Application Portfolio Management: Effectively Managing Your Portfolio

by Dan Aston       • February 23, 2015

In our last post we looked at Analyzing Your Application Portfolio, pinpointing the moment at which your business problems and issues need to be identified.

Now it’s time we focus on the actual Management of your Portfolio phase. This is where you’ll need to consider the cost effectiveness of applications and the risk acceptability. You should move towards a decision making process with subjective business decisions, identifying problems and/or opportunities and any alternative approaches for supporting the business with the portfolio. Additionally, you will also need to begin to look at the best actions for managing applications over their expected life spans.

Business importance and criticality are also key criteria, and you can use all of the techniques outlined previously to help you make decisions about each application in the portfolio.

APM Manage Portfolio

This blog series seeks to address the successful management of your Application Portfolio touching upon Enterprise Architecture and Innovation Management techniques. We show examples taken from Corso’s software platform to help illustrate important points.

Step 1 – Analysis through pivot tables

Pivot tables provide a mechanism for slicing and dicing your application portfolio data, which is critical for surfacing the answers to your questions and decision making requirements. Pivot tables enable you to visualize, in a relatively simple way, a large amount of data that would otherwise be very complex to understand. You can generate a high-level overview of many different attributes, or focus on just one or two data points for more granular detail.

Here’s an example pivot table heatmap of application components and related attributes;

  • Business Criticality
  • Functional Quality
  • Technical Quality
  • Risk Profile
  • Organization Value
  • Failure Risk
  • Health Status

This approach produces a high-level analysis of the portfolio which can help understand where to focus your efforts. You can now begin to analyze your portfolio in detail!

Analyze your application portfolio

Step 2 – Decision making and analysis

Utilizing the pivot table technique, you should begin to drill down into your application portfolio and discover which components might require you to take action.

Start by visualizing those application components that are eligible for technical replacement. To do this you need to review applications that score High on Organizational Value but Low on Technical Quality.

Similarly, you can also visualize your applications based on the Functional Quality attribute to understand which applications do not provide the functionality that is required by the end user.

To take this one step further, examine the Functional Quality, Technical Quality and the Number of Active Users attributes which produces a more complete picture.

By adding in Business Criticality too, you can start to shape the portfolio. Don’t forget, there many different pivot tables that you can create that will allow you to make accurate decisions about your portfolio.

Step 3 – Application lifecycles

Utilizing your pivot table analysis of the portfolio, you must assign the lifecycle status for each application and apply the temporal attributes for the lifecycles. In this example you can see that the application that went Live on 24th January 2014, the next release is due 27th March 2015, and is scheduled for Retirement on 7th December 2022.

Application lifecycle data

Step 4 – Application portfolio roadmaps

Now that you have defined the lifecycle for each application, you can begin to visualize the roadmap view for the portfolio. Roadmaps enable you to view applications over time; essential for understanding how each application’s lifecycle relates to the rest of the portfolio.

Portfolio Roadmaps are divided into a number of lanes and can display one or more concepts. In this example, you can see how the application portfolio and the Application Live Lifecycle attribute date range are displayed as a roadmap.

Application Lifecycle Roadmap

The red line indicates todays date/time. The start and end dates of each application’s Live status are indicated by the length of the bar.

A useful roadmap view for APM is looking at work packages (projects) and application components. The projects are those that will have been identified as impacting applications in our campaign (as outlined in our earlier post Build & Maintain Your Inventory).

In this example below, work packages and applications are on the same lane on the roadmap which shows the initial live date for applications and the scheduled date for the projects. Here you see how a combination of single date points and date ranges can be displayed – the work package has a start and end date, while the application has a single live date.

Applications & Work Packages Roadmap

The important point here is to use the pivot tables and roadmap views to adjust your decision making on whether to invest, sunset, consolidate or set any other appropriate lifecycle action. This leads you into the final phase of the process which is focussed on optimizing your application portfolio.


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