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What’s of value in your application portfolio?

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

Chris Steel, chief solutions architect for Software AG Government Solutions, says application portfolio management has historically not been prioritized at federal agencies. (Chris Steel / LinkedIn).

It is fair to say that most federal IT professionals are not looking for more action items. They are besieged with new requirements, limited budgets and mandates to keep existing systems secure and reliable in increasingly complex operating environments.

But at the Association for Enterprise Information's FITARA Implementation Symposium in June, U.S. CIO Tony Scott said he would declare victory for the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act if agencies could as a result confidently determine what their most important IT assets were. That's because being able to determine what is of value would help agencies know what to protect better.

Having an understanding of the universe of applications in use across an agency and how they relate to one another is the foundation for good application portfolio management. APM is not a new concept, but it has historically not been prioritized at federal agencies over competing requirements.

Why don't agencies inventory the applications they have in use and determine which ones need to go?

A recent i360Gov survey of federal professionals, which was sponsored by Software AG Government Solutions, found that 88 percent of federal respondents have not yet attempted to complete a comprehensive applications portfolio analysis. One primary driver for that lack of engagement is a lack of confidence in their individual and collective ability to understand key application management functions.

Contributing to the insecurity is uncertainty about application recovery times, cost per minute of downtime, the number of applications in use but no longer under maintenance, the use of multiple versions of software programs and the proliferation of applications used with individual licenses (or worse, without licenses).

Many of those questions can be answered with an effective APM program.

Given this common point of departure for many federal organizations and the new FITARA push, it’s time for agency IT leaders to undertake or update their application inventories, establish methods to measure approximate costs to operate each application, identify applications' essential functions, estimate costs associated with downtime and determine the consequences of long-term application outages.

Without that kind of baseline, agency IT professionals are ill-equipped to prioritize support and modernization efforts or to target the most valuable opportunities for cost savings.

An overwhelming number of the i360Gov survey respondents (84 percent) said their organizational applications support current mission objectives. Yet in the same survey group, nearly 80 percent said they were “unsure which legacy applications must be retired in the next two years.”

For agencies that use an enterprise IT road map to support deliberate infrastructure evolution, nearly 60 percent said “their applications do not yet complement future agency plans.”

Based on that survey, it appears there is significant potential for improvement — or, at a minimum, an opportunity to better understand critical applications and their planned life cycles.

Not only do agencies need to have a better understanding of their applications, they also need to identify primary data dependencies between and among those most critical to agency operations. For example, if the payroll system receives data from the human capital management system, both need to evolve in concert and be equally protected, available and supported to enable their functions.

That kind of inter- and intra-agency data dependency is an essential consideration in developing an effective APM, and that understanding will affect the actual value and potential risks of individual applications when their importance to the entire organization is clearly known.

About the Author

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

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