The Road to Application Portfolio Management: A Case for APM

Amidst the escalating complexity of today’s IT landscape — with cloud computing, mobility, new platforms and languages around every corner — it’s easy for IT executives to be lured off course. While adopting all-the-rage technologies or sifting through the increasing number of software option, these executives often fail to consider the current and future needs of the enterprise. Application Portfolio Management (APM) counters IT complexity by providing with a strategic road map to follow and track.

APM Roadmap: Losing Your Way

IT portfolios have always embodied a certain level of complexity because of the inherent intricacies of an IT-dependent business. New requirements emerge, hardware gets replaced, new programming languages come out and architectural standards waver. As the enterprise matures, requirements follow suit.

Mobile devices and broadband networks, for example, have exploded onto the enterprise scene. The dividing line between personal and professional devices is disappearing, creating a new set of problems for IT. Personal devices vary in terms of operating system, hardware and security settings. Yet employees expect each device, no matter the differences, to have access to corporate networks and to be able to smoothly integrate with business functions.

These external changes are forcing organizations to adjust internally as well, shifting the balance of their application portfolios. Some applications may deliver increased value to mobile demands, while others may increase costs. In the face of these challenges, IT executives and decision makers end up simply trying to stay on the road but lose sight of where it’s taking them.

Editor’s Note: The author, Mannes Neuer, is product director at Micro Focus, makers of APM products. We have selected this article for publication because we believe it to have objective technical merit.

APM Roadmap: Portfolio Potholes

Without a strong hold on IT portfolios, organizations hit major potholes in IT and business processes.

  • Increased development risks with the potential to disrupt the portfolio in unforeseen ways
  • Rise in infrastructure costs to support inefficient and redundant applications
  • Loss of focus on innovation and development of new capabilities as resources are funneled towards maintaining the status quo of just simply keeping the lights on

3 Steps to Application Portfolio Management

APM can be a map through the complex intersections and dangerous hazards of an enterprise’s IT portfolio. By comparing the cost savings of individual applications to the cost of maintaining them, APM strives to instill an ideal level of efficiency into enterprise operations and development.

Rather than just spinning your wheels, consider these three steps to boost APM and get the enterprise to where it needs to be.

Step 1: Know Your Destination

At the heart of APM are defined objectives to lead future decisions and measurements. The goal will depend largely on the organization’s values and individual context. For instance, one organization may choose to aim for higher innovation, while another is just looking to reduce risk. As long as the initial goals and requirements are aligned with the business strategy, the enterprise will be heading in the right direction.

Step 2: Have a Good Navigator

It’s useless to know where you want to go if you don’t know how to get there; just as APM is nothing but a nice idea if it isn’t supported by a strong team of knowledgeable IT executives.

IT should have a base knowledge of the current effectiveness of existing applications. By knowing the strengths and conditions of the organization’s applications, they can make informed decisions regarding where to head in terms of improvement and focus. Many organizations lack the ability to measure effectiveness, but how can you improve something you cannot measure?

Modern analytic tools can make profile and analyze an organization’s applications relative to business expectations, identifying sources of waste and risk. It will become clear if applications have duplicate functionality or are supporting eliminated code because of external changes — such as mobility expectations — that have altered the enterprise internally. This application analysis must span processes in project management, quality management, change and configuration management and requirements management. The business goals cemented in Step 1 will be the driving factor behind which areas are weighted with the most importance.

Step 3: Continue the Journey

APM is not a quick one-time fix. Enterprises are active and always growing, and so should your APM practices. The most successful organizations will be those that take a long-term management view and integrate continuous application assessments into their IT strategy.

APM Roadmap: Charting the Migration Path

One aspect of the long haul is facing a fork in the road — do you take the path of application migration?

The danger is in always saying yes. Organizations often embark on migration initiatives because of pressure for action and hype around the newest solution. This is the point where APM can act as a roadmap, because strategic APM practices will be able to:

  1. highlight areas of weakness or redundancy, as previously discussed
  2. identify and quantify the impact of change

CIOs need to consider whether migration will bring them closer to their goals (whether that is cost savings, waste reduction or increased innovation). Additionally, sometimes an off-the-shelf vendor solution will suffice to meet the organization’s needs, while other situations will have specific requirements for a customized solution. Without the proper information that APM provides, the decision to migrate applications can be faulty and dangerous.

The unavoidable truth is that you cannot always see the roadblocks you’ll hit in the future. However, you’ll hit far fewer if you know what the enterprise needs and what it will take to get where it strives to go. APM, when used as a foundation for IT decisions, will get the enterprise there in an efficient, cost saving and reliable manner.

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