IT Application Management: Building Your Application Portfolio

By - September 19, 2013


When it comes to IT in the enterprise, it can’t be understated: knowledge is power. With regards to the practice of IT Application Management, knowing exactly who is using what can empower you to better visualize your IT landscape and understand your organization’s infrastructure. This insight can help you eliminate redundancies, reduce costs, add capabilities and improve overall application efficiency. Just as you’d scrutinize your financial portfolio to make sure you are getting the best return on investment, it’s important to analyze your IT Application Portfolio to make sure your organization’s applications are best serving your business needs.

The hardest step may be simply starting the process – itemizing an application portfolio for an organization that has been operating and growing for 10-15 years can be daunting and we’ve seen different organizations take different approaches depending on their environment and what goals they aim to achieve. These approaches typically fall within two categories: The Manual Route, where organizations invest resources to building their application portfolio or The Automated Route, where organizations invest in software to do the up-front work for them.

Surprisingly enough, the Automated Route isn’t always the best solution – while it provides a more efficient and sustainable solution over time, it may not be the most effective method for achieving your end results in a desired timeline.  Below we’ll provide some insight into both approaches and find which route might be more suited to meet your needs.  Certainly, a hybrid of the two may also work well.

 1. The Manual Route 

Going the Manual Route means working with the various application owners and teams in your organization to map out what applications are being used, what are the known dependencies, and highlighting any related systems or infrastructure.  While this is a more manually intensive effort up-front, I’ve found that you can get to the 75-90% confidence level in data rather quickly when you get in front of the right people.  Additional confidence can be gained by using supplemental skills and data for efforts such as infrastructure profiling.

If your goal is to get information that is “good enough” and not deal with the technical specifications of every application, this may be the approach for you.

Pros: Cons:
  • More aptly suited to deliver that “Quick Win” if basic information is needed to support other efforts
  • Develops and fosters better relationships with developers and application teams
  • Avoids delays associated with the IT change management processes
  • Ability to easily customize the level and detail you look to gather to meet goals
  • Relies on individual knowledge within the organization on applications
  • Only sustainable to maintain over time through additional manual efforts
  • Less available detail to understand application dependencies and relationships
  • …Yet another spreadsheet


2. The Automated Route

If you chose to go the Automated Route, you may find it to be better suited for reaching your longer-term goals in managing application inventory and relationships. The “automation” aspect relies on network discovery tools to quickly map out what is being used but the rest of the process comes back to your team for customizations and learning. You will probably find yourself having the same types of discussions with application teams as you would with the Manual Route but here you gain the benefit of having insightful data to help drive those discussions. Having the legwork already done means you are armed with the information to ask more poignant questions – asking what applications a department is using isn’t as effective as saying “we see that your application is communicating with these other assets… what is the purpose?”

Those who choose this route typically miss one critical point: sustainability. If you make the investment in a technology solution, be sure to consider how you keep your records and data updated as new applications, software and technologies are provisioned into your environment so that you can keep that “single-source of truth” moving forward.

Pros: Cons:
  • Delivers a more efficient and sustainable solution for managing your application inventory over time
  • Improved ability to understand and map relationships and dependencies between applications and infrastructure
  • Can greatly complement and enhance current Configuration and Asset Management capabilities
  • Reduces effort and complexity for very large, disperse IT environments
  • Data Overload – First reports out of these solutions may take a while to digest
  • May require additional efforts and changes to firewalls and infrastructure to get full visibility
  • Additional efforts may be required for discovery in multi-sourced environments (EC2, IO Providers, etc.)
  • Potential need for specialized skills in resources to maintain and manage over time


As you can see, application management is all about seeing the big picture and making sure your applications are best serving you. This shouldn’t however be a onetime process – networks evolve constantly with devices and systems updating and changing how they interact with your resources. Make sure that your IT Application Portfolio is always working for your best interests and giving you the best return on your investment.

Tools & Technologies

  • BMC Atrium Discovery & Dependency Mapping

A powerful tool to integrate with your other BMC capabilities, such as the CMDB, providing the capability to make better associations between your applications and infrastructure.

  • ServiceNow Application Discovery

The advised solution for ServiceNow customers who manage assets and IT inventory with their CMDB tools.

  • WhatsUP Gold

An ITSM vendor-agnostic solution that provides most (if not all) of the data details on the communications between IT assets.  Can also perform application performance monitoring as well.

  • SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor

Another ITSM vendor-agnostic toolset that focuses more on application and infrastructure monitoring – but does provide a great discovery capability.

 For more information on IT application discovery, check out our web site or contact McGladrey’s technology consulting professionals at 800.764.3978 or email us.

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