An essential part of the software lifecycle is periodically evaluating and overhauling the portfolio of applications in your organization. We advocate using Gartner's TIME model to measure and map the business value of applications. TIME represents a 2x2 quadrant and is an acronym for Tolerate, Invest, Migrate, Eliminate. Like any good 2x2, TIME simplifies the process of measuring applications by plotting the business value of an application against its overall quality.
Let's first define what is meant by "business value" and "IT quality".
The horizontal axis of the quadrant, Business Value, represents the inherent importance of an application to achieve the goals of a business team or organization. Evaluation of business value should focus on the following factors:
- Solves a business need
- Provides operational efficiencies
- Provides critical function
- User Experience
- Revenue Generation / Cost Savings
The measure on the vertical axis, IT Quality,seeks to capture the technical integrity of the application and its impact to the technical burden of the organization. Evaluation of IT quality should focused on the following factors:
- Data accuracy
- Source code availability and quality
- Reliability / Security
- Response time / Ease of Change
Next, let's dive into the quadrants themselves.
Tolerate: The top left quadrant reveals areaswhere there is a high quality application but low business value. Since it has high quality, there is not a lot of time or money invested to support this particular application and it is providing a certain amount of value. Since the value is not negligible, it is being used, and it doesn't cost a lot to keep the lights on - those applications should be tolerated. You shouldn't increase your level of investment but at the same time, you shouldn't waste resources to kill it either. It is serving its purpose, it is good enough.
Invest: The next quadrant over is looking at high quality applications with a much higher business value. You have the best of both worlds here. The application is stable, it doesn't require a lot of support, it is architected well, and you have the source code. Even better, the business actually uses it. It helps them do things like reducing headcount, increasing throughput, improving data quality, and enhancing business processes. There is an attributable and recognizable value. These are the applications worth investing in further to get even better returns or reduce more costs.
Migrate: Migrate is a little more difficult to identify because it has more nuance to it. It is similar to invest but it is low quality and high value. The business is definitely using the application and can articulate its value, the problem is, IT is dying on the vine of these applications. There could be a high cost of support, lack of knowledge, lack of source code, or a variety of different factors that make it an expensive application to maintain. Therefore, rather than continue the expense, you should look to migrate those applications. A lot of times this is confused with investing but investment is taking a current application and improving upon it or adding to it, but migrating is looking to recoup the value in another application. A great example of this we see often is with Lotus Notes. It provides distinct business value for collaboration but it is very expensive to maintain and is getting more expensive as the skill set to manage it is getting rarer and you have less people capable of supporting it. So, rather than investing in building a bigger Lotus Notes environment or hire more Lotus Notes developers, which would be the invest aspect, we would recommend migrating. Identify a similar technology where you can get 80% or more of the functionality and move towards it. Establish a migration path to a technology that is more similar to what you already have in the environment. In the Lotus Notes example, moving toward Microsoft SharePoint would give you a lot of the functionality you need as well as the integration with Exchange.
Eliminate: Eliminate is an essential part of the software lifecycle but is often missed. This quadrant looks at applications that are low quality and low business value. Sometime this can be very obvious - the application is down a lot, it takes a long time to fix, there might be only one person that knows how to use it and when that person is on vacation, the whole world is down. Nobody uses it except for one person on one day of the month. The biggest challenge is when this person is someone like your CEO or CFO. This is where you need intestinal fortitude to sunset the application and free up your resources.
While simple in its approach, TIME allows us to quickly review an application's ability to meet business goals versus the technical integrity of the solution. This analysis is valuable on an annual or cyclical basis to evaluate the application portfolio over time as both technology and business goals change. Try it for yourself - we've created a free worksheet to help you get started evaluating your applications with TIME today!