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The role of the Application Portfolio Manager

By:  Pierre Bijaoui, Applications Services Technology Lead, Hewlett Packard Company

 

floating folders.jpgLast October, I discussed the concept of the Application Portfolio.  Simply put, it is the registry of all business and IT applications that support your business processes. They do not necessarily have to be running within your own infrastructure. For example, the use of Software as a Service (SaaS) often means that all or part of a business process is actually supported by an application running outside of your strict IT perimeter.  

 

The Application Portfolio must maintain several attributes of the application (which I discussed in my blog, “What is an Application Portfolio?”). I also alluded to the role of the Application Portfolio Manager which is quite important because:

1)    The portfolio is under constant change as applications follow the course of their lifecycle.

2)    The value of the portfolio is directly proportional to its precision. To maintain that precision, you need more than just a CMDB (Configuration Management Database).

3)    Typically, there is no single organization in charge of an application. Business value, development, maintenance and support, are aspects of an application that are normally handled by separate (although collaborating) groups.

4)    The dependencies of each application to one another (upstream, downstream) can be very complex.

5)    The technology components that make up an application (servers, storage, operating system, middleware) are subject to obsolescence and a coordinated upgrade and migration plan requires a global view.

I estimate that a full time person is required for any portfolio with more than 120 applications.

 

Above all, the list of attributes detailed in my previous blog needs some form of maintenance.  This is not necessarily complex to achieve, but it must be carried out with extreme discipline. There are two avenues:

1)    Specialized solutions, such as HP’s Application Portfolio Manager, which provides a repository-based view of your portfolio. It allows you to document the various attributes of the application, especially the essential “Application to Server Mapping”, which ties applications to the supporting infrastructure.

2)    Centralized and shared lists: I love Microsoft SharePoint for this. It respects the principle that you have a centralized repository (abolish Excel, please!) and enables a collaborative approach to keeping the application list up to date. The lists in SharePoint can be accessed by selected users, and versioning can be implemented for each item (presumably, an item would be an application instance, where the instance can be development, test, pre-production or production). That way, you can track what changed in an application’s technical definition, by whom, and when.

 

Having the Application Portfolio kept current will prove valuable for transformation or modification of your landscape. For example, if you wish to reduce your application maintenance costs, you could start by identifying which applications you could suppress and consolidate into a broader platform. You may also want to take advantage of public clouds for application development environments, while retaining a company-owned infrastructure for the production instance. The degree to which you are able to rapidly perform such transitions is directly dependent upon your portfolio and the diligence of your portfolio manager.

 

Large portfolios (300 applications and above) may have multiple owners (e.g. one per region, business group, or subsidiary). Process-wise, the portfolio is relatively simple to maintain, especially if you have an accurate CMDB. If that is the case, you need to keep track of which application uses which parts of the infrastructure. If you do not have an accurate CMDB, you have a more fundamental problem to solve, which is to create an accurate and single view of the infrastructure. Without such a view, any changes or evolution to your environment is bound to be limited at best.

 

Finally, the Application Portfolio Manager must be well connected to the Business Groups, the user representatives, and to the IT department and IT providers. These connection can be maintained through regular reviews (quarterly meetings, for example), and through the interchange of application portfolio views.  These views ensure that you have a fluid communication from the business groups to infrastructure providers, and that the raison d’être of those applications is continuously kept current.

 

Bonus: Don’t forget to also keep track of the operational heat map. It allows you to track those applications that have frequent and severe outages from others which are humming quietly in the background. As you strive for cost savings, the ability to identify applications with a high number of incidents or service calls is critical to cost reduction and possibly optimization through service desk automation (e.g. implementing simple Apps that enable users to reset their passwords or automate repetitive operations).

 

Pierre Bijaoui’s blog series on The 7 Deadly Sins of Applications Transformation:

 

Other blogs by Pierre Bijaoui:

 

Related links: 

 

About the author

 

headshot.JPGPierre Bijaoui, Applications Services Technology Lead, Hewlett Packard Company

Pierre works as a Technology Lead for HP Application Services in EMEA. His experience includes building and delivering application services, and transforming application landscapes to drive better results. Pierre has been involved recently in massive application portfolio transformation, and currently focuses on complex migrations to cloud-hosted environments. Pierre is based in Sophia Antipolis, France.

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