7 Application Portfolio Management Best Practices

2 Jun 2021

by Ardoq

Organizations around the world are focused on the leading edge of technology: advanced analytics, automation, and the Cloud. However, the negative impacts of not being able to keep up--inflexible technology platforms, insecure or non-compliant software, and integration spaghetti--quickly kill strategic momentum. Worse still, you find yourself having to devote a large portion of your organization’s budgets towards maintaining low-value applications. You’re more or less locked into unproductive vendor relationships. 

As more and more digital ambitions are stalled by the dead weight of IT legacy, Application Portfolio Management (APM) quickly becomes a top priority. APM is a broad topic with varying objectives and goals; at Ardoq, it primarily consists of: Application Lifecycle Management, Application Integration Management, Application Hosting and Application Rationalization with many more fields across other domain spaces.

Strategic APM not only allows you to take back control of your IT investments, but also target their capabilities towards business priorities to maximize their impact. You can manage low-value IT systems out of your estate, freeing up the budget and resources needed to drive the strategy forward, while working towards future goals. Plus, the information value chain that occurs during APM with Ardoq will empower you to reach specialized solutions for pressing business needs and in turn communicate more directly to the pressing needs of the business.

By following these Application Portfolio Management best practices, you can position your efforts as the foundation for business transformation, opening the door for smarter investments and innovation that drives enduring success.

Keep reading for a primer on how to approach application portfolio management. Then, check out our 9 Steps to Application Portfolio Management for all the details you need to succeed.  

Download the Complete Guide to APM


Application Portfolio Management Best Practices That Drive Success


1. Ditch Legacy Enterprise Architecture Technology

Application Portfolio Management requires you to keep track of an IT landscape that is continuously changing. It requires you to summarize and aggregate useful information to decision makers about modernizing it. If your existing tool cannot automatically keep up with change, and if it can't automatically generate decision-maker level summaries, then you are wasting your time doing it manually. 

Ask yourself if you have long-winded setup processes, endless collection of irrelevant data points, or dashboards that provide plenty of metrics but little actionable insight. All of these can undermine even the best-planned APM initiative, leaving the promised benefits undelivered.



2.  Align on Business Goals at the Outset

To take APM beyond application maintenance and justification, you need to consider how it can be leveraged to achieve overarching business goals. It’s always beneficial to have control over your organizations’ investments, but Application Portfolio Management just for the sake of it isn’t going to empower any sort of meaningful change to your business. Beyond cost realization, how can we adjust our portfolio to become a smarter, more agile organization?

Besides technology, it is critical to engage your business leaders to confirm which goals are a priority for your specific organization. As you jump into reviewing your portfolio, this input will direct where you choose to pare back or increase investments. 

For example, if your executives’ mission is to execute cloud migration for the organization, how can APM help that journey?

Remember: Goals should be well-defined and measurable so that you can clearly determine the success of your initiative.
For example, ensuring that 100% of shadow-IT is tracked or that 80% of applications have been through an IT architecture review to determine the technical fit for its purpose.

Thinking this through will enable you to formulate a business outcome that speaks to your stakeholders, which can help you secure their buy-in for your IT projects.

Learn how to map applications to business goals in a way that drives change.

application portfolio management best practices

3. Take a Data-Forward Approach

Data is the lifeblood of any APM initiative. Gut feelings about what needs to change can inspire an APM project, but tangible facts and figures give certainty about what needs to change, how to change it, and, critically, what the consequences will be.

There are numerous interdependencies between technologies, employees, and their projects that may not be obvious at face value. If you neglect to consider these relationships as you cut or add IT investments, you risk upsetting workflows across the business.

Effective Application Portfolio Management starts with having as representative an assessment of existing applications as possible. To guide what information to collect, start by asking yourself and your team these questions:

  • What are my applications and what do they cost?
  • Which organizational needs do the applications fulfill, and who should I contact if I have any questions?
  •  In what applications should I increase the level of investment and what applications should I try to phase out?
  •  What capabilities are candidates for optimization, and what is the cost savings associated with that?
  •  How do I manage the impact and risk of application rationalization?

Articulating the value of each investment can help uncover areas for improvement within your portfolio. Upon review, you may realize that not all applications are serving current business goals. The investment of some applications may not align with the ROI they promised to deliver, while others might be duplicating efforts. Or maybe there are tools and team members within your organization that you’re underutilizing.

4. Be Comprehensive with Data Collection, but Don’t Stress About Getting Too In-depth From the Start

When sourcing data for your Application Portfolio Management initiative, start with the one business area that’s causing the focus issues. You can map that domain to a level that helps decision-makers and then expand to another in due course.

Being able to produce numerous charts, metrics, and key performance indicators is great but can quickly create a blizzard of data that offers little actionable intelligence.

Worse still, you’ll waste invaluable time capturing dozens of irrelevant data points—data that in many cases ends up creating “analysis paralysis,” with IT leaders now too afraid to make any changes at all.

You need to trust that sometimes, less is more. A few key and targeted insights yield far greater value. The goal is not to see every data point available, but to see how variables across the organization interact with one another so that you can confidently anticipate the impact of toggling one or even many. The result is maximum insight for minimum effort.

Find out how Canadian pension fund OMERS is Building a Future-Forward Enterprise.

5. Democratize Data Collection

To achieve a comprehensive understanding of your applications, it’s critical you collect input from colleagues across the organization. They will have a more contextualized understanding of the value—or lack thereof—that the organization’s applications provide.

When you're starting out on your APM journey, it's easy to focus only on your own team's tasks, but reality tells us that any APM initiative extends well beyond your team's borders. The Application Portfolio Management team does not have all the knowledge it needs to analyze applications that they themselves don’t use regularly, or the resources to execute on its roadmaps.

Assigning data owners—individuals across the company who are experts in a given application—is one way to secure this domain knowledge. Instead of chasing down colleagues for their insights, set up a data collection system that allows these people to enter their input on their own time and as needed.

Remember, the key thing here is to make it as easy as possible for these key people to participate in the process. Instead of long, detailed spreadsheets, you can utilize easy-to-digest survey forms to quickly capture the needed knowledge.

Get the full how-to on strategic Application Portfolio Management data collection.

New call-to-action

6. Focus on Dynamic Data

You need to be able to move from heavy architecture deliverables to a swarm of micro-analyses and roadmaps, continuously updated and precisely targeted, while still supplying the oversight and assurance the program level needs. Ardoq’s approach to APM means you can drive value through successful, continuous change while minimizing risk.

Your organization is constantly evolving, so use a tool that matches that. Static, unstructured visualizations are of little value in analyzing ecosystems as dynamic as those we have today. Instead, opt for a platform that automatically updates variables in real-time to ensure your stakeholders are basing business decisions on the most current version of your organization. 

You want a tool that also brings your data to life. Ardoq’s real-time visualizations show you the detailed impacts of any change, and roadmaps show you exactly when plans will be executed and benefits realized. Graph technology empowers you to move from manually assigning static attributes like cost, risk, or complexity and instead define these attributes once and have them automatically maintained based on connected data. Users most often use this feature to look at how they can measure the risk of an application or service based on the dependencies it has to technology, infrastructure, or even code libraries.

Ardoq’s modeling is flexible so that you can assess any business scenario. Adding new types, new fields, new views, and new metrics can be done at any point in your APM journey without the need to stop or re-factor. The visualizations can also be configured to address the concerns of every stakeholder, every department, every capability, every vendor—and every combination of those. Ardoq makes your Application Portfolio Management initiative continuously adaptive—and continually relevant—to shifting organizational imperatives.

7. Communicate the Scope of Impact

APM isn't about creating data; It's about making decisions that better the well-being of the business. The ability to do that depends on continued collaboration between teams.

Beyond simply communicating with key influencers, you’ll need to speak to them in a language they understand. This means you need to answer the “Why” of application simplification in terms of business performance, not technical jargon. After all, if you can’t demonstrate how your initiative will move the needle on business performance, why should your stakeholders care?

If you cannot tell the right story (in business terms) to the right people then you won’t be able to get the approvals and investments needed.

With Ardoq’s Presentation module, you can tell impactful stories on live data, creating a clear mandate for change. Need to reach out to your stakeholders where they work? Ardoq can be integrated with your PowerBI dashboards, Jira, and via our Zapier integration, with over a thousand other enterprise web applications including email, collaboration, and planning tools, making it a true platform for IT transformation.

Ardoq's unrivaled flexibility and connectivity means it connects the data, insights, people, and plans you need to transform your IT landscape. The platform’s ability to show applications by the business and technical capabilities they deliver—and just how well they deliver them—translates your IT complexity story into simple language for your stakeholders; our standard calculations of application business and technical fit and cost show you where the opportunities are.

Maybe you’ve already started APM to prepare for planned change projects. Over 70% of Ardoq users start with APM as a cornerstone to all change processes. There is a good reason behind this: in most organizations, it is nearly impossible to improve or adapt your business without touching technology. Whether cutting costs, implementing new capabilities, or moving to the cloud are on your roadmap, applications are likely a necessary part of the puzzle that you will need to have control and understanding of.

Take Your Change Projects to the Next Level with These Application Portfolio Management Best Practices 

When done right, APM is an information value chain that starts with harvesting data from front-line experts and ends with presenting actionable insight to senior executives—a process that depends on having forward-thinking tooling to be executed seamlessly.

Ardoq’s APM use case consists of three journeys:

Application Portfolio Management in Ardoq gives you a complete best-practice solution with integrations, surveys, business and technology reference models, visualizations, dashboards, and presentations—end-to-end delivery from the moment you enter your first data point. With a quicker time to value, you’ll be able to stop the wasted spend and energy of past APM projects and create a momentum that fuels winning business change.

Take control of your IT investments today with Ardoq.

See It for Yourself: Book an APM Discovery Call

Ardoq Ardoq This article is written by Ardoq as it has multiple contributors, including subject matter experts.
Ardoq Insights & Events

Subscribe to Ardoq's Newsletter

A monthly digest of the latest news, articles, and resources.