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Map Your App! How the Application Portfolio Management Module Links EA Software to ALM Roles

Application portfolio management (APM) is typically characterized as a subset of application lifecycle management (ALM). However, in the software market (and in SoftwareReviews’ categorization) we typically see APM – not to be confused with application performance management or monitoring – included in enterprise architecture tools rather than in ALM software. The reason for this is that activities performed in APM rely more on the core competencies of enterprise architects than of those who partake in software development.

Activities of APM

Application portfolio management, in short, is a process of creating a clear picture of the current landscape and future strategy of an organization’s applications to better support business and technology decision making. APM consists of three principle components:

  • Discovery: Investigating your software users and technology stack to produce up-to-date and detailed inventories capturing various application attributes and their alignment to other architectural components.
  • Rationalization: Routinely assessing your application’s value, fit, cost, and performance to determine whether it is best to maintain, enhance, or retire.
  • Roadmapping: Projecting and displaying any strategic disposition assigned to an application over a given timeline.

APM at its core is keeping application information accurate and providing thoughtful recommendations to the technology decision makers of your organization.

How Does Application Portfolio Management Fit Into ALM?

A simplified view of ALM breaks the topic down into three main aspects: development, operations, and governance. Development encapsulates the initial creation and subsequent new versions or continuous improvements of an application. Operations speaks to the work required to monitor and maintain an application from its initial deployment onwards. Various different software delivery approaches blend the responsibilities of development and operations, such as the aptly named DevOps.

Governance, in the context of ALM, can be broken down even further. Initial governance, commonly stated as business case development and project portfolio management, covers early lifecycle activities, from ideation and approval to development and implementation. Ongoing governance past implementation is where you find APM, which ensures the application continues to meet organizational needs and deliver value, while also managing its cost and risk to the organization. In this sense, APM acts as the business case and initial project planning functions for enhancements to applications already in operations.

Source: Chappell, 2014

When we look to APM in ALM software, it is not overly common to see these capabilities. Most ALM tools focus exclusively on development and operations, and only the more comprehensive solutions include APM – or any of the governance elements, for that matter.

How Does Application Portfolio Management Fit Into Enterprise Architecture?

As mentioned above, fit, or application-to-business capability alignment, plays a large role in APM. Understanding business capabilities and how those capabilities are delivered by different technology is a key component to discovery, and specifically to defining the features and functions of your applications (some of which are often unknown to IT). Moreover, it allows you to determine your redundancies and gaps, which is a necessary input to effective rationalization of the portfolio and determination of strategic dispositions.

The ability to clearly articulate and display the alignment between applications and business capabilities is a critical function of APM. However, that function relies on features that are inherent to an architect’s toolset. This is why EA tools are more likely to position themselves as the use case for APM.

Our Take

Info-Tech’s recommendation is that the most productive application portfolio managers are those that have integrated ALM and architecture toolsets. Very few IT disciplines live in isolation. Bridging the gap between roles and subject matter expertise is key to effective IT organizations, as is connecting explicit information sources.

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