3 Tips for Reining in Your Application Portfolio
July 10, 2017

Gary Mann
CTG

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Your organization's Application Management and IT Help Desk teams are your "first line of defense," and they also wear many hats. They help users resolve problems, manage the organization's technology portfolio, and ensure technology is available to end users 24x7. The constant juggle of day-to-day priorities can be dizzying.

One of the biggest challenges they face is the management of application portfolios, which can quickly become crowded, redundant, or even obsolete due to years of adding software with overlapping functionalities. This is only getting more complex with the emergence of new technology. Mergers and acquisitions also compound the problem as IT teams look to bring two application portfolios together. Unless your application portfolio is meticulously maintained, sprawl and application redundancies will occur, tying up IT resources more than they already are and driving up operating costs — all of which can impact application performance.

To help ensure your application and help desk operations are effective and manageable, there are a few simple things that IT leaders can do:

1. Assess the Strength of Your Application Management Program

Before you can make any changes to your program you need to understand its current state — down to the true cost of every application. A few key questions to ask include:

■ How have our applications been performing over time? 

■ Are some applications becoming obsolete or redundant? 

■ Does the cost to maintain an application align with its business value? 

■ Is the application portfolio able to meet changing business conditions? 

■ Does the program allow for innovation and improvement initiatives?

Completing this assessment isn't a simple task and it's not a one and done process. Dig deep and reassess regularly. The frequency of conducting an assessment depends entirely on the maturity of the organization. You need to question how dynamic and volatile the market place is, and what role the application portfolio plays in driving the organization's strategy.

For example, in some industries applications, and therefore the application management program, are ground zero not only for operational effectiveness, but also compliance.

Also, once the first assessment is done will you will want to put controls in place to monitor delivery and thresholds for making changes to your plan. The more mature your processes are to keep control and track thresholds the less frequently an assessment is needed. It will also depend on the size of the organization. It can be ungainly to make a blanket statement that you will analyze the application management program annually, but take several months to complete the assessment. You need to avoid analysis paralysis. One size does not fit all.

2. Build an Application Management Road Map

As a second step, once you have completed your initial assessment, and identified gaps, you will want to build an application management road map. Again, this is not a simple step in the least. Developing a roadmap requires strategic and tactical thinking. Priorities should be based on the direction you want to take your organization – whether it is building new capabilities to meet changing needs in the market place, or looking for ways to be more efficient with company's resources by identifying ways to decrease operational costs. These decisions are to be made in concert with the user community as they are the ones that will be most impacted by any changes you make to the application portfolio. End users can be very helpful in setting priorities and determining what applications are most important at the end of the day.

3. Monitor and Reassess

The final step, start all over again. Once you have conducted an assessment, built your roadmap and plan, and begun executing, you need to continue to monitor your application portfolio in order to make mid-course adjustments. Markets do not stagnate. Consequently, users' demands and strategic directions will change as well. If you have done your work correctly, the adjustments that need to be made will be minor, but they will occur. This may be as simple as a reprioritization of a small project, to a rethink of what is needed to support a market strategy.

What is important in all of this is to ensure you have clear methodologies to conduct the assessments, monitor the roadmap, and make mid-course adjustments.

In my 30 years in the industry, I have seen many organizations struggle with wrapping their arms around their ever-changing application portfolio, and ultimately giving their IT team breathing room to focus on strategic projects. Whether addressing these improvement initiatives in-house, or looking for outside assistance, following these steps will help your organization more effectively manage its technology resources.

Gary Mann is Managing Director, Application Management and Support, at CTG
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