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Portfolio management tools draw roadmap for business transformation

Business transformation, portfolio management and application infrastructure strategy are the pillars that support business integration success.

The enterprise architect’s world today is in constant flux. The corporate landscape is shifting. As it now exists, it is very much built on mergers and acquisitions. Each merger brings with it software legacy. Most acquisitions bring along a hope to transform the original businesses. But enterprise architects facing such migrations find it hard to penetrate the layers of accumulated applications infrastructure. Increasingly, portfolio management tools are being used to move newly complex organizations forward.

However, portfolio management is not a slam dunk. According to Charlie Betz, research director, Enterprise Management Associates, it isn’t always that easy to successfully incorporate them into modernization and business transformation strategies. The issue, according to Betz, is that portfolio management is still a fragmented field.

“We are still waiting for the emergence of a more unified set of tools and approaches,” he says. The fundamental problem may reside in the fact that the enterprise architecture world has emerged from modeling and computer-assisted software engineering and management disciplines.

ITIL driving APM forward?

Portfolio management or application portfolio management (APM) did not grow directly from project portfolio management, but it was highly influenced by project management methods.  There is even some interest from the Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) community that drives APM forward, Betz says.

“Speaking as someone who has implemented IT service management tools, in my view the enterprise architects tend to have their boxes and lines and want to draw capability maps and document system interactions,” he says. But where they really fall flat and where tools fall down, is on the financial and resource side, he notes.

“Enterprise architects can go and draw lines but the tooling has no financial view and no resource view and no scheduling view,” he says.  Although Betz says EA tool makers understand the importance of that issue, in general the tool industry is still stuck in a “workbench mentality” where you are essentially building models of increased sophistication but modeling remains the paradigm. This can be a barrier to business transformation.

“They haven’t crossed the chasm to accommodate EA as a production function,” he says. What is needed is a lot of clean data so that decision makers can better understand the financial implications of architecture and portfolio management choices, he explains.

Unfortunately, in the view of Betz, tools on the market may be incomplete – with certain strengths and some glaring weaknesses. “You can’t point to any one and say it will solve all my problems,” he says.

Ramsay Millar, Practice Leader at Integrate IT LLC, says traditional “old” architecture has developed through a very ad hoc process. Moving forward, architecture should instead be driven by business change, which in turn should inform portfolio management. Projects should then flow from that overarching view and from the data in a portfolio management repository.

“EA has been broken for many years; in most cases it is all project driven,” says Millar.  However, he warns, “If you don’t take a coherent and holistic approach you don’t really get transformation.” Thus, he says, it is important to focus on business change and transformation as a driver for APM and a migration strategy. After all, he adds, “you don’t just implement SOA by firing a gun.”

See related story on APM:

Caterpillar gains application visibility through portfolio management

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