Enterprise Portfolio MANAGEMENT isn’t Application Portfolio Optimization

The portfolio based approach that has been pioneered by companies like Troux and which is now part of the standard lexicon by which organizations discuss their enterprise information technology asset base is creating an incredible lens through which to understand the organization.

It is useful however to distinguish between optimizing your current portfolio and building processes and governance that help you sustain a healthy portfolio. For example application portfolio optimization (APO) which targets redundancy and other inefficiencies in the the existing portfolio does not fix the systemic problem. This portfolio approaches treat the NOW problem. It may save you millions an dit may get you a raise, but the benefits while real are for TODAY. They don’t fix the governance and business process issues that got you into the situation you are in today. Doing that means remaking the decision making processes that got you where you are today. You need to understand the value landscape.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Troux: The answer to the new budget reality

Troux the answer to the new budget reality


I had the very good fortune to be invited to take part in a happy hour with great food and good drinks with Troux after the Enterprise Architecture (EA) conference I attended yesterday. Throughout the last few years where it seems as if every quarter has been their biggest quarter, they’ve also managed to consistently be rated amongst the leaders in EA in periodicals and places such as Gartner. I really believe that this is going to be their year in the Federal space and that everything will start to click for many reasons.

The first reason is the idea of Troux On-Demand. Some things that every customer is faced with when acquiring these types of decisions support tools is the big capital investment needed upfront, the resources required to get things going, and the sense that it’s going to take a long while to get to value. These can all be seen as strong deterrents. What has changed this perception in the Federal space is this idea of Troux On-Demand, a cloud service within the Amazon Gov cloud that can essentially be turned on and combined with the accelerator programs that Troux has developed to allow organizations to get to value quickly, in 90 days, 120 days etc.

The combination of those things is going to create this really unique package for Federal that allows organizations to come in, identify areas where they can save money, root out redundancy, and all the other things that organizations are going to have to do to meet budget requirements. The budget climate has gotten to where there is simply no way to continue on doing things the way they have always been done.  A lot of organizations that we’re talking to are just looking at what they’ve got for funding and trying to figure out how they are going to continue to deliver on the mission.

At last night’s event there was this real sense that the combination of need and the evolution of the technology was going to create this incredible opportunity in the federal space for folks that have cracked the nut on how to deliver answers in that space quickly, relatively painlessly, and of course cost is always a factor. By being able to address something as a service, you’re able to reduce that huge front end expenditure with some of these tools. You can see pretty rapid adoption even in the federal space which is sometimes a little bit more conservative.  So I’ll be interested to see how it all plays out. We’ve developed some federal specific offerings around the idea of coming in and understanding the portfolio quickly so we’re very excited about what they put together. I think there’s going to be a lot of people that see this as how they are going to continue to meet the mission given even the extraordinary challenges that we are facing today.


Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Salesforce.com: Flexibility, scalability, and security

EXAM logo

Today is a pretty big day for Millsapps, Ballinger & Associates. As many of you know, we have been doing a lot of work in Salesforce and in the force.com platform. Almost all that work to this point has been on behalf of other organizations as part of developing our privately listed app. We’ve been working with these various organizations to extend it to help them make better decisions to support data calls, help people get to enterprise value out of data calls and data collection efforts, and to help organizations re-platform low to medium complexity applications to reduce costs. Those are the big three use cases.

As of yesterday, we’ve now taken our privately listed application and made it public and we are officially in the app store. Any organization can begin to embed our unique value proposition into their organization. We are joining 450 other independent software vendors including very large organizations like BMC and their RemedyForce application as well as other small boutique businesses. In fact if you look at out of the more than 1800 enterprise class apps that are in the app store, the top ten are a really mixed bag of very large vendors and very small vendors. I think that in and of itself highlights the power of the platform.  That is what attracted us to it.

Building a truly enterprise application is very difficult and we’ve done quite a bit of work in that area. We were amazed at how quickly we were able to build a secure and truly scalable application that could meet the needs of our largest clients, which include some of the largest private sector companies and public sector organizations in the world. So it is a proud day for us. We’re very excited about what we believe this is going to do for organizations when this is global.

Public sector or private sector, everybody is facing a budget crunch. Fortunately we’re at a really unique point in technology where almost every organization has the ability to significantly reduce costs.  I’ve talked extensively about using things like the Troux enterprise portfolio management capability to find those areas of savings, look for redundancies, and look for things that can be re-platformed. There’s a whole bunch of work done in that area with the right approach. From there you need to take action because without acting on your findings there will be no savings. So you have to figure out a way to retire those applications in your portfolio that don’t make sense, find a way to re-platform the things that do you have, and find a way to reduce costs and this is a really great way to do it.

I think that a lot of organizations are coming to the same conclusion that we did, which is that if you’re going to build a new application that’s for resale and add it to the marketplace like we did or a custom application for your organization, you absolutely have to look at Salesforce or force.com as a possible place to support that application. Without it you don’t have the server and infrastructure spend that you’d otherwise have. There’s almost no organization that can get the type of economies of scale that Salesforce is getting on your behalf. It’s almost impossible to have the type of scalability, security, and flexibility that you can get with the software as a service application on top of force.com that you’re going to be able to get on your own because you are simply not buying things on that scale. So I’m curious where others see their organization moving, re-platforming to save money, or building out solutions. If you haven’t taken a look at it it’s really worth taking a look at Salesforce and the force.com platform. I know that we’ve been amazed at the ease of use, scalability, and flexibility that it has provided us.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Specifications for Decisions Support

Identifying the business value of your portfolio is critical to overcoming hurdles

 I was talking with one of our Enterprise Architecture and IT Strategy partners the other day and he brought up an interesting request from a client. The client was in the midst of deploying a large enterprise portfolio management solution and the client said that his real concern was in developing the specifications for the solution. If you look in Webster’s Dictionary, the term specification is defined as “a detailed precise presentation of something or of a plan or proposal for something.[1]” It took me a few moments but I think it is one of the more insightful requests I’ve had from a client in a long time. They were in the midst of developing a solution that would provide them with a great deal of insight into their existing portfolios and enable them to identify opportunities to rationalize their application portfolio, identify redundancy and generally increase efficiency and effectiveness; but this particular stakeholder was already looking forward to developing the plan to maximize the effectiveness of the new insights that would be gained from the tool. I’ve touched on this in the past in “The Value Landscape” and “Living in a Post Troux Transformation World,” but I want to get a bit more into the types of things that forward thinking clients will need to address as they implement Enterprise Portfolio Management solutions as a part of the decision support and analytics available to senior executives and decision makers.

 During the planning and initial deployment of an Enterprise Portfolio Management solution, much of the focus and excitement is on the value “pop” that will come after the initial load of the system. No matter where that initial focus lies, whether it is the application portfolio or some other area, it is likely that the organization will see a big initial opportunity for savings or cost avoidance. This focus, anticipation, and excitement is warranted and I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade when I say that this initial step is just that—an initial step. Getting to real and lasting value only comes when you fix the problems that made the one time “pop” possible. This requires developing a real set of specifications and plans for the post implementation world AND this effort should begin before you finish the implementation. If you are like most large organizations your decision-making processes have evolved over a long period of time—simply pulling up a new system with fancy dashboards and analytics isn’t going to change the way you operate over night. One of the great things Enterprise Portfolio Management and Enterprise Architecture are supposed to do is change your decision making by providing specific informational support to specific decisions that result in a return on investment or value for the customer. In order to make this happen the organization has to develop the list of decisions that need to be made, identify the stakeholders involved in those decisions, identify the specific informational input and format required, as well as the appropriate flow through the organization. This is THE critical step required in order to ensure that your organization takes its investment in better information and analytics, and maximizes the value that it can bring to the organization.

I also believe that it is worth every organizations’ time to take the specific decisions I mention above and define not only their value to the organization but to define a value framework that enables the organization to understand the specific value in answering these organizational questions; both to the specific stakeholder and to the organization as a whole. This is critical not simply as a mechanism for ensuring ongoing funding, although it plays a critical role in that activity as well, but as one of the huge failings that technology organizations make in working with the business is a failure to speak their language, something I address in “Can you talk to the business in business terms?.” Being able to talk about the decisions you make and their relationship to outcomes is the critical first step in developing an ongoing partnership with the business. That is why it is critical that you define the business value your Enterprise Portfolio Management solution will have on ongoing decision making as part of your lead into the deployment of the solution to your organization. It also addresses many of the hurdles you will overcome in deploying and gaining the type of buy-in required to deliver a solution that delivers long term value. By developing the complete stakeholder landscape, decision support landscape, value proposition, RACI, and associated decision process flows, the organization ensures maximum value from its investment.

[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/specifications

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Jumpstart or Re-boot your Enterprise Architecture Program


There is a consensus that technology will play a large role in an organization’s success in the coming years. Technology has seeped into almost every aspect of the organizational value chain and, in many cases, directly supports competitive advantage. From the manufacturing floor, to planning, to marketing, to finance, every aspect of the organization is touched by technology in a way that is quite different than it was just a few years ago. Moore’s law, and the inevitable gains in processing power, is a tangible benchmark that can easily be measured, but innovation and the network of ideas, people, and technology that have arisen in the past 30 years have made an organization’s ability to benefit by leveraging technology to the benefit of the organization a critical differentiator. Underneath all of the much-hyped methods whether it is a shift in computing to the cloud or using enterprise architecture to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of leveraging technology, executives need to buy in, clearly communicate the value they intend to gain, and focus on execution to realize that value. In this article, I will focus on starting or rebooting an enterprise architecture effort, which has been touted by many as the means to align technology with business and ensure the realization of value from technology investments. Unfortunately, many of these efforts have failed to produce the returns that were promised.  In the following entry I will detail how to avoid common pitfalls and make your EA a success.

Building a successful EA program requires organizational credibility and that is why executives charged with developing an EA program should first think of their program as a project. This pulls the focus of the program in closer. Looking more than a year into the future is too long, I know this sounds drastic because EA folks are supposed to be more strategic than tactical, but I think most efforts fail to deliver strategic value fail because they don’t have any of the organizational credibility that is developed by delivering a measurable return on investment in the near term. I want to stress that this isn’t a recipe for every organization; this advice is targeted at those that are trying to start a program or reboot one that hasn’t been delivering. Every program needs to find a path to credibility in order to deliver value in the long term. Using the project approach allows you to become credible now so that you are seen as a responsible steward later. This solves the chicken and egg problem facing so many organizations when it comes to EA because the program needs buy in before it can show results.  Taking a project-oriented approach that delivers value over the course of a year gives proves to the organization that you can deliver results. A program-oriented approach subtly changes the focus of the effort to building the organization and the expanding role of the transformation rather than forcing the focus to stay squarely on delivering initial value. Stay focused on near term value.  Once the concept is proven and a return on investment is shown many of the things that are often discussed, as critical to an EA programs success, such as executive buy in will no longer be a problem because the numbers will be there to support it.

So if you treat your EA program like a project – where should you start? For an EA program I think near term success requires a laser like focus on three key things:
•Problem Definition & Scoping
•Skill Development and Problem Solving
•Executing on the Path to Value

Problem Definition & Scoping

Lack of scope is one thing that destroys the value of an EA program.  Enterprise architecture means the whole enterprise, but most EA programs either end up with a mile wide EA that is an inch thick or pockets of detail that don’t provide enterprise value. Sometimes the dogmatic adherence to a particular methodology derails the path to value because the enterprise architects are working from someone else’s recipe for EA success. I believe that an EA should identify an enterprise problem and help solve it as a project, which will help develop credibility and if done correctly, should provide a pillar on which the greater success of the EA program can be built. Critical factors to consider are the probability of success, access to information, and potential value to the organization. Do NOT forget the probability of success; great intentions and great potential won’t get you anywhere unless you can pull off the win. You absolutely must be able to develop a problem statement that will be universally accepted and that will define what success looks like. You can take on harder to measure, more strategic problems next year. A first great project starts with your organization’s application portfolio, unless your organization already has a good handle on it.  This is an ideal place to start because it is an area in which an EA team can bring exceptional short-term value while building a resource for the organization that will provide long-term value while building a resource for the organization that will also provide long-term value. Done correctly this should help you develop a high level understanding of the capabilities required to execute the business of the organization, a complete application list in the context of those capabilities, and an understanding of the technology components that comprise the applications. In most organizations I’ve seen the results of this analysis is fairly stunning, since redundancy and opportunities for consolidation become almost immediately apparent.

Skill Development and Problem Solving

Once you have defined your challenge, you will need to make sure you have the appropriate skills in order to accomplish the tasking. Even in the application portfolio example discussed above, you often need to develop specific skills with regard to tooling and taxonomies. Scoping down the work required to develop a full blown EA program into a specific effort to develop organizational value may also bring into focus the need for critical training around specific areas of effort that may dictate project success. However, if you want to fold these informational inputs into a larger EA framework you will need to begin closing any skills gap your team has with regard to understanding the bigger picture of what EA can and should be delivering. Most EAs come from solution architect, or other more specific architectural or technology oriented disciplines. Training on big picture EA concepts as well as meeting specific skill gaps, is critical during the execution of the project phase so that your project oriented EA effort doesn’t become another stove-piped information set. Even though you will have scoped your effort as a project it is critical to keep in mind that this is a step towards solving larger and more strategic issues facing the organization. Training around EA concepts and other more general skill sets is critical in order to keep the big picture in mind as you work to solve a more narrowly scoped organizational issue.

Finally, you may also want to address general productivity and problem solving. Is your team able to deal with communication challenges, leadership issues, and collaboration or organizational productivity concerns? Figuring out how to work together effectively can be as big a challenge as figuring out how to solve a particular problem. I find that EA teams that are broken down by EA functions like security architecture, information architecture, and business architecture can sometimes become their own stovepipes. Using a project-based approach solves the stovepipe issue because it forces staff to work together to develop organizational value. Too often EA programs that are focused on building a program have individual architects working to build “their” architecture rather than a shared architecture that is understood across all domains. If your team is struggling to work together, consider addressing productivity, teamwork and collaboration skills specifically outside of the technical skills required to implement the EA project. Sometimes the type of detail oriented, high intelligence individuals who are able to understand and develop EA concepts require help in the area of soft skills.  I cannot stress enough how important this area will be to creating real organizational value. Enterprise architecture will always involve relationship-building skills in order to be successful because you are dependent on others to gather and use information. Don’t become so focused on technical development that you lose track of the soft skills required to solve real organizational problems.

Executing on the Path to Value

Once you’ve identified a manageable scope, sold the idea to management, developed success metrics and identified skill gaps it is time to execute. During execution, it is very important to stay on schedule and ensure that your project does not become a victim of scope creep. Many of the inputs into even something as simple as the application portfolio effort mentioned above can easily become the victim of a lack of access to outside resources. A critical factor in meeting your goals is staying on top of the execution and schedule and leveraging your executives in order to get the information you need to be successful.  Make a project plan. You cannot manage your EA program like a project without identifying key milestones and marrying them to a realistic timeline. Keeping a tight rein on that timeline and ensuring that you manage the effort in order to meet these evaluation gates is critical. If you begin to fall behind or encounter organizational roadblocks or unanticipated challenges it is imperative that you react in real time. EA programs are often derailed by the combination of scope creep and a perceived lack of value. If you begin to slip on schedule ask yourself why. The answer is almost always a skill gap, scope creep or lack of access to informational resources. The latter is probably the hardest to deal with but if you have defined the project well and scoped it with an eye towards organizational value you should be able to make the case to an executive who will help support your access to other organizational resources. If you find yourself with a skills gap or scope creep, you may want to consider leveraging outside resources to bootstrap yourself into your initial success. Having a seasoned EA or tools specialist that can help address technical issues can be critical to the success of the effort at large.  Having outside support can also help guard against scope creep by enabling a respected outsider to weigh in on the implications of specific items that may fall outside of scope and, therefore, either increase the time to value or add little value.

In fact if you are rebooting or starting an effort from scratch it is very likely that you will need some level of outside assistance in order to meet your requirements. The type of assistance is likely going to be dictated by the skills gaps you have previously identified, and most new teams will require some type of outside assistance as they execute. Areas to think about in advance are tooling, general EA competency, productivity and mentoring. I think the first few are self-explanatory but I would like to expand on the idea of mentorship and introduce the idea and importance that workshops can have on enabling real results. I am a big believer in training and many of our folks hold multiple certifications in addition to advanced degrees. However too often this training is under utilized because of the gap between learning new skills and using those skills. Mentoring can help bridge that gap as well as provide the type of expert advice and experience that will prevent costly missteps and ensure that you meet your success criteria. The right mentor may also enable you to better communicate value upstream by virtue of their ability to communicate current efforts in the context of their own experiences. Having someone who has lived the project you are now executing keeps missteps to a minimum and ensures the path to value is fairly straight. Workshops are another great way of leveraging the experience of experts in the context of your own projects. In our application portfolio example it may be useful to run a workshop around the evaluation of a application portfolio that provides both training value in terms of developing an understanding of how to evaluate the portfolio as well as real value by performing those very tasks using your organizations real data. I believe this type of combined learning is invaluable in terms of building near term value and long-term skill development.


Your ability to jumpstart or re-boot your EA program depends on defining project level objectives, building the right skills, and staying on top of execution. The eventual goal of most EA programs is to truly transform the organization in order to support agility, efficiency, and effectiveness in a manner that delivers a sustainable competitive advantage by achieving a more perfect relationship between technology and the business. It is by its very nature a complex and difficult endeavor. In fact most organizations have been unable to get to the value they hoped for from these types of programs and projects. The fact that so many organizations continue to support these efforts is a testament to the benefit the organization will achieve if it is successful. Executives intuitively understand how beneficial this type of program could be, but, they often lack a proven means to achieve this value. I suggest focusing on scoping a project level EA first because it removes some of the complexity from the program and defines it in manner that can be understood by the business. In the application portfolio example, the business case is centered on removing cost and increasing efficiency in the application portfolio. Once complete this EA project will have developed a very strong informational backbone on which you can hang other program level EA inputs, provided a return on investment back to the business and established organizational credibility. This is the foundation on which other more strategic efforts that may have harder to measure outcomes can be placed. I believe that even EA programs that have a history of success should always evaluate their program portfolio to ensure that there is a mix of projects that deliver short and long term value in order to ensure that they stay relevant to the organization as a whole. Your EA program should never have to hunt for organizational or executive buy-in. If it is done correctly it should become a driving force within the organization that ensures the efficient and effective application of technology in order to improve performance. Getting there will require your team grow their skills, keep their focus and build relationships across the organization.

Put our team to work improving your organization’s performance.
Visit Millsapps, Ballinger & Associates online.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.