Application modernization of Organizations

Tough times call for thoughtful measures. At a time when many enterprises are focused on ‘squeezing more value’ out of existing assets in general, and IT assets in particular, assessing an enterprises’ overall Application.

Maturity can provide focused quantitative analytical insight into the application portfolio’s ability to support evolving business needs.

Enterprises globally have been using application maturity model to assess their capability, relative to an objective industry framework. The model provides an understanding of the enterprise’s overall application maturity and a more granular level of understanding of maturity across eight critical disciplines and a measure of business alignment. With this focused information, organisations are better able to assess how to better support the business.

As IT organisations in India respond to business demands for increasing agility and support, a fundamental need will be to transform their application environments by addressing application modernisation, adopting new technologies such as service-oriented architecture, extending information and process management, and blending a more complex assortment of software acquisition and deployment options.

These changes and advances demand sound processes, and put great stress on organisations that do not have sufficient maturity. In the majority of application organisations, governance and management disciplines are not strong, and insufficient maturity will be a serious impediment to supporting business transformation.

The maturity model for application organisations is patterned along the lines of the CMM Model and identifies five levels of maturity. At the lowest level of maturity, which we call “ad hoc,” organisations score between zero and one on the five-point scale.

These organisations are characterised by their lack of specified processes, which, in turn, forces managers and staff to “reinvent the wheel” every time a particular application activity or project is undertaken. At the highest level of maturity, which we call “optimising” an organisation needs to score between four and five. At this highest level (Level 5), people consistently follow a defined set of processes, and processes have built-in measures that are monitored to drive continuous improvement.

Application organisations vary widely in the maturity of their critical processes. Even in a given enterprise, application groups vary regarding application maturity. Immature practices may be effective in the short term, but eventually will erode the effectiveness of the organisation and the integrity of its applications. They will also have a direct impact on the credibility of the application organisation with the business.

Mature processes are repeatable, reliable, predictable, measurable and subject to continuous refinement. Such processes ensure consistent delivery and communication, fluid movement of people among teams or assignments, and performance measurement. Thus, we find that organisations with mature application management capabilities can deliver optimal results, even with older and less-modern technology.

The maturity model and assessment addresses the major disciplines required to manage and lead an application organisation. Business alignment, engagement and accountability are critical to an application organisation in many of the disciplines identified below.

Application portfolio management (APM) — Documents and drives how an organisation measures and responds to the business value, cost, performance and risk of its portfolio of application assets.

Project portfolio management — Drives the effective allocation of scarce resources (such as capital and human resources) across all projects. In many organisations, this discipline is performed in conjunction with a program and portfolio management (PPM) function.

Staffing, skills and sourcing — Controls or influences role and competency definitions, skills, knowledge, training and development, sourcing, retention, productivity and performance management and culture.

Financial analysis and budgets — Requires financial models based on estimation, Spending levels by category and other factors for every application organisation.

Vendor management — Addresses processes necessary to manage the vendors and service providers that supply a range of application services and products to the organisation.

Management of architecture — Involves three primary viewpoints: business, information and technical. Follows architecture blueprint and helps it evolve according to business needs. For most organisations, these activities are in step with enterprise architecture.

Software processes — Includes a framework, a software engineering methodology and a quality assurance practice.

Operations and support — Monitors and supports applications in production with the infrastructure and operations teams.

It is also useful to look at industry benchmark averages for application maturity. In a study across US enterprises, the distinction among industries with respect to overall maturity, and also between public and private sectors, was surprisingly low.

Given the demands of Indian business stakeholders, even (or especially) in these demanding times, organisations that aspire to higher levels of maturity will need to understand and account for the interactions between the various disciplines and categories discussed earlier.

Many organisations lack adequate or consistent processes. There should therefore be a sense of urgency to address these shortcomings, because the application environment continues to grow in scale and complexity. An objective review of processes and critical disciplines is required, and the task of defining critical quality organization wide shared processes should be given a significantly higher priority.