Five key application portfolio insights for CIOs considering digital transformation

Published 1/16/2019 by Tim Jones, Managing Director, Application Modernisation

As organisations develop and change to meet the needs of the fourth industrial revolution, senior leaders increasingly depend on Business Intelligence (BI) to provide factual data and insight into their operations to make strategic decisions. This often puts demands on IT to deliver transformative digital solutions, and requires CIOs to make crucial decisions about their application portfolios.

So how can CIOs and other IT leaders gain deep insight into their application portfolios to support their strategic IT decision-making? Modern Application Portfolio Analysis solutions create “BI dashboards” for application portfolios. They provide IT leadership with data that can be used to understand the impact, scope and consequences of digital transformation initiatives within an organisation’s application infrastructure.


Before embracing any digital transformation, it is important to understand your current application portfolio. There are five key pieces of information you need to know:

1. Understand your technology mix

The first step is to ensure you fully understand what technology mix is in your application portfolio. Do you know what databases are supporting your applications and what languages your applications are written in – are they legacy languages such as COBOL? Does your workforce have knowledge of COBOL or have many of the employees with these skills retired? These are key considerations when assessing your application portfolio, mapping it against resources and making decisions around outsourcing.

2. Understanding upstream & downstream processing

When considering introducing digital solutions to replace or augment your current applications, it is essential to understand the process flow of your applications - and most importantly what processing occurs upstream and downstream of the applications you are considering changing. Introducing new functionality may have consequences beyond the application you are targeting. To avoid processing disruptions, the entire process flow of your application portfolio should be understood. This is especially important when undertaking large modernisation projects where often the inner workings of an old legacy application may not be well documented.

3. Identify the touch points

For most large organisations, their application portfolios comprise of multiple heterogeneous applications with multiple interactions, interfaces and relationships – touch points – with many other applications and data sets in the portfolio. Some of these touch points might be well understood and documented. However, in older portfolios there may be touch points that are not as well known to management. In many ways, an application portfolio is a lot like a house of cards or a game of Jenga. If you tamper with one element, the whole lot can come falling down. Having insight into the relationships at a high-level enables management to make informed decisions about changes to particular areas of the portfolio.

4. Understand the number of function points

Function point analysis is a particularly useful tool for assessing the scale of applications and how much functionality your applications have. This allows the size of development projects to be estimated more effectively, meaning time and resources can be allocated more accurately, ultimately resulting in cost savings. Function Point Analysis allows for more accurate decisions to be made about whether it is worthwhile completing projects and making changes to applications.

5. Measure of complexity

Most transaction processing applications exhibit the same broad complexity profile. The applications typically have a majority of low to medium complexity components with a few complex outliers and then a very small number of extremely complex programs. Knowing in advance where the complexity ’hot spots’ are helps management understand the potential impact of deciding to redevelop or enhance applications. Having this information available for senior management to digest as part of an application portfolio dashboard avoids management relying on anecdotal knowledge about where complexity exists in the portfolio.

Application Portfolio Analysis solutions provide comprehensive metrics to determine the state of an organisation’s current IT investment and perform gap analysis to more easily predict future requirements and the potential impact of change. They can create a searchable database of information relating to all legacy applications, boosting modernisation planning and development productivity by up to 40 per cent through automating manual processes.

Our next webinar, on Wednesday 6 February 2019, discusses how automated application understanding delivers intelligence and context for assessing modernisation options. The webinar will feature a live demonstration of our Application Portfolio Analysis solution, Application Analyser, including showing how its many data points can help support your decisions. Recharge your digital transformation with intelligent insights, register now.