for any size team
    • Removing duplicates becomes more challenging
    • Redundancy in TLA (three letter acronyms) becomes an issue
    • Tracking each and every tidbit of information from each source list, needs to be rolled into the master inventory
    • Identifying only the new additions becomes more of a challenging as the master list absorbs more sand more source lists
    • Performing this compilation manually can become a major risk for any inventory activity. Fortunately, there is a solution.

Until next time, see you in the future…

Frank Wood

Executive Transformation Strategist


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