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Test your IT portfolio IQ

Christopher Steel, Chief Solutions Architect for Software AG Government Solutions.

Christopher Steel, Chief Solutions Architect at Software AG Government Solutions. (Image: Christoper Steel / LinkedIn)

Today’s government IT leaders must be top performers in multiple disciplines. While managing in a diverse IT landscape, they are still expected to both effectively lead change and control budgets. Inevitably, however, shrinking budgets, non-integrated systems, legacy applications, data silos and disparate decision-making bodies that affect IT investments can all get in the way.

By having accurate data about their application portfolios, IT leaders can more effectively minimize risk, costs and productivity drains. The challenge often becomes trusted visibility into one’s IT environment.

According to Nucleus Research, most organizations are struggling to keep track of the ongoing changes in their IT portfolios, and IT decision-makers often rely on information that is, on average, 14 months old and only 55 percent accurate.

How does an agency determine whether it has the right application data to support its technology planning, control risk and stay within budget? If chief technology officers and their teams can confidently answer the five core questions below, they can be assured that they are on the right path with their portfolio management practices.

1. Which applications put your agency at risk?

How are you tackling IT risk management? Do you know the recovery times for your applications and how they might affect business continuity in the event of an IT failure? What about the cost per minute of downtime of your mission-critical apps? Do you have applications that are no longer under maintenance?

A portfolio analysis is the best place to start with a comprehensive IT risk assessment. Tracking your IT assets and linking systems and applications to mission requirements are goals every IT manager should strive to achieve.

2. Is every application in line with your technology road map?

Technology life cycles play a critical role in choosing the right applications for your organization. Do you know which technologies you’ll be retiring and which commercial products are nearing their end of life? Are you properly planning migration projects by understanding all the dependencies between your IT assets?

3. How do you identify applications to retire?

Retiring legacy applications is a core component of any application rationalization strategy, and it can free up resources for investments in future technology. How would you identify which applications to retire and which are critical to your enterprise application strategy? Do you know where to cut, where to reuse and where to invest?

4. Does your strategy conflict with existing projects?

Your portfolio management decisions cannot be made in isolation; organizations are always running many simultaneous projects to enhance or modernize applications. Can you tell whether any of those projects will conflict with the overall application retirement strategy or how they will impact your budget? Can you connect the dots between technology stacks, project plans, mission goals and budgets?

5. Which application dependencies create risks?

Even if you know the status of a specific application, how do you visualize all its data dependencies — upstream and downstream? Can you identify the risks of those dependencies quickly and comprehensively? (How long did it take you to assess your exposure to the Heartbleed bug?) That insight and ability to make decisions in real time require the right enterprise architecture perspective.

If your team is able to confidently provide answers in all five question areas, your IT portfolio management is where it needs to be.

If your team can answer only some of the questions, you have valuable insights but dangerous blind spots, too. Improving your agency’s knowledge of your IT ecosphere will pay off in performance and cost savings.

About the Author

Chris Steel is chief solutions architect at Software AG Government Solutions.

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