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Rationalize Your Apps in 60 Seconds

Too good to be true doesn’t mean there’s no good to be had.

A common folly (or marketing ploy) seen with application rationalization is the idea that it can be accomplished in x number of weeks. Orbus iServer, is one vendor that makes such a claim, suggesting rationalization can be done in four weeks.

In addressing these kinds of statements, I always start with simplifying what is application rationalization.

Application rationalization is a decision-making framework using cost, value, or other indictors to help determine the strategic direction of your applications.

When you put it that way, it seems quite easy and doesn’t sound overly time consuming. All you need is applications, a few inputs, and a toolset or framework, and you get your output in the form of an action item for an application.

In reality, this gets convoluted and you need to ask:

  • Do you have a list of or even know all your applications?
  • Does everyone agree on what an “application” is?
  • Do you know where and how they overlap or which are redundant?
  • Do you have the right data points or are the right data points even attainable?
  • Do you know what your goals are for rationalization and how they should impact the algorithm to ensure you’re getting meaningful results?
  • Do you have a process in place to capture and communicate the results?
  • Do you have a process in place to further refine these results into business cases or project proposals and inject those results into your software delivery lifecycle?

These are the kinds of things that take your optimistic four weeks and turn it into a head-scratching, never-ending data collection initiative. Your existing maturity in terms of application portfolio management and similar competencies like enterprise architecture, project portfolio management, or product management will greatly impact how quickly you can achieve success with application rationalization.

Where iServer does get it right is acknowledging that there are correct steps to and a correct order. Its “application rationalization in four weeks”does emphasize a methodical approach and sequence that ensure goals are defined and necessary inputs are captured. I would just prefer to call this application rationalization in four … well … five steps.

iServer’ s methodology:

0.1 Inputs

  • Artifacts linking application to business capabilities, technologies, and related concepts
  • Lists of application owners, vendors, locations, and metadata
  • Scoring questionnaires and worksheets
  1. Establish goals and centralize data
  2. Assess and augment data
  3. Visualize and analyze your portfolio
  4. Consider rationalization results and present roadmap

What’s important here is the emphasis on centralizing, assessing, and augmenting data. They don’t sugar coat the necessity of getting the right information and using it in the right way. Moreover, the process doesn’t end with generating a disposition for your apps. There is clearly a bigger end game here of producing a roadmap, which is that quintessential artifact of a good application portfolio management practice. Being able to communicate and validate the direction of your portfolio to your stakeholders is a substantial factor in increasing the business satisfaction from the application delivery.

Lastly, rationalization should not be looked at as a one-and-done initiative. Rationalization is about continuously governing your portfolio and keeping the business up to date on the best possible recommendations for their applications. To suggest four weeks and you’re done implies you won’t continue to reap the benefits from being that strategic partner and innovator in your organization.

Our Take

  • I’ve been too harsh on iServer. Four weeks is technically possible, just under the best possible circumstances. The biggest variable here is data quality and the tool can only do so much in that regard. Your processes need to be mature enough to make the most of a tool like this.
  • The value should not be strictly limited by how long something takes. Emphasize the value of the practice you’re trying to grow and the ongoing returns of becoming a business partner.
  • More often than not, you need to get the prerequisites down first. Info-Tech’s approach for application portfolio management and business architecture can help you get the get the foundational information needed for a tool like iServer.
  • Build in the structure to not only make rationalization tailored to your specific goals, but also to build in the ongoing governance of APM and continue to maintain your roadmap going forward.

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