Defining your Application Strategy

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This week’s guest blogger is Sanjeev Gupta. Sanjeev is a consultant and industry analyst with 16+ years of experience. He blogs at www.sanjeevg.com and has posted several Expert Reviews on IT Central Station. Contact us if you would like to be one of our guest bloggers.

After defining the enterprise architecture, defining your application strategy is the next most critical step. However most often PICsanjeevthan not, discussion about the application strategy primarily revolve around adopting the Best of Breed products or a Single Vendor Stack. Think again!! Are these really your Application Strategy?These can be outcome of your strategic initiative, but not the starting point. A more practical approach will be to do an evaluation of applications products against the enterprise requirements and enterprise strategic considerations.

I’m outlining the approach that I follow – something that’s always worked for me. Before starting this, pls ensure that the following are in place:

  • Enterprise Vision & the Business Requirements
  • Enterprise Architecture & Architectural Consideration, standards & guidelines
Once you’ve ensured that the pre-requisites are in place, adopt the following approach .
  1. Individual Product Analysis – as part of this step you should evaluate the products in the individual space (e.g. Portal, ECM, BPM, etc) and narrow down to the at most 2 – 3 in each space. The evaluation should be done with focus on the prerequisites listed above. This is to ensure that the products selected can meet the business requirements and are in line with your Enterprise Strategy.
  2. Solution Analysis – Once you have the individual products identified, work on define a set of alternate solutions – e.g. combination of Portal, ECM, BPM – IBM WebSphere Portal, EMC Content Mgt System, and Savvion BPM. At this stage, you should include solutions of Single Vendor Stack as well as Best of Breed stack.
Pay attention to the fact that some of the products will not jell very well with other – thus when you’re doing the various permutation and combinations, some of the solutions can be outright rejected. Narrow down your selection evaluation to at most 5 to 6 solutions so that post the solutions you either have a clear winner or at most two options to choose from.

Now comes the exciting part of doing the comparative evaluation of the alternate solutions stacks. The three typical areas that I look at are:

  • Functional Requirements of the Enterprise – this forms the core part of the evaluations as the solutions stack is useful only if is capable of delivering what the business wants. Evaluate the stacks purely against each of the high level functional requirements – both current as well as futuristic.
  • Non- Functional requirements of the enterprise – NFR like performance, scalability, costs, time to market etc. should also be given sufficient consideration in the evaluations.
  • Architecture & Strategy considerations – this is the part that most often gets missed out or over looked. A few key points to evaluate are the interoperability of the products in the stack; interoperability of the stack with the existing applications in the enterprise. Be aware that SOA can enable any set of application to integrate with one another but that should not be benchmark for interoperability.                                           evaluation-wave_thumbevaluation-matrix_thumb

The screen shots are from the Evaluation Matrix template that I use for my analysis; you can either create you own or feel free to  email me if you need the soft copy of the one that I use.

The % weight that you give to each of these requirements are totally up to your understanding of the organization priorities and strategy…
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