TBT: When Joy of Tech Was Necessary
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Building a Portfolio Away From Retirement

ClutteredclosetUsing analogies of moving out of a house and filling out scorecards, an hour of last week unreeled off a Webinar that showed how portfolios offer a plan for migrating and sustaining applications. Birket Foster and his crew at MB Foster showed how continuous and thorough software management helps available budget meet the most crucial needs.

A classic four-quadrant chart outlined the scoring of applications. One axis showed a business fit, the other a technical fit. Like all of the four-box charts, nobody wanted software in the bottom left, low in both aspects. But it's a business decision that drives most of the changes in IT these days. Scorecard the business fit of applications in a portfolio first, Foster said. If it scores well in that fit, go on to the technical fit.

The portfolio is the tool of governance, he added. Governing is a classic process to ensure the most needy get resources as required. Application Portfolio Management has been a favorite topic at MB Foster. It's only possible if a company knows its applications very well — and very well means with documentation that can be shared over time. The assets in a portfolio can be judged to be worthy of migration based on their risk-benefit-value. What helps a company most, and what could you least afford to let fall into that dreaded lower-left box?

QuadrantOnly about 5 percent of the community's applications can fall off that chart completely, ready for retirement. The largest group are suited for a same-capability migration, when they creep down. That 70 percent of the apps can get a lift-and-shift of their functionality, usually through replacement. It takes hundreds of hours per application.

What makes it less painful and swifter is cleaning in advance. As Foster said, "It's like moving out of a house. If you go through your closets regularly, you'll be moving less that you don't need." In this analogy, the closets are your data, which "has to be made available to the new app. It's not automatic."

One tool that helps to automate moving out is UDA Central, software that until recently wasn't sold as a standalone utility. The program MB Foster created came onto the job as part of a services engagement. But after winning an innovation award from the Canadian government, UDA Central is being productized. It will be offered to systems integrators outside of the MB Foster labs.

But the advice shared last week was more than a pointer to useful software. When deciding whether to re-host (lifting code to another computer) or replace, the full range of software assets gets inventoried. The real answer about what needs to be moved, and in what priority, comes from asking about the whole portfolio. While that study's going on, there are those closets to be cleaned. Few people do such cleaning, VEsoft's Vladimir Volokh says.

"They see a list of 100,000 files and do not want to scrap any of them," he said. "So they move everything to the new system." A tool like MPEX can assist by looking at the data that drives companies. That's work that can take place even before a transition is underway. There's no such thing as Data Portfolio Management, but governance of data is one way to practice for the informed choices of application governance.

When to set up an APM? 

  • When there's no accurate accounting of apps used by a business
  • When there's a lack of understanding of how apps support business processes
  • When assets degrade through declining business fit, agility and maintainability

Deciding where to put new money for IT to maximize returns, mergers and acquisitions, and synchonizing IT and business priorities all lead to APM, too.