What Is an APM Team and Why Do I Need One?

An Application Portfolio Management (APM) team should consist of operational team members who will utilize the APM Playbook (see my previous blog post 4 March 2017) to prioritize transformation efforts.

Ok, you say that makes sense. So far so good. Then you say, “my very competent governance organization should be able to operationalize the APM Playbook.”

I say, “Fine, let’s look under the hood at that suggestion for a moment.”

Governance – that holistic approach needed to manage relationships, decisions, and actions across all pillars, segments, and business units. Strategically, that would include items such as:

  • A model encouraging performance improvement while ensuring conformance to principals and processes aligned with strategic direction and decisions
  • Policies and standards linked with how IT will deliver capabilities and support business processes
  • Roles, with accountability and responsibility, for decisions required to deliver and manage IT products and services

Tactically, you would expect this same organization to provide:

  • Detailed IT process definitions and interactions
  • Defined IT organization design and aligned demand requirements
  • Measured objectives for managing / delivering IT products and service
  • Defined capabilities and value for IT services and processes
  • Common decision model
  • Managed Risk

Who’s on First, What’s on Second, I Don’t Know on Third

You say, “I agree with everything you’ve presented.” I respond with a knowing smile…

“So, those individual governance teams that exist within all the pillars, segments, and business units are performing the exact same activities and delivering the exact same projects, all at the same time, in locked-step for the good of the firm – all the time?”

Your eyes drop to your computer screen checking for a discussion-saving email or IM.

“Never any duplicity or redundancy? Expectations and impacts are always in perfect alignment? Each individual decision within a pillar never results in inconsistent, fragmented decisions and capabilities in other pillars or segments? Is your firm that siloed that can actually happen? Documentation and communication plans are always exemplary so as to be shared with other business units?”

With a crease over your eyebrow, you look at me with your own knowing smile.

I’ve got your attention now…

Remember What an APM Playbook Is

An APM Playbook provides guidance to optimize a firm’s application portfolio and achieve measurable business results by shaping the Playbook content with:


Why an APM Team?

Portfolio-wide responsibilities and oversight to insure:

  • The optimal number of applications to support the business?
  • Which applications will be the “go-forward” applications?
  • Metrics to support strategic decision making
  • Enhanced decision making capability based on detailed attributes
  • A strategy to properly align an application portfolio with the business strategy

This level of specific responsibility over an enterprise portfolio of applications is not within the scope of the broader governance model.

Membership on an APM team is NOT a Part-time Gig

Members don’t keep their ‘day jobs’. Any APM strategy, Playbook, Framework, or Team is not a quick fix. It is a new way to view a portfolio of applications — as one of your firm’s largest and most important assets. Hence, it requires this type of stewardship and oversight.

Design, align, staff, and implement the APM Team with methodology / metrics for planning and execution of the APM framework.

  1. Engage an external transformation consultancy in an oversight capacity to insure team is staffed properly, develops proper mission and goals, and identify communication standards
  2. As an example, validate the following roles: Team Sponsor(s); architect(s); business owners / users; financials; Management of Change (MOC); others…
  3. (Probably the most important) Develop HR standards and embed these new job role(s) into existing career paths. Ensure that after an employee rolls off the APM team, that they are rewarded with a higher position that which they left to join the team.
  4. Transfer employees into new roles and staff team
  5. Launch Team, communicate to organization
  6. Establish measurable business-driven goals & decision criteria

Initially, team’s focus should be on:

  1. Oversight of investment, and cost (total cost of ownership of portfolio) management
  2. APM risk and compliance, alignment with existing governance structure / policies, etc.
  3. APM processes and standards
  4. Communication with executive committee, governance organization, etc.
  5. Managing metrics and measurement reporting
  6. Maintaining the prioritization of high priority initiatives, and ensure each is planned and resourced with required skills
  7. Provide oversight to the APM strategy and identification of additional transformational projects and their recommendation
  8. Develop succession planning for APM members – cyclic roll-off / roll-on after 1-½ to 2-½ year assignment for all members. Members should be responsible for identifying suitable replacement for themselves

The APM team is shaped by a set of guiding principles (e.g. Team Charter)

  • Deliver as much real value as possible as quickly as possible
  • Time the delivery of capabilities so that it will be of immediate benefit to the user community
  • Minimize possible disruptions to the organization
  • Balance the needs of many groups within the firm
  • Ensure the Framework (e.g. Playbook) is implemented aggressively and the results highly attainable

Preferred skills for APM team members

  • Strong vision – ability to communicate goals and direction in a compelling manner
  • Strategic thinking – understanding of business processes
  • Strong leadership skills
  • Ability to make decisions in a timely manner
  • General understanding of information technology support relative to the business
  • Help the team diagnose its leadership needs; identify individuals who could counter-balance the team’s weaknesses – energized by working together
  • Coordinate activities to accomplish a common goal
  • Focuses On high levels of output
  • Work at confronting and working through differences – stride towards synergy

Organizational considerations for APM team members


  • Mid-level to senior employees that are known within the organization
  • Basic Understanding: Leadership is learned / shared matter
  • Basic Understanding: Leadership can come from anyone in team
  • Team decisions are essential (“None of us are as smart as the rest of us”)
  • Equal representation between IT and Business across multiple layers within the firm
    • Number of members
    • Equivalent org chart positions


  • New employees / junior employees (APM is not an entry-level team)
  • Destructive debater
  • Emphasis on analysis and counter-analysis
  • No attempt to coordinate ideas
  • Over-focused on task roles

Symptoms of a cohesive (healthy) team

  • Democratic process
  • Full participation
  • Consensus decisions
  • Conflicts worked through
  • Very productive / satisfying
  • 1/3 To 1/2 time spent planning

Symptoms of an unhealthy team

Divergent Group (Unhealthy)

  • Leadership Void
  • Too Cautious
  • Voting
  • Conflict Avoided
  • Very Unproductive / Dis-satisfying
  • Do Not Complete the Task

Fragmented Group (Unhealthy)

  • Autocratic leadership
  • Quick decision
  • Little participation
  • Conflict ignored
  • Somewhat productive / dis-satisfying
  • Usually <1 min planning

As Peter Senge stated in his book, The Fifth Discipline, “Organizations break down, despite individual brilliance and innovative products, because they are unable to pull their diverse functions and talents into a productive whole.”

When implemented correctly, APM Teams can be one of a firm’s most strategic driving forces.

APM Typical Results


See you in the future…

Frank Wood

Executive Transformation Advisor



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