A Business Based Approach to Application Portfolio Decision Making

It is important to take a self-inventory in order to identify strengths and weaknesses. Whenever in doubt, ask, “Can I do that without the business? Can I influence others for good, rather than being influenced by them?” In areas of strength, you should guard against being corrupted by the enterprise; rather you should be persuasive in your transformation ‘story’. In areas of weakness such as an immature transformational vision that has not yet been developed, you need to be cautious.

Business Context

  1. What is my current state application usage, technical constraints, and operational speed bumps?
  2. What is the current state of our business? How does the portfolio currently support the business? What is the future state of our business? How does the portfolio need to change to continue to support the business in this future?
  3. What applications do we have, who owns them and what business capabilities do they support?

Many times, transformational architects base their planning on opinion, personal dislikes, or cultural bias rather than a sound strategy. Hoping is not an alternative to preparation and your personal belief is not a substitute for hard work. You must leverage all the talent and resources available within the enterprise.

MUST HAVE: Application Risk / Financials

  1. How complex is your application portfolio today?
  2. How complete is your application data (e.g. basic knowledge of each application)?
  3. How do application costs and risks align to business capabilities?
  4. What are the existing skill sets and FTEs for each application?
  5. How successful have your past transformational efforts been?
  6. How does the cost of an application and the value it provides compare? Does the business agree with this comparison?
  7. How do you estimate an operational TCO for each application when that data isn’t available?

Many people think that prosperity and success come from having power, influential personal contacts, and a relentless desire to get ahead. But the strategy for gaining affluence goes against such criteria. You must be:

  1. Strong and courageous because the task ahead will not be easy
  2. Obey corporate governance – transformation does NOT play outside of this realm
  3. Constantly read and study transformational thought, vision, and best practices

MUST HAVE VISION: Consolidation Opportunities

  1. Is there opportunities to consolidate applications across regions and business units?
  2. What are the best candidates for rationalization? Better yet, what is the criteria you use to answer this question?
  3. What applications are you planning to retire? Why haven’t they been retired yet? Somebody in the decision tree ultimately will ask THE question, “What is this application retirement going to save me?” Or, “Where is the data going to end up?” If you can’t answer both of these, don’t even attempt retirements / replacements…

You may ask, why all the complicated preparations for transformation?

  • Success will depend on a transformational vision NOT culture and expertise
  • Transformational leadership will accentuated the enterprise ‘stuck in the mud’ mentality
  • Faith in your willingness to follow through completely is paramount

Challenges (These WILL Happen)

  • Inventory
    • Not complete and up to date across the enterprise
    • Not kept in a central location and easily accessible by business and IT decision makers
    • Most will think ‘inventorying’ is a waste of time, saying, “Let’s get on with the real transformation!”
  • Consistently updating the inventory is the only way to continue making good investment decisions
    • How do you decide where new technologies such as cloud and mobile change the importance of various applications and delivery platforms if you don’t keep this information current?
    • Inventorying is not a one-time effort, rather a continuous tracking, documentation, and analysis of one of your firm’s largest assets
  • Prevent ‘”Shelfware
    • Gather organizational support needed to implement the transformational change(s)
    • Delivering real business benefit (reducing costs – remember operational TCO, reducing risk, increasing agility)
  • Step-by-step
    • First, commit to measuring the performance and business value of each application
    • Identify both business owners and IT owners for each and every application
    • Focus on answering the most critical challenges facing the business

When you experience a setback (and you will…):

  • Man-up and ID what went wrong and why?
  • Refocus, deal with the issue, and move on – this cycle will strengthen the transformation effort, not weaken it
  • Lessons learned from failures should make you better able to handle the same situation the second time around

The persuasive power is in the transformation ‘story’ not the transformational leader (e.g. storyteller). The organization (e.g. business) won’t be against those who carefully prepare, but against those who try to impress others only with their own knowledge. Following these important principles will insure success:

  • Find common ground with the business
  • Avoid a (technical) know-it-all attitude
  • Make the business feel accepted
  • Be sensitive to the business’ needs and concerns
  • Look for opportunities to make the business more successful

See you in the future…

Frank Wood




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